Campaign to change food system

PUBLISHED: 11:36 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 08:30 28 March 2014

JANUARY 26, 2009: The Soil Association has urged people to join its campaign to mobilise the UK to change its food and farming
system to a more resilient, climate-friendly, organic, local model,
less vulnerable to external shocks and challenges.

It says the way the world grows its food will have to change radically to better serve the poor and hungry if the world is to cope with a growing population and climate change while avoiding social breakdown and environmental collapse   

"From 2006 to 2008, global food prices rose rapidly – caused by global market failures, fluctuating oil prices, increases in extreme weather events, and the unsustainable and immoral dash by the US to grow crops to 'feed' cars rather than people.

"Social and political unrest at the cost and scarcity of staple foods followed in 14 countries worldwide – from 'tortilla riots' in Mexico to protests over the price of pasta in Italy.

"In the UK, we have not yet experienced the worst effects of a globally imbalanced food system, but here too, food security is again an issue of public concern.

"The first review Gordon Brown commissioned on becoming Prime Minister was an analysis of food issues. The resulting report published in July 2008 concluded that: 'existing patterns of food production are not fit for a low-carbon, more resource-constrained future', and 'existing patterns of food consumption will result in our society being loaded with a heavy burden of obesity and diet-related ill health.'

"This stark analysis chimes with the Soil Association's concern that our current UK food and farming system is not 'fit' to meet the challenges of climate change, long-term costlier oil, or for providing a foundation for people's health. Unfortunately, the Strategy Unit paper appears to be a 'minority report' and not the major influence over Government policy on food and farming.

"With 30% of an individual's carbon foot-print made up of their food choices, food is the single most important, everyday means for tackling the challenges of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and future security of our food supplies.

"The Soil Association's overall campaign goal is to make a rapid transition from a food production dependent on chemicals, global commodity markets and heavy use of oil, to a more resilient, localised, organic food and farming system powered by present day solar power, rather than one reliant on climate-damaging fossil-fuels made from ancient sunlight."

The Soil Association says:

    * Intensive agriculture needs ten calories of energy to produce one calorie of food.

    * Globally, agriculture is responsible for between 17 – 32% of the world's total greenhouse gases.

    * Our Government has set a target for 80% cuts in UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – including the main gases from farming, nitrous oxide and methane. This means major changes for UK food and farming, which contribute at least 18% of the UK's total GG emissions.

    * Globally the production and use of artificial fertilisers are the largest single source of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

    * To make one tonne of artificial fertiliser takes 108 tonnes of water, emits 7 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and uses one tonne of oil.

    * Organic farming typically uses 26% less energy to produce the same amount of food as non-organic farming.

    * In 1900, 40% of the population was involved in farming, now less than 1% of the UK population work in farming. Cuba needed to deploy 15-24% of its population after collapse of the Soviet Union and consequent cut in imports of agrochemicals and oil.

    * Across Europe, soil erosion and degradation seriously affects near 157 million hectares (16% of Europe, nearly 3 times the total surface of France).

    * 44% of the UK's arable soils are suffering from erosion, 36% at moderate to serious risk.

Hence our campaign to mobilise the UK to change its food and farming

system to a more resilient, climate-friendly, organic, local model,

less vulnerable to external shocks and challenges.

You can find out more about the campaign by calling The Soil Association on 0117 914 2447 or visiting

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