Balance and Harmony in Food Production – An Individual Choice

The idea of intensifying food production in order to support what will be a world population of 9 billion within a few decades is under real consideration, particularly with the release of a new scientific study which highlights the urgency of the situation.

The problem is caused by the misuse of agricultural land, food waste, the desire to switch to a “western” protein based diet in countries such as China and India, and, of course too many people being born. The solution, according to John Beddington, Britain’s Chief Scientist, is to allow population levels to peak naturally and meanwhile to develop technologies such as GM while devising ways to use potential and actual farming land as exhaustively as possible.

This approach focuses the debate entirely on the human needs and perspective without consideration for the other inhabitants of our planet, without whom we would not able to survive. Because we are dependent on the plants, animals and minerals for our well-being, does it not make sense to look after them to the best of our ability? It could be argued that their needs come before ours because they are so important in our lives.

If we treated a fellow human being as a machine to be exploited and then discarded, it would be considered extraordinary and unacceptable, but for the lower kingdoms of nature it is happening all the time all over the world, even now. When we have allowed abusive farming practices to occur, eventually she hits back with dramatic consequences, as we have seen with the outbreaks of BSE, Foot and Mouth and Avian Flu. There is no doubt that, if the human desire for a comfortable self-centred lifestyle is pursued at the expense of the planet, the planet will rebel, to our cost.

We can learn a lot by observing our natural environment, and how it keeps itself in balance – unless man intercedes! If a species becomes over-abundant then it will ensure the appropriate number for its survival is achieved whatever it takes: it may be disease, weather, lack of food, a new predator…….the outcome is a return to perfect equilibrium with everything in harmony. I have no doubt that, if our global human population is allowed to continue to grow far beyond what is tolerable, it will be reduced forcibly and perhaps painfully to what is acceptable.

The alternative is to confront the need now and to begin to discuss, at least, the problem of over-population and to consider ways of dealing with it. People will not want to hear, and it will be very controversial, but really, it must be done, publicly, internationally, and now.

In the spirit of a balanced approach to food production, it is heartening to hear stories of communities working together from a shared ethos of simple co-operation with nature and each other – groups of people in the US forming private organic food clubs, The Rininging Cedars initiative in Russia, people plot-sharing and re-planting orchards in the UK. In the end, while governments may talk of The Big Society and similar centre-led initiatives – excellent in their own way – it is up to each of us to put into practice what we believe.