Ireland is better equipped than most to deal with the impending food crisis
Published 30/11/2010 | 05:00
Farming in the western world is a redundant industry -- we do not need it!" This was the pronouncement made by a prominent former newsreader when she spoke to Damien O'Reilly on RTE's Farmweek programme just three years ago.
She then went on to compound the issue by saying that farm supports were "obscene", that farmers were "blackmailing" their fellow citizens, "the taxpayers", while "being paid to sit on their backsides".
These comments, although hurtful, cannot be simply dismissed as 'farming bashing', something which many journalists like to indulge in. Around the same time, Irish MEPs informed me that farming in Ireland would have to be sacrificed to facilitate European trade with developing countries. They argued that this increased trade would provide farmers' children with much better jobs in the financial services sector than they could ever hope to get in farming.
How things have changed! Even though farm incomes remain low, farming is once again being recognised for what it is -- an integral and important part of the Irish economy. Instead of redundant farmers, we are now hearing about an impending global food supply crisis. Current figures support the contention that with an increasing global population and a finite supply of agricultural land, the time is drawing near when global demand for food will outstrip supply.
Adding to these concerns is the high dependence of modern 'industrialised agriculture' on cheap oil. This factor has prompted many commentators to claim that modern 'industrialised agriculture' is unsustainable as it is little more than a system of using land to change oil into food.
Of greater concern is the fact that oil shortages have already caused problems for food production in the 'developing world' where farm output in many areas has already fallen back to levels before the 'Green Revolution'.
Encouragingly, it appears that farmers in Ireland may be in a much better position than others to cope with this upcoming food crisis. In his book, The End Of Food, author Paul Roberts argues that the future of food production does not lie in the unsustainable, large industrialised model of farming. Neither does it lie in small subsistence farming: but rather in the medium 50-500ac farms such as we have in Ireland.