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I ran away from teaching to the country to grow veggies. There are also some chooks and a pair of troublesome goats who were so much trouble they had to go! My simple green life isn't always as simple or as green as I'd like...but I keep trying!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Rant - Food security

The term 'food security', is one that is heard more and more these days...on the radio, TV and in magazines and newspapers.  But what does it mean?
  • Food security exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. (World Health Organisation)

The WHO goes onto outline the 'three pillars' of food security which are:
  • having sufficient food for good health, 
  • possessing the means to obtain it, 
  • and knowledge about how to use it along with adequate water and sanitation.

So it isn't just about not having enough food like the Sub-Saharan Africans at the moment.  The growing numbers of obese people and the huge amounts of wasted food in the developed world are also a symptoms of poor food security. 

Some other things to think about in relation to our food security:

Political and economic factors (including globalisation):
  • Capitalism - a dynamic economic systems that demands constant growth and expansion.
  • The power of corporations - in their own right and the influence they have over governments.
  • Ridiculous political arguments which relate more to staying in power (or getting into power) than solving any real issues.
  • Currently millions of Africans are starving... 'due to drought'.  Yet people living in parts of China with similar climactic conditions manage to feed themselves.  Historical factors and lack of good governance has failed to help African farmers to manage their land to ameliorate the effects of climate.
  • The power of the media- In Australia almost all of the media is owned by two families...the Packers and the Murdochs.  This does not create a climate for intelligent debate.
  • The ownership and patenting of various genomes (including ours) by commercial enterprises.
  • In Australia, the almost duopoly of the two big supermarkets who control prices and whose influence extends past the farm gate and into the paddock.
  • Farms have been amalgamated and are big business. 
  • Treating food as a tradeable commodity rather than as a basic human right.
  • Unequal trade agreements where subsidised farmers in some countries flood the market in other countries with their exports.  In Australia, for instance, we have pulled up most of our commercial citrus orchards because the growers couldn't compete with the cost of imported fruit.  And...two thirds of agricultural produce in Australia is exported, according to the Bureau of Statistics.  Now tell me that makes sense. 
  • Some of Australia's best farmland has been purchased by the Chinese government and other overseas interests.  I think we are the only country that has allowed this to happen.
  • Almost all of Australia's iconic food brands are now owned by overseas companies...yes, even Vegemite and, more recently, Fosters!
  • The carbon footprint of food - the huge amount of energy required to grow, transport, and market basic items makes them very expensive in an environmental sense.
  • Marginal farmland becoming degraded and losing its ability to grow food.  It is estimated that 24 percent has gone this way in the last 24 years.  
  • Urbanisation. All over the world, ever expanding cities are impinging on adjacent farmland. 
  • The average size of the traditional Australian suburban block has declined at the same time that houses are becoming bigger and bigger. There is no room to even grow a few veggies.  The new 'McMansion Estates' may have a pretty lake and a playground but no common ground set aside to grow food.
  • In Australia, fertile farmland is becoming an increasingly common target for mineral and gas exploration too.  Just Google, coal seam gas in the Darling Downs, if you don't believe me.  In Victoria, around the  Bacchus Marsh district (a place with deep, fertile, volcanic top soil and home to orchards and market gardens) drilling rigs have been set up...just looking at this stage.
  • Monoculture is still rampant, even though we have known the dangers of it for decades.
  • Climate change. In Australia, rainfall is declining in much of rural and regional Australia.
  • Peak Oil Production - we are going to run out of cheap fossil fuels sooner rather than later.
  • The unknown effects of genetically engineered crops and loss of the old species.
  • Loss of the 'family farm'.  The average age of farmers in Australia continues to rise while the actual numbers of farmers is falling.   
  • Consumerism - or 'The I've gotta have one of those!' syndrome that makes us want the latest gadget to feel whole, while ignoring the basic rights of others in the world who are without food.

Are you depressed yet? 

 Come back next Sunday
for the good news.



  1. Thank you for this! Every single point is something I rant about constantly, living on a small family farm as I do, surrounded by rampant development even in this rotten economy. The crops from our fertile little valley feed thousands of people. There are at least 50 different vegetables, fruits, and melons grown here. They are sold directly to the consumers at a roadside stand. It's wonderful food and cheap. As a side benefit, our riparian areas are pristine and wildlife abounds there. But we are constantly having to defend ourselves from whatever stupid plan our county's government has for us, from developers, and even from the state government and their highway. Try to drive a tractor across a busy highway to get it to your fields on the other side. Three of the neighborhood people have been killed on the highway in the past 5 years! Now that there is less water, developers are sniffing around down here trying to buy our property at inflated prices so they can sink wells and siphon water off to their developments. I just retired from 45 years of working at an outside job so I could support this place. Now I'm home all day and what I see and hear makes me sigh a lot. I will definitely be waiting to hear the good news. I'm saddened to hear that your problems in Australia are so similar to ours in California. It's like global desecration.

