Agricultural ingenuity needed

Food Matters

Jacques Diouf, Food and Agriculture Organization director general, while crediting the Green Revolution of the 1960s with saving the lives of over a billion people, now admits that the initial success was bought “at the price of degraded fertile land and depleted groundwater, pest upsurges provoked by vast tracts of crops, lost biodiversity, and polluted air, soil and water.”

In a nutshell, Diouf says, “The present paradigm of intensive crop production cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium.”

The FAO is now promoting ‘conservation agriculture’, which is, in fact, a rejection of the industrial agriculture that fills our supermarkets with cheap food from far away.

The latest buzz words are ‘sustainable crop production intensification’ (SCPI), which sounds to me to be the same as what we locally call small plot intensive, or SPIN farming.

It is ironic that, through our contributions to the FAO, we will be promoting SCPI to reverse the visible failure of agribusiness in developing countries, while our national governments, federal and provincial, still pursue the ‘trade-first’ policies of globalization from which global experts are backpedaling.

It seems obvious that if the countries which currently export the foods we expect to find in our stores are being encouraged to turn their policies from exporting to smallholder crop production in order to feed their own populations, then it is none too soon for the developed countries to turn our attention to how to replace those imported cheap foods with locally-grown food, sustainably produced.

Only the other day, I happened on an editorial in a local paper that stated we could never produce all the food we need. This is hogwash – what we cannot produce is the vast arrays of junk and exotic foods to which we have become accustomed over the last 60 years.

In my youth, fresh pineapple was unheard of, and the only mangoes we saw were in the expensive jars of chutney we bought now and then to embellish curries. There were plenty of spices, arriving by sea, to enliven flavours, and easily-grown herbs, too.

The same editorialist pooh-poohed the allotment gardens of the Second World War, suggesting that they had failed to feed the 50 million of us. I suppose the writer meant that the little gardens did not produce all the food.

But the country had to be self-sustaining for six years, due to the blockade by German submarines. Most people’s diets actually improved during the war.

Poor people received improved nutrition (on rations), and wealthy people reduced their over-eating habits. Childhood bone deformity caused by rickets disappeared. And I have no recollection of feeling deprived of variety, as the same writer declared.

Perhaps I sound cranky and stuck in my memories. I don’t expect the clock to be turned back.

I rely on our ingenuity to figure out how to bring in exotic delicacies. In fact, I expect we’ll be growing crops on Vancouver Island previously thought to be only tropical or sub-tropical as global warming proceeds.

But we ignore history at our peril, and old fogies like me are here to remind us that there was life before the rather alienated society we have today.

u

Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of the Foodshare Society and president of the new multi-stakeholder co-op, Heritage Foodservice. She can be reached at: marjorieandalstewart@shaw.ca.

Just Posted

Nanaimo rapper Sirreal plays the Port Theatre on June 25. (Photo courtesy Alanna Morton)
Nanaimo rapper Sirreal and friends play the Port Theatre

Live-streamed concert the second in venue’s Discovery Series highlighting local artists

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement, stating that Nanaimo will see temperatures between five-10 degrees above seasonal the next two days. (News Bulletin file)
Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement, stating that Nanaimo will see temperatures between five-10 degrees above normal the next two days. (News Bulletin file)
Heat wave will see Nanaimo temperatures rise 5-10 degrees above normal

Sun with highs of 28 C forecast by Environment Canada for Harbour City on Sunday and Monday

According to a staff report, Regional District of Nanaimo has seen some $13.6 million in grant applications approved between Jan. 1 and May 15. (News Bulletin file)
Close to $14 million in money granted to RDN in first half of year

Successful grants include more than $4 million for transit service in Regional District of Nanaimo

A section of the rail corridor on Vancouver Island. (Black Press file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Put rail trail right overtop of the tracks

Removing tracks would be a horrendous expense, says letter writer

District of Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain, left, and Snaw-Naw-As Chief Gordon Edwards sign a memorandum of understanding outside Snaw-Naw-As Market on Friday, June 18. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Lantzville and Snaw-Naw-As sign memorandum of understanding

District and First Nation create joint working group

Robin Dutton, left, and Peter Sinclair are taking their mountain bikes and travelling down trails in the Mount Benson area June 19 as part of a 24-hour fundraiser benefiting Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Full-day mountain bike fundraiser gives financial support for Nanaimo food bank

Event part of Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank’s Food 4 Summer campaign

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding partnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read