Food and sustainability:
What it is:
Local food is an effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies – in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place. It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies; a preference to buy locally produced goods and services rather than those produced by overlarge corporatized institutions. Think of it as the distance between the food producer and the food consumer.
Organic farming is designed to mimic natural, synthetic-chemical-free systems as much as possible. Studies show that organic food can be higher in nutrients than its conventionally grown equivalent. Perhaps more powerfully, as each new Australian farm is converted to organic systems, the synthetic chemical build up in our soils and waterways will be gradually halted. Australian organic certification also requires the highest possible animal welfare standards, and involves a guarantee of GM-free status (i.e. no genetically modified ingredients) as well.
Our society’s desire for cheap, abundant, processed foods combined with international trade mechanisms and international economic policies can often mean bad news to poor farmers in developing nations. Rather than produce enough food for their families and then sell the surplus, farmers are pushed into sowing monoculture cash crops, often with the seeds’ genetic make-up owned by large agribusiness firms. This can be quite attractive to begin with but when volatile international markets collapse or the price of the seeds and associated synthetic inputs rise, farmers can end up with either mountains of food they cannot eat or sell, or mountains of debt they cannot repay.
This can lead to a further spiral of debt and ecological degradation whereby farmers push their land to produce more, add more inputs or clear more
land which can create problems like excess nutrient in waterways, topsoil depletion and salinization. Moreover, genetically modified seeds (GMO’s), patented by multinational corporations are expensive, take control away from farmers who become locked into contractual arrangements and reduce biodiversity since they are usually monocultures from which seed can no longer be saved.
For more information visit the International Planning Committee For Food Sovereignty.