  2. Serious stuff, Hazel, but very true. Maybe with the global financial crisis getting increasingly serious we will eventually return to a barter econmy. In those circumstances, people like yourself who understand self-sufficiency will be at an advantage.

  3. An extremely timely post , Hazel. Although you are not on a large farm yourself, you have really researched your stuff and picked up on the feelings of the average small scale farmer . I keep telling people to 'vote with their feet' to show the big supermarkets what people really want.
    An interesting dvd to watch is 'Food Inc' ....even though I am a farmer, I changed my shopping habits even further after watching this.
    A very good post .

  4. And you've got to keep ranting Hazel. We all do. ALL. We must get the tide turning before it is too late. I like the commenter above advocate "Food Inc." Also "Gas Lands" and the clip "The Story of Stuff". We have the network...why isn't this message going viral like all the other events in the world? For some of the very reasons you listed.

  5. you said it sista! unfortunately most people I talk to dont have any idea of any this. And they dont want to know. If I try and bring it up they all just roll their eyes and you can just see the its just weird angela and her hippy ideas.
    but as the years have progressed, and the price of food has gone up some at least are now asking me how do I grow some of that!
    waiting breathlessly for the next chapter of this post.

  6. As Tanya said, "why isn't this message going viral like all the other events in the world?"

    You've got the manifesto up there Hazel, we keep talking and advocating but it's so hard to get past inertia.

    I'm looking forward to the good news next Sunday.

  7. Right there with you. The situation and general ignorance that allows it to proliferate get's me every.. single.. time. It continues to stun me when I talk to someone about this and get a blank look or general confusion in return.

    Best Wishes

  8. Now I feeling like punching someone in the face. Urgh! Argh! It pisses me off no end! I think I will go & stand in my garden... my productive, heirloom-filled, edible, biodiverse backyard garden to calm down!

    Keep 'ranting' Hazel-dene! Your rants are spot on.

  9. Keep spreading the word Hazel, more and more people will be inspired to do so as well! At least China doesn't own the bulk of your countries debt (or at least I don't think it does) I very much appreciated your post!

  10. Hazel, China is trying to buy 50 square mile areas throughout the United States. They might make it!

    The strange thing is that each site is next to an airport and they want unrestricted access for their flights. Can't the government see the problem with that?

    Here is an excerpt from an article about it:

    "One of these “special economic zones” would be just south of Boise, Idaho and the Idaho government is eager to give it to them. China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach for short) plans to construct a “technology zone” south of Boise Airport which would ultimately be up to 50 square miles in size. The Chinese Communist Party is the majority owner of Sinomach, so the 10,000 to 30,000 acre “self-sustaining city” that is being planned would essentially belong to the Chinese government. The planned “self-sustaining city” in Idaho would include manufacturing facilities, warehouses, retail centers and large numbers of homes for Chinese workers. Basically it would be a slice of communist China dropped right into the middle of the United States.

    According to the Idaho Statesman, the idea would be to build a self-contained city with all services included. It would be modeled after the “special economic zones” that currently exist in China.

    Perhaps the most famous of these “special economic zones” is Shenzhen. Back in the 1970s, Shenzhen was just a very small fishing village. Today it is a sprawling metropolis of over 14 million people.

    If the Chinese have their way, we will soon be seeing these “special economic zones” pop up all over the United States."

  11. Very well put Hazel. Very well put indeed. In the US, food security and food safety are now being used as excuses to control our food, and control those who grow it. But what good is dead, artificial food? Unless one is trying to kill off the population.

  12. I know!!!!!!! I've been calling in to ABC News Radio A LOT. I couldn't finish your post Hazel I got too cross!

  13. Very valid points there Hazel, and to think they are just the tip of the iceberg!

  14. Here, here, I agree with everything you've said Hazel. I will say though how heartening it is to read about all these people - myself included - starting to take some responsibility for their own food production, regardless of the size of the block you live on. Looking forward hearing the positive side.


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