One of the biggest “challenges” (hate that word) facing us in the years ahead will be food security. This seemingly innocuous term basically comes down to how will we continue to be able to get enough to eat, seeing as how we have a constantly growing population (6.6 thousand million plus)? The foundations that we base our current agriculture on, that we absolutely rely upon, which include a stable climate and the availability of cheap energy to manufacture artificial fertilisers, are cracking.
There are estimates that, without artificial fertilisers, conventional agricultural methods can only support a global population of around 2 billion tops. As the Americans say – go figure!
Climate change, particularly shifts in temperature zones and rainfall distribution patterns will also have a massive effect. Mostly, not good. The increased CO2 will NOT be a help to growing more food (see my blogpost about the denialist myths about food production and increased CO2).
Perhaps more obviously, the imminent effects of peak Oil (look at this Guardian article for a "sooner than we think" foretaste) will make artificial fertiliser increasingly expensive and eventually unobtainable. Readers will be familiar with the term Peak Oil but there is also the less well known Peak Phosphorus to be concerned about. The main “active ingredients” in artificial fertiliser are N, P and K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). Potassium is in plentiful supply and will not be a problem. The fixing of nitrogen to make the nitrate in fertilizer is a highly energy intensive process which depends upon cheap, plentiful, fossil fuel supplies, which of course we have to wean ourselves off anyway as they decline, not to mention their destabilisation of the climate. Phosphorus, to make phosphate, is mostly mined - once we get down to the dregs of our phosphorus reserves there is currently no easily or cheaply available alternative supply to prop up conventional agriculture and some say our dwindling reserves will start to run out by around 2050 and that the “peak” will be around 2030 - see this Times article from last year.
In unveiling the "highly mechanized underbelly" of industrial agriculture, Food, Inc. covers issues ranging from agribusiness's corporate control of the food system, to food safety, and farmer and food-worker exploitation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "Food, Inc. is more than just a documentary - it's a riveting cautionary tale." Buzz has been many months in the building: Food, Inc. has been showing in film festivals, word-of-mouth screenings, and in government officials' offices around the country
Here’s a good review from the Los Angeles Times. Food, Inc. reveals how a handful of corporations control our nation's food supply while cashing in on the myth that our food comes from idyllic, community-scale farms.
According to food reporter Michael Pollan, "Food, Inc. is the most important and powerful film about our food system in a generation." For months, the documentary has been showing in festivals, word-of-mouth screenings, and in government officials' offices -- including one "uncomfortable" screening with USDA (US Department of Agriculture) head, Tom Vilsack. It will show in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York on Friday, and roll out to fifty-plus cities in the weeks thereafter. Pesticide Action Network is one of 20 social change organizations engaged by the filmmakers to link outraged moviegoers to opportunities for action -- others include United Farm Workers, Humane Society, and Organic Consumers Association. PAN has also contributed a chapter on pesticides and farmworker exposure to the film's companion book, Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer - And What You Can Do About It. The movie touches on issues ranging from its primary focus on Monsanto and other agribusiness's government influence and control over what we eat, to food safety, and farmer and food-worker exploitation.
The NY Times review was rather hard hitting too… link to NY Times review