Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A wee rant about the way we are farming the life out of Planet Earth

The Almond Orchards of California

Intensive agriculture has brought us to the brink. It it completely unsustainable in every sense of the word and it is certainly NOT feeding the world. We have travelled too far down the wrong road and it is now time to do a u-turn. We need a complete and urgent re-think about global agricultural practices if we are to avert food shortages.

Sadly, what many perceive as lush green countryside in the UK (and to a far greater degree in the US) is more likely to be fields of mono crops, treated with cocktails of fungicides and systemic insecticides, planted over thousands of acres of land treated with herbicides, and leaving little if any space for wildflowers and their pollinators to flourish.....even if they could in such a toxic environment!

Added to this, in the US, is the fact that many native wild pollinators have been outcompeted by the introduction of the honeybee 400 years ago. Some kind of healthy balance might perhaps have been achieved and maintained between native bees and Apis mellifera if it hadn't been for the rise of the mega commercial beekeepers who now truck millions of hives of exhausted, stressed honeybees over thousands of miles to pollinate the almond orchards and other cash crops. However, as the emphasis and focus has all been on the 'economy' and 'pollinator services' rather than 'ecology' there is now very little balance.

There are now some 870,000 of acres of California that are entirely covered in almond trees, without so much as a blade of grass growing beneath them let alone a wild flower because - heaven forbid - that might tempt the bees away from the almond blossoms they are supposed to be 'working'...and that would never do!

Ignoring for one moment the biodiversity desert that this demand for almond oil has created in California, it is also completely abhorrent to me that the honeybee, or any other living creature should be treated in such a way just to satisfy human greed.

Animals deserve to be treated in the same way as we would like to be treated ourselves. As do trees, plants, water and soil. These are all equally precious co-inhabitants of planet Earth and we should be honouring and respecting them instead of controlling, managing, poisoning and enslaving them the way we do. And yes, I include water and soil when I say this because they, too, used to be full of life before modern agriculture poisoned them with its chemicals.

Our 'modern' way of growing food simply does not work. The only people benefitting from it are the shareholders of the multinational agri-chem corporations. Not us....not the farmers....and certainly not the people all over the world who are starving whilst cash crops of cotton, wheat, biofuels, maize, palm oil etc are being grown on the land beside their villages where they used to grow food to eat.

What is needed is for the food distribution system to change - and for people all over the world to be able to grow food crops for themselves to eat....rather than using their land AND THEIR WATER to grow cash cops for rich nations.

I am well aware that the solutions are far more complex than I am able to write about in a short blog post, but I believe with every cell of my being that small scale, non intensive farming....using integrated pest management, crop rotation, permaculture principles and organic methods CAN feed the world. We are far too quick to buy into the scaremongering propaganda put about by the multinationals telling us that we must grow genetically modified crops to feed the world. This simply is not true. Adding genetically modified plants into the mix is no more a solution to world hunger than manufacturing robotic bees would be to the pollinator crisis. 

......and don't get me started on palm oil, Bt cotton, seed sovereignty and biopiracy!!!

Rant over.


  1. Well said Brigit! If only more people were driven to a rant, sadly most od the population are oblivious to what is happening.

  2. One of the things that many Transition Towns are doing is promoting and supporting local people in growing, preserving and cooking their own food. Whilst most folk will never be anywhere near self-sufficient, especially with the size (or lack of size) of modern gardens, it does reconnect people with the way food is produced. Such schemes can help educate folk not only about the mechanics of growing food yourself using organic/permaculture techniques, but also makes people stop and think about the food they do buy. Even if it encourages just a few people to consider opting for locallly grown (or even UK grown or organic) produce when they're in the supermarket, it will have helped a little to turn the tide.

    Remember: every bean, pea, spud or sprout you grow in your back garden, community allotment or guerilla planting is one that isn't having to be shipped from afar after being spray with herbicides and pesticides that you have no control over.

    1. "Remember: every bean, pea, spud or sprout you grow in your back garden, community allotment or guerilla planting is one that isn't having to be shipped from afar after being spray with herbicides and pesticides that you have no control over."

      Love that thought! Thanks Jon :)

  3. If that lovely piece of writing is ranting - bring it on!

  4. Our once organic fields, now farmed with a neighbour, have been subjected to 'artificial fertiliser' and spraying this spring. We cannot make the sums work to carry on producing organically. The permanent pasture fields will stay naturally managed, and we still have hedgerows and manure heaps, but I am deeply saddened and would like to find another option. Paying a little extra for organic milk WOULD make a difference, everybody!

  5. Keep makes perfect sense!