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Talking.........from the boundary

September 10th 2019

I believe there are far greater threats to our economic fortunes than whether we are in, out, closely allied or whatever other structure politicians can dream up of our relationship with Europe. According to Wikipedia there have been five agricultural revolutions over time. The first was around 10,000 years BC when man moved from hunter gatherer to grower. The next known as the Arab Agricultural Revolution (700 to 1200 AD) was the development of new crops (primarily cereals) and advanced techniques. Then came the British Agricultural Revolution (17th19th Century) with major advances such as crop rotation, field enclosures, and artificial fertilisers. One of the most significant developments Guy Lee was in transport. High wagon transportation costs made it uneconomical to ship commodities very far outside the market radius by road, generally limiting shipment to less than 20 or 30 miles to market or to a navigable waterway. Water transport was, and in some cases still is, much more efficient than land transport. In the early 19th century it cost as much to transport a ton of freight 32 miles by wagon over an unimproved road as it did to ship it 3000 miles across the Atlantic. A horse could pull at most one ton of freight on a Macadam road but a single horse could pull a barge weighing over 30 tons. Between 1873 and 1879 British agriculture suffered from wet summers that damaged grain crops. Cattle farmers were hit by foot-and-mouth disease, and sheep farmers by sheep liver rot. The poor harvests, however, masked a greater threat to British agriculture: growing imports of foodstuffs from abroad. The development of the steam ship and of extensive railway networks in Britain and in the United States allowed U.S. farmers with much larger and more productive farms to export hard grain to Britain at a price that undercut the British farmers. At the same time, large amounts of cheap corned beef started to arrive from Argentina, and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the development of refrigerator ships in about 1880 opened the British market to cheap meat and wool from Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. The Long Depression was a worldwide economic recession that began in 1873 and ended around 1896. It hit the agricultural sector hard and was the most severe in Europe and the United States, which had been experiencing strong economic growth fuelled by the Second Industrial Revolution in the decade following the American Civil War. By 1900 half the meat eaten in Britain came from abroad and tropical fruits such as bananas were also being imported on the new refrigerator ships. In the first half of the 20th century Europe was plagued by wars and growing food from our own resources became a national priority. The Third Agricultural Revolution, known as the Green Revolution, took place during the 1950’s and 60’s with major advances in crop breeding resulting in much higher yields. This period has been credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. I think we are now at the beginning of the next Agricultural Revolution with the development of substitute food products. There is a massive change in eating habits primarily led by headlines that are randomly selected by the media and fed to metropolitan consumers without any explanation of the wider impact of the effect on food security and the rural environment. The growth in plant based alternatives to animal proteins is staggering. The technology is impressive and the investment supporting the R & D of these start up companies runs into billions. $100m and over 4 years was spent finding the perfect plant amongst the Where will eggs come from in the future? Hens or mung beans? 390,000 species there on the planet to make a product that has all the culinary properties of an egg. The plant being used is the Mung Bean which are primarily farmed in Tanzania and Inner Mongolia. Hardly a similar climate to Northern Europe. The appetite for plant alternatives to animal products appears insatiable, between cultured meat grown from animal cells in a lab and plants, alternative meat sales are booming. The greatest threat from these developments is the conversion of forage, primarily grass, into meat and milk. If demand shifts from animal products to plant based substitutes what alternatives uses are there for the land? Forestry is the obvious answer but returns from wood take a considerable amount of time and is a major disrupter to the rural economy. Matt Ridley wrote an excellent article recently on the myths surrounding meat production. The quotes below are from his piece: “Eating carrots instead of steak means you effectively cut your emissions by about two per cent” says the environmental economist Bjorn Lomborg. “As a vegetarian for ethical reasons, I will be the first to say that there are many good reasons to eat less meat. Sadly, making a huge difference to the climate isn’t one of them.” Last November the former head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, mused: “How about restaurants in 10-15 years start treating carnivores the same way that smokers are treated? If they want to eat meat, they can do it outside the restaurant.” The climate is just the latest feeble excuse for the nannies who love to lecture us about our diet. In an all-too-familiar progression, what starts out as a suggestion then becomes ostracism and ends in state coercion. All based on a false premise. But much of the plant material we grow on arable land cannot be eaten by human beings - straw, for example. Plus cows, pigs and chickens turn the indigestible stuff into manure without which soil conservation would be harder and organic farming all but impossible. Prof Imke de Boer of Wageningen University argues that the most carbon-efficient agriculture must include some animals. Also, much of this planet cannot be used for growing crops, but can produce fodder for sheep, cattle, goats, camels and chickens. The hills of Scotland, Wales and the Lake District, for example, are not suitable for wheat, nor is much of the Middle East and Central Asia. Without these animals, we would not only ruin many farming communities, but have to plough and plant a lot more land elsewhere to grow the protein and fats that we otherwise get from animals - and that would mean destroying more forests and wetlands, because unlike sheep and cows, those crops need well-watered, fertile soil. Bad idea! It is very difficult for humans to thrive on a purely plant-based diet. Unless they are affluent and have access to balanced nutrition, vegan children become deficient in iron and vitamin A, stunted in growth and delayed in brain development. A study in rural Kenya found that eating eggs made children grow five per cent faster. This is why globally, as living standards rise, meat and dairy consumption is increasing twice as ENGINEERING fast as population. Throughout the developing MOBILE SERVICES