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Thread: "Only Intensive Farming" Will Feed Britain

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    "Only Intensive Farming" Will Feed Britain

    'Only intensive farming' will feed Britain

    · Organic agriculture 'will never meet demand'
    · Professor warns of soaring prices and shortages

    David Adam, environment correspondent
    Wednesday April 18, 2007
    The Guardian

    Britain must continue to intensify its farming practices to meet soaring demand for cheap food and prevent shortages, a leading agricultural expert said yesterday. Demand for biofuels, booming economies of developing countries and climate change will put demand on food supplies that can only be met by intensive techniques, said Professor Bill McKelvey, head of the Scottish Agricultural College. Prices could soar and future generations in the UK may find they can no longer take plentiful food for granted.

    At a London briefing, Prof McKelvey defended intensive techniques and said alternatives such as organic farming would not cope with predicted growth in population. "There is a need to continue to intensify farming. Organic farming has a place but it will never feed the growing population of the world," he said.
    Media criticism of modern farming techniques after the bird flu outbreak at the Bernard Matthews turkey farm in Suffolk had been unfair, he said, adding that intensive farming protects the environment because it reduces the amount of land used for agriculture. Europe would also have to overcome its "illogical" opposition to genetically modified crops to help boost yields, he said.

    "In the UK, we are becoming less self-sufficient in food. I think it's possible in the next 25 to 50 years that there will be food shortages in the UK." The proportion of average British family income spent on food might double from 10% to 20%, he said. The UK currently provides 60% of its own food, and imports were increasing, said Prof McKelvey, who advises industry and the government.

    With world population forecast to grow from 6bn to 8.5bn in 50 years, he warned that countries such as New Zealand that export food to Britain were likely to switch attention to China and India. Food demand there is increasing sharply and meat consumption in China has doubled in the last decade. Prof McKelvey said the solution was farmers producing more food on the same amount of land. Wheat production increased four-fold in the last 50 years and in the next 50 years would probably have to rise by the same level again, despite a shortage of suitable land. "There are only two ways to do that. We either take land from rain forests or we intensify existing farms. We will protect the wild environment by making better use of farms."

    Plant breeding - conventional and using genetic modification - was the best way to produce more food from the same amount of land. Although very little is grown commercially in Europe, millions of hectares of GM crops have been grown across the world in recent years.

    "Europe is going to have to face up to using GM crops," he said. Climate change is also expected to put pressure on food supplies, despite an initial boost in productivity for some crops.

    Prof McKelvey said great swathes of agricultural land would be lost to desert, with the effects already felt in areas such as southern Spain. Bio-fuels, a suggested solution to global warming, could bring added problems for food production.

    Patrick Holden of the Soil Association, which promotes organic farming, said "business as usual" intensive farming would not be possible in future because of the fossil fuel costs and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with nitrogen fertilisers. Organic farming could equal and sometimes even exceed the yields of chemical intensive farming systems. "The challenge that global agriculture confronts today is to research and develop these systems, because we are on the threshold of a post-fossil fuel era."

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    'Only intensive farming' will feed Britain

    · Organic agriculture 'will never meet demand'
    Rubbish. Fertility is put back into the land if it is properly rotated. The only reason why many British farmers have to buy in fertilisers is because they grow the same crop on the same land year after year.

    Europe would also have to overcome its "illogical" opposition to genetically modified crops to help boost yields, he said.
    I don't know about GM, I'm on the fence. But I don't agree with corporations actually owning the rights to the plant and making them sterile, this is wrong.

    "In the UK, we are becoming less self-sufficient in food. I think it's possible in the next 25 to 50 years that there will be food shortages in the UK."
    Not in staple crops but in rubbish people don't really need. Two things would help:

    1. If people and supermarkets would stop being so ridiculously wasteful
    2. If the government would stop importing people. We're full! We can manage at the moment, if they bring any more we won't be able to. And it is England which suffers the most, most immigrants go to England, not provincial Scotland or Wales and we have to carry the rest of the UK off our agricultural land.


    The UK currently provides 60% of its own food, and imports were increasing, said Prof McKelvey, who advises industry and the government.
    Much of what is imported is warm-climate foods that we can't produce here and that we don't really need.

    The EU has also been paying farmers to keep some land out of cultivation and the UK hasn't been proetcting its agriculture very well (it doesn't believe in protectionism ).
    If less land was wasted, if people threw less food away and the government actually protected farmers then we'd be close to self sufficient.


    It is likely that Russia and Ukraine will come to feed more of the world once the mechanise their agriculture more.

    But food security issues like this are why I think every country should take an autarkal approach to producing food, accessing water and making electricity - staples in the modern world.
    Even if self-suffiency isn't achievable a country should work to be as close as it can to being self-sufficient.

    Seymour highlights a important point in his book as well - none commercial farmers growing things for their own consumption on a smaller area of land will devote more individual attention to their produce and will farm a greater variety of produce. This he says can often lead to more productivity per acre than a commercial farm if the person is particularly interested in being self-sufficient.

    Encouraging people to farm in their gardens would be a very good idea and would be beneficial not only to food security but also to health.
    Getting out into the garden and doing some manual work would be great for people and they'd feel like they'd achieved something too.

    Not only that but it'd be good for wildlife, better than those horrible lawns that waste so much space.
    Some people already have a vegetable patch and keep chickens, but if most people turned half or all their garden over to crops they'd become a lot more self reliant.

    Window boxes can be used to grow strawberries or soft fruits, dwarf fruit trees can be cultivated at the edges of the garden, grape vines can be trained along walls and the former area of lawn can grow veg.
    Potatoes are a good option for many gardens in the UK, they provide a large crops for a small area.

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