Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Food for thought

I just received an email asking me to sign a petition about EU food production plans. Apparently, from 2009 all EU-produced food will be irradiated and may be treated with pesticides and chemicals but may still be called organic, along with a load of other changes including us losing the automatic right to grow our own food without needing to be licensed. As a strong supporter of organic farming I naturally find this rather worrying, and I hope this reality does come to pass, but it has also got me thinking.

I can see only two reasons why the powers that be would choose this path: either because they wish to have a chemically controlled, homogenised population akin to a herd of farm animals to feed the great capitalist beast, or because us humans face such an extreme food crisis that the only way to minimise starvation is to maximise food production by whatever means are available.

Let us assume for now that the first option is mere science fiction, or at least a rather extreme exaggeration of the truth, and that we are not that far down the road of totalitarianism yet. That leaves us with the reality where global population growth has outstripped our ability to feed ourselves and there simply ain't enough food to go round, leading to price rises, food demonstrations and emergency meetings of high level think tanks. Er, exactly what is in fact going on right now (I believe there is a UN food crisis summit taking place as I type this).

So, here's my question: if the only way to minimise the number of people dying from starvation is to maximise food production is it morally wrong to engage in organic farming? In the short term at least, the use of pesticides, chemical fertilisers, GM crops etc etc... increases the amount of food we can grow, so surely not using these methods must lead directly to avoidable deaths?

I'm really interested to hear people's thoughts on this so, please, comment away...