There is no doubt that a radical change is needed in our current agricultural and food system. Our agricultural and food system pollutes the soil, is unhealthy, has grown unbalanced worldwide, brings yields and profits in the chain not to the farmers, but to the banks and multinationals. A radical change can be achieved by switching to 100% organic farming. This production method is not only good for the soil, the environment, climate and biodiversity, animal friendliness, people’s health and the earning capacity of the farmer, but does justice to all those involved. We have to face up to what is going on at the moment and that takes courage. And, finally, we must develop the ability not to enjoy our food less, but to enjoy it better.
Farmers not less, but more.
Farmers should not be bought out. That’s the dumbest thing one can do. We have advanced in scaling up, which has been going on for decades and should not have happened for decades. The scale increase has not only made more production possible, but also ensured that our production has become less and less sustainable, as a result of the increase in fertilizers and chemical pesticides. This has all kinds of consequences for the environment, biodiversity and climate: emissions of CO2, Methane, Nitrogen and Phosphorus, pollination problems, residues of chemical pesticides, deforestation. We must therefore move towards a sustainable agricultural and food system. That is not possible on the current large scale. The organic farmer needs more attention for soil and crops and will therefore be able to cultivate less hectares. And that means that more farmers are needed, because in sustainable agriculture the average surface area per farm is lower than in industrial agriculture. Buying out farmers will not ensure that we produce less and therefore also pollute less, but, on the contrary, the increase in scale and pollution will continue even more strongly.
Do not withdraw agricultural land from food production
If agricultural land is withdrawn from agriculture, an even bigger problem arises, even though in the western world we are currently producing far too much. This seems contradictory, but it isn’t. For a healthy diet, with reduced animal protein consumption, the required land use is about 5,000 m2 per capita. See also the Blog: ‘Enough farmland to ensure a healthy diet for all people, improve global biodiversity and limit climate change in 2050’. In the Netherlands for example, the quantity of available agricultural land is only a little more than 1,000 m2 per capita, which is far too little to provide all Dutch people with a healthy diet. Despite this small amount of land, we produce and export far, far too much. We do this with raw materials that are imported from abroad. To a large extent, these raw materials come from far-away poor countries, where they impoverish the soil and nature. So, what is needed is a switch from current agriculture to sustainable agriculture. On our planet as a whole there is enough agricultural land for local and sustainable production of a healthy diet for all people now and also in 2050. The quantity farmland per capita worldwide available in 2010 was almost 7,000 m2 and will be a bit more than 5,000 m2 in 2050. This lower amount, mainly due to the increase of the world population between 2010 and 2050, is still enough to feed the world’s population with a healthy diet, sustainably produced. However, the availability of agricultural land per capita is very unevenly distributed among the countries of the world. For poor countries there will arise a dramatic shortage: much less than 3,000 m2 per capita in 2050, while the rich countries will have almost 1 ha per capita.
Recruit new farmers who can produce sustainably
We should not buy out farmers, but recruit new farmers. And then it is about farmers who are able to produce in a sustainable way. There is currently a lot of knowledge lacking for this. A shift in the agricultural knowledge and innovation system is therefore needed, which is now fully focused on large-scale agriculture and ever-expanding technology. There is a lot of practical knowledge on a small scale about organic, agro-ecological agriculture and circular agriculture, but not enough to significantly expand these forms of agriculture. The much-needed switch to sustainable agriculture therefore means that we will produce less per farmer/farm, but it will be sustainable.
Halve meat consumption
We use a lot of raw materials because we eat way too much meat. This is also very unhealth and leads to all kinds of diseases. This is another cost item that is not included in the prices of the large-scale agricultural products, but ends up in the ever-increasing costs of health care. We can assume that the population will become much healthier on average if we halve our meat consumption. So along with the agricultural reform, we need a reform of our diet. The conclusion is: instead of halving the number of farmers, we should double the number of farmers and halve the meat consumption.
Food package costs can remain constant
The sustainable products will be more expensive than the products from large-scale polluting agriculture. To a large extent this is because the current agricultural products from the large-scale agricultural industry are far too cheap, since many costs are not passed on in the prices. Cleaning the land that is being over-exploited, polluted and exhausted by chemical fertilizers and pesticides saddles future generations with high costs. With little rain, these lands dry out very quickly because they cannot retain water due to the low organic content. With a lot of rain, flooding and erosion occur. If we were to restore this, which does not happen, there would be an incredible amount of costs involved that are not being charged now. This system of agriculture entails a lot of waste, which can be prevented in a sustainable system. Moreover, the prices of large-scale agricultural products are so low because a lot of subsidies are given from Brussels for this form of agriculture. If the subsidy that now goes to large-scale agriculture benefits the production of sustainable vegetables, the total costs of the food package, with less meat, will not increase and we will also get a healthier population and more employment.
Large-scale agri-food sector won’t solve it
The above proposals are concrete, offer a view of the problems we currently face and indicate a clear path to a sustainable agricultural and food system. We can get started right away. This is in stark contrast to the full-page article, or advertisement, in Brabants Dagblad of 12 October 2021 by AGRI NL. AgriNL calls itself one of the most important players in the Agrifood sector. According to the article with the ambitious title: ‘Towards a sustainable perspective of the Netherlands and its agriculture’, sustainable solutions to the problems we currently face and perspective require an area-oriented and integrated approach, which requires customization and something extra. That extra would be the willingness to compromise a bit. There would also be a willingness to put the common interest above one’s own interest, but there should be sufficient space and resources for farmers to take the necessary steps for the future. It is not stated which steps and which future it concerns. According to the article, the social challenges must be solved in balance, whereby the government must ensure support. What all this should entail remains unmentioned. But, if we do all this — the article says — we can build new houses and new infrastructure, and space will be created for the agricultural sector and for extra nature. There are only generalities in the full-page text, but no concrete action.
Local and sustainable initiatives, facilitated by 2local, bring the solution
We need a completely different approach. Solutions do not come from multinationals and banks, nor even from governments surrounded by heavy lobbyists. We will have to do it ourselves: as farmers and citizens, as producers and consumers, as restaurants and customers, as recreation companies and farm-based tourists/holidaymakers. In short: as parties close to each other, who value local and sustainable. The loyalty platform 2local facilitates these local and sustainable initiatives, using the wealth of the blockchain. 2local wants to stimulate the production and consumption of local and sustainable products and services by working with crypto coins (the 2-LoCal, 2LC), based on blockchain technology, several crypto related products and a cashback system. Paying with 2LC digital coins is direct and easy and the cashback system guarantees accessibility for everyone, even for people who have little to spend. To make these things even more affordable the 2local platform also uses profit from the blockchain and from Green investors. One of the features of 2local is a digital Marketplace where producers and consumers can meet. The Marketplace offers the possibility to search for connected companies — companies registered on the 2local website — using various filters. The connected companies get free advertising and therefore more potential customers. This implies a shift towards smaller, localized production and distribution of goods and services. It means more personal cohesion between people, less polluting transport around the world and easier quality controls (via short chains instead of long global chains that are not transparent). It is important that everyone in the world can benefit from the 2local initiative. The introduction of a cashback for local and sustainable products also gives people with less money access to sustainable products. This stimulates everyone’s involvement in the local economy and will increase sustainability and prosperity in the world.
26 October 2021