A myth that is regularly peddled by GMO (genetically modified organisms) apologists is that a “more efficient” food system is now required to feed the world’s growing population.
What is actually required is a halt to the practice of land-grabbing by big agribusinesses (often with governmental collusion) which is continually squeezing small-scale farmers off arable land and replacing food crops destined for local markets with commercial crops destined for export.
As a result of this pressure, small farmers now occupy less than a quarter of the world’s total farmland. Despite this they continue to produce most of the world’s food. Much of the other 75% of farmland, now occupied by industrial-scale big business, is used to grow crops for animal feed or biofuel.
In the last half-century, a massive 140 million hectares of the world’s fertile cropland (an area over five times the total landmass of the UK) has been “repurposed” for the growing of just four crops: soya beans, oil seed rape, sugar cane and palm oil. Try existing on a diet of just those four ingredients, and see how long you survive.
Somewhere in the middle of this legalised landgrab governments seem to have forgotten that the main role of farming should be to feed people, not to produce industrial crops for export. Furthermore, there have been numerous studies which show that small-scale farms (which is where almost all organic farming takes place), are significantly more productive than larger farms. If we are serious about feeding the world we are heading in the wrong direction.
Just as corporate control of the agrochemicals and seed businesses is a threat to our long-term sustainability and food security, so too is increased corporate control of farmland and food supply and distribution.
Without a political and environmental revolution we can expect this shift away from small-scale farming to continue, with more and more power over our food becoming concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals and corporations.
We can free ourselves, at least in part, from dependence on those big corporations through the revolutionary act of buying food from local, small, scale, and preferably organic, growers, and of course by growing at least some of our own food ourselves. As always, the solution is in our own hands, especially when those hands are in the soil.
On to the recipe. I really wanted to share one more asparagus recipe before the end of its short but glorious season here in the UK.
This is such a quick and simple dish, which has the added advantage of being able to be cooked in just one pan. It is also utterly delicious.
asparagus, lemon and basil pasta
12-16 fresh asparagus spears
150 g pennette, or other pasta of your choice
1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
30 g vegetarian Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
pinch sea salt
1. Remove any woody stems from the asparagus (do this by holding the asparagus spear in one hand about two thirds of the way down from the delicate tip. In the other hand hold it near the base. Gently bring your hands towards each other, bending the asparagus spear until it snaps. The lower portion is the woody stem and should be placed in your compost recycling).
2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, adding the sea salt as it heats up. Add the pasta and cook for the time specified in the packet instructions. Three minutes from the end of the cooking time add the asparagus to the pan and stir gently.
3. Drain the pasta and asparagus. Return to the pan and gently stir in the olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Serve in bowls, with a sprinkling of basil and Parmesan shavings.