The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the argument for diversity in our food supply, notes columnist. (Stock photo)

Column: COVID-19 pandemic is testing global food systems

‘Just and sustainable food’ supply being threatened, says columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

The U.K. Sustainable Food Trust was founded in 2011 to combat a culture of obstacles to sustainable food production and consumption. Honor May Eldridge, their head of policy, writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic is testing global food systems – with potentially dire consequences. To build true resilience, there needs to be a greater shift towards sustainable farming methods and greater support of diversity in our food supply.” Eldridge warns of “lack of an enabling policy and economic environment for sustainable food production and consumption; a tendency towards reductionist and siloed thinking amongst scientists and some campaigning organizations; and a myriad of conflicting messages, often perpetuated by those with vested interests, leading to considerable confusion amongst consumers and policymakers alike about what to eat to be healthy whilst at the same time supporting just and sustainable food systems.”

The Australian Commission for the Human Future, scientists, business leaders, public servants and academics, has just published Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century, citing 10 imminent threats: “decline of natural resources, particularly water; collapse of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity; human population growth beyond Earth’s carrying capacity; global warming and human-induced climate change; chemical pollution of the Earth system, including the atmosphere and oceans; rising food insecurity and failing nutritional quality; nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; pandemics of new and untreatable disease; the advent of powerful, uncontrolled new technology; and national and global failure to understand and act preventively on these risks.” Second verse, same as the first.

The ETC group reports that global power brokers, including the ubiquitous Bill Gates, are poised to concentrate yet more power over global food systems in a tri-partite (World Economic Forum, World Food Systems Summit, International Digital Council) effort to cut civil society organizations out of decisions to be made by governments, agribusiness, and big data, ostensibly to achieve sustainable development Goal 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture). The Gates and Syngenta foundations are pushing to turn the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research into “a single corporate entity with stronger-than-ever connections to agribusiness.” Multilateral agreements will be replaced by bilateral decisions of governments with private business.

COLUMN: Good food at farmers’ markets an essential service during pandemic

High-level business and government policies created the wicked tangle of threats listed by the Australian Commission. ETC declares, “Individual corporations, trade associations, private-sector consortia and the World Economic Forum are savvy enough to emphasize ‘meaningful stakeholder engagement … from the beginning’… But they see the real connection as betwixt industry and government greased by big philanthropy and BINGOS (big international non-governmental organizations) that may not even know they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid … corporate lobbyists fear only for their bonuses, and too many diplomats are too invested in their next placements.”

The so far unanswerable questions for the Anthropocene Age are: how many humans are too many and what is Earth’s carrying capacity. The answers lie in dismantling the threats we have created. The same fossil fuel industry money that funds climate change denial is now supporting COVID-19 denial.

Denial does not solve wicked problems.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairperson of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

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