Against the Grain: UK Food Supply at Risk

UK - The UK food supply is heavily dependeant on grains, but it wasn't always like this. A traditional grass based method of farming could not only be greener and cheaper, but also safer.
calendar icon 5 November 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

The reliance of the UK food supply on grain markets makes it inherently unstable and vulnerable to the kind of catastrophic meltdown that threatened the banking industry, writes Graham Harvey for the Guardian. "First, there's the danger of extreme weather events, worsening as a result of climate change. Grains are at risk both from heavy rainfall and from drought, and this year's rain-drenched harvest was saved only by a fine spell in September", he says.

According to the Guardian, wartime farming was powered not by fossil fuels but by the sun, and at the heart of Britain's food production was grassland. Most of Britain's food animals were raised on it - cattle, sheep, poultry and pigs in a genuinely sustainable production model.

Grasslands produced most of our grain crops, too. Cereals such as wheat and barley were grown in rotations which included two or three years of grass. Undergrazed pasture soil rapidly builds fertility as plants and soil fauna decay. When the grass is ploughed and sown with a cereal crop, the plants make use of the recycled nutrients, reports The Guardian.

Pasture fields acts as a vast solar panel, capturing solar energy in the chloroplasts of leaves and using it to build sugars from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Not only did grassland produce copious amounts of food, it removed carbon from the air into the soil and slowed climate change.

Agribusiness interests - generously supported by western governments - all but destroyed this system. In place of pastures they have substituted internationally traded grains. For Britain, wheat has been the means of globalising production and taking away our food security.

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