Is Cheap Food a Con? Belfast
Is Cheap Food a Con?
Cheap Food - Is it a Con?
Cheap food? "Civilised man has marched across the face of the earth and left a desert in his footprints."
We all love cheap food. When we buy food from conventional farms (via the supermarket) we like to revel in how cheap it is.
The fact is, here in Europe, we have paid at least 3 times: once for the farming subsidies which go towards the cost of fertilisers; again for the food itself and thirdly for the decontamination at sewage plants and water treatment works.
The bill for cleaning pesticides from water supplies goes up year on year.
In addition there is another hidden cost - the cost of the health problems which result from sub-standard food.
While in many ways we are healthier than ever before, there is also a growing number of people who suffer multiple allergies and other health problems which have been linked to our pesticide habit.
There are also many pesticides which are known carcinogens - i.e. they have the potential to cause cancers. According to the Pesticides Action Network as many as 160 pesticides may fall into this group.
There is also the wider cost to our living environment.
The effect on wildlife
Bird populations in Britain, for example, have declined steeply in recent years. Scientists have linked declining numbers of farmland birds in particular, to the use of pesticides in intensive farming over the last 50 years.
Many species are affected by both the depleted soils and chemical residues left after spraying.
When you add up all these hidden costs - can you really believe that cheap food is worth the cost? The hidden costs of "cheap food" are borne by us all as tax-payers.
Organic cultivation and cheap food
Organic horticulture and agriculture create the right conditions for healthy, vibrant crops. They do this by feeding the soil which in turn feeds the plant.
This is in contrast to chemical farming, where the main aim is to feed the plant directly with NPK fertilisers. The soil is mainly used just for support and as a reservoir of moisture.
Although organic food is more expensive in most places, if it were to get a little more help from governments it would compare very favourably with conventionally grown food, especially when you factor in such things as the environmental and health benefits.
The current Farm Bill in the US, for example will cost around $76 billion. Organic farmers - and farmers making the transition to organic - are likely to get far less than 1% of that money. Much of the rest will go towards subsidising the chemical agribusiness which delivers "cheap food".
Organic Food is the Real Cheap Food!
To understand a little more about organic food and why it is better than chemically grown cheap food, here's a brief history.
The Modern Organic Movement
The organic movement grew up in response to chemical agriculture in the early 20th century.
About the time of the first synthetic fertilisers, pioneers such as Si...