Recently there were two food events here, a university run Food4you series of events and a series organised by critical student organisations Boerengroep and Otherwise called Food for All. The very different approaches to food are captured in their titles. The latter series finished yesterday on World Food Day with the Dutch premiere of the film Crops for the Future. An instructive film about agroecology practices and food sovereignty from all over the world. Examples from the field were backed up with interviews with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food , with an author of the Agriculture at a Crossroads report and others. The message; we urgently need to move to another paradigm, the coming century is one of biology/diversity instead of chemistry. Still, it seems that the protagonists of a gone-by era are capable of organising a stage for themselves, the PR machine of Louise Fresco seems overheated. What are their rhetorical devices?
1. Playing with Malthusian fear that we have to follow the industrialisation of agriculture to avoid the doom of scarcity. ‘We have to feed the world’ whereas actually most people feed themselves. And if helped with agroecological techniques based on local species, their productivity rises spectacular leading to surplus which can be sold. No need for ‘us’ to develop their ‘value chain’.
2. Focussing on crop productivity in simplistic calculations of land needed for monoculture (organic crops are less productive, more scarce land needed). That’s actually old-fashioned clinging to monoculture which cannot be sustained in the future when oil-based inputs cease to exist. Monoculture and building/keeping soil fertility are each other’s opposite. Hence, it does not make sense to look at crop productivity as such, the real progress is made on farm-level productivity. The amount of calories/energy produced on an agroecological farm where the nutrient cycle is closed and where intercropping is used to improve soils and diminish pests is a factor 10 higher.
3. Projection of future food needs and the doom of potential scarcity based on current levels Western meat consumption. ‘If the rest of the world develops, they all want the meat we eat’ is the reasoning for which land is obviously going to be scarce since two-thirds of the land is used for fodder production. This is non-sense and rather wishful thinking of the meat industry. Current Western levels of meat consumption are first of all unhealthy leading to ‘welfare diseases’. Current Western levels are not static, research shows that a third of the Dutch population is busy reducing meat intake, it soon will be hip to go without. Current Western meat consumption is part of a historical meat and dairy based food culture and does not necessarily have to have the same effect in vegetable based food cultures such as the Indian cuisine.
4. A religiously colored legacy of dualism in ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ also comes in handy. Such as ‘irrational’ citizen wishes for cows in pasture (see previous blog) that delegitimize the citizen and legitimizes the rational scientist. Or the de-legitimation of animal welfare concern in society as ‘anti-livestock clubs who are angry at the facts’.