Food­ies talk soil in­tegrity

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - BUSINESS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

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.

Photo by BRAD DEANE

Liv­ing in a fruit bowl:

Alan Carle with a trop­i­cal tam­poi

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