Foodies talk soil integrity
HAVING access to healthy foods is one thing but the most important aspect of growing good tucker is soil integrity, according to The Botanical Ark’s Alan Carle.
Healthy and sustainable foods guru Michael Pollan visited the Whyanbeel property last week to meet with Mr Carle and president of the International Organic Movement, Andre Leu.
Food talk that was on the table included food security, health and nutrition, local food networks, rare fruits and nuts, organic agriculture, loss of biodiversity in food and the present status of food production throughout the world.
Mr Carle said one of the biggest problems is that food diversity is slowly dwindling because the seed stocks of many foods and plants are in the hands of big corporations.
“These companies are not releasing them which weakens the genetic base of the foods we keep planting over and over,” he said.
“The other major problem is that the really big farming operations do not allow enough time for crop rotation and load the soil up with chemical fertilisers and in turn all the goodness in the soil is leached out and so you cannot grow as healthy food as you could or should.
“Also the big supermarkets are to partly blame because they make everything so convenient for today’s busy shopper and can dictate to the growers just what they want such as size and colour of the food products.”
Mr Carle said coupled with the use of heavy fertilisers and cold storage for up to 12 months, food has become a multi-billion dollar business.
“And this has lead to the absurd situation where our obesity rates in the west are skyrocketing while whole populations in Africa are dying through starvation,’’ he said.
“But thankfully there are some positive efforts presently being made at small farm and local levels as well as internationally to tackle these issues.”
Mr Leu said food science was now very advanced and scientists now know how to better look after the land and make it more productive while maintaining the health of the soil.
“In feeding the world we have discovered that 80 per cent of farmers are still small holder farms,” he said.
“We have the ludicrous situation where in the West we grow and supply an overabundance of food while in Africa there are one billion starving.
“But with our over abundance of food a lot of it is calorie-rich food which the scientists are telling us is leading to record obesity and in many cases people are over-eating because they do not feel satisfied, their bodies are not getting the nutrients they need.”
Mr Leu said growing food organically was not just a good way to feed Africa but would put the nutrients back into the foods eaten in the West too.
“With organic systems we can lift production and do it for far less cost both financial and to the soils,” he said.
Living in a fruit bowl:
Alan Carle with a tropical tampoi