Today marks the 31st International Food Day, dedicated to raising awareness of the problems facing global food supply. The importance of food security cannot be overestimated: it is predicted that by 2050, the global demand for food will increase by a staggering 70%. But amidst the usual calls for more investment and innovation, the most serious threat to food production has been ignored: environmental groups and their political supporters.
This campaign against scientifically enriched food truly is bizarre. According to experts like World Food Prize winner Rajesh Kumar, we are currently on the verge of another international agricultural revolutionthat could be as momentous as the "Green Revolution" of the mid 20th century. Spearheaded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, the Green Revolution saved over a billion people from starvation through scientific advancements, including the enhancement of crop yields, the creation of disease-resistant strains, and improved cultivation methods. It enabled higher production at lower costs with less land and fewer pesticides used. These are precisely the sorts of advances which we are on the cusp of today – yet are under attack by organizations like Greenpeace.
Despite their opposition to life-saving scientific advances, these green special interest groups continue to be granted "deductible gift recipient" status as "charities" in Australia, even though Canada and New Zealand recently stripped Greenpeace of this status.
Ironically, many of these green campaigns end up being worse for the environment than the alternatives they seek to ban. Take the example of "food miles," a term that has gained popularity recently under the guise of worries about climate change. In the name of reducing our carbon footprint, consumers are urged to buy food locally.
But buying locally leads to worse environmental outcomes. Larger, more efficient, more environmentally friendly plantations are boycotted, in favour of small-plot, fertilizer-intensive farms with a significantly lower yield. If unchecked, this will result not only in a decrease in the international food supply, but a net increase in carbon emissions! One study from Lincoln University, for instance, found that "2849kg of carbon dioxide is produced for every tonne of lamb raised in Britain, while just 688kg of the gas is released with imported New Zealand lamb, even after it has travelled the 11,000 miles to Britain"
In addition to their criminal campaign of environmental terrorism, Greenpeace has a secret deal, exposed by the IPA last year, to play "bad cop" to the World Wildlife Federation's "good cop" in order to capture the global supply chain and impose "certification standards," with the inevitable result of reducing food production. Greenpeace agreed to take a radical stance on these standards in order to make the WWF seem like an appealingly moderate ally that businesses could not afford to ignore. Initially concentrating on producers in developing countries who were considered easy targets, this strategy has now expanded to Australia. The Australian Cattle Council recently capitulated to their demands, which claim to promote "sustainability" but in reality reduce production.
Perhaps the most illogical campaign by the WWF has been their highly successful attack on the use of oil palm, an emotional and factually deceptive campaignthat has been one of their priorities in the Asia Pacific region. It is established fact that oil palm yields, on average, over six times more per hectare than any other plant based oil source, sometimes as much as ten times with the newer strains. If it were removed from production, six times more land would be needed to fulfil the world food market's growing oil needs. This being the case, it would seem ludicrous that this highly efficient crop would be the target of activists.
These anti-science policies pushed present a serious challenge not just to the development of Third World nations and the eradication of poverty, but to the food supply of the entire world. If market mechanisms and scientific advances are prevented from being used to increase food production, food shortages will become increasingly common, leading potentially to mass starvation and geopolitical instability.
Rather than issuing platitudes about how farming co-operatives are "the key to feeding the world"-which is what the United Nations has decided to focus on for International Food Day 2012-our policymakers need to start addressing and taking action against the real threat to food supply in the 21st century: radical environmental organisations and their anti-science agenda.