Quote of the Day: Colin Tudge on the Food Chain


Photo credit: iamart3
[The] food chain we have now is not designed to feed people. In line with the modern cure-all—the allegedly free global market—it is designed to produce the maximum amount of cash in the shortest time. Stated thus, our approach to our most important material endeavour seems unbelievably crass—but that is how things are nonetheless. The global free market might be good for some things (perhaps we get better computers and warships that way) but for farming, and hence for humanity as a whole, it is disastrous. The simplistic business rules that may (or may not) apply to other enterprises are fatal to Enlightened Agriculture and so, since we depend on agriculture absolutely, they are proving fatal for us.

When cash rules, sound biology goes to the wall and common sense and humanity are for wimps. The goal must be to maximize whatever is most expensive—which means livestock. So now we feed well over half the staples that could be feeding us, to cattle, pigs, and poultry. So instead of helping us to feed ourselves, our animals compete with us. By 2050, on present trends, the world’s livestock will consume enough to feed four billion people—equal to the total population of the early 1970s, when the United Nations held its first international conference to discuss the world’s food crisis.

That livestock will mostly be consumed by people already weighed down with too much saturated fat—for the moment mostly in the west, but increasingly in India and China. The poor will remain poor. So will most farmers. The traders and their shareholders will grow rich. For this, forests are felled and the last of the world’s fresh water is squandered—for example on the soya of Brazil, grown to feed the cattle of Europe and now their biggest agricultural earner."

Colin Tudge in May 2007