Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are environmental concerns a higher priority than producing the food itself?

It was interesting to hear Australian farm production specialist Barney Foran's predictions for NZ agriculture including his dire warning that we need to lead the world in environmental production or be forced out of business within 20 years.
Doomsday predictions for Kiwi agriculture are nothing new. For the past decade sustainability, traceability and consumer preference have been our mantras - but come on, is it really as important as Foran is saying?
There is a simple equation here that always seems to be missed out when it comes to these high brow apocalypse seminars;
Fact 1: The world and its people must eat.
Fact 2: There is not enough food to go around and this problem is expected to be exacerbated further in the next 20 years.
Fact 3: With so much land being given over to the latest fads in bio-technology, food production world-wide is falling while demand is rising.
The Dominion Post reported Foran predicts that within a decade, meat will be marketed on its greenhouse gas emissions as well as water quality, biodiversity assets and cultural values.
"Tomorrow's meat enterprises will focus on product quality first, backed up by measured and low environmental impacts, austere production chains, avoidance of most chemicals and heavy metals and making farmed landscapes waterwise, biodiverse and beautiful."
But I'm not so sure that this is the way it is heading and even if it did go this far I think NZ farmers are in a good place to meet these qualifications. Okay, so we're not perfect but at the end of the day we are pretty damn good compared to some of these Eastern block countries dumping masses of low quality polluted meat on to the market (think Romania).
Foran went on to say that to ensure farming systems remained financially viable a "trimming of lifestyle expectation may be required along with debt reduction, less energy and chemicals, and developing flocks and herds that do the work themselves."
But if we did that wouldn't we end up like our British counterparts, un-viable, un-economical - all the 'un' words you can think of? Cutting back on production is not the answer, nor is as Foran seems to be suggesting, smaller flocks to suit the greenies along with hand-outs from the Government for being good little children when we choose to use the horse and plough rather than the mean ole' direct drill.
Sometimes I think these so called 'experts' really don't have a clue. Their philosophy is so far removed from the reality...
I would be interested to hear your views on this.

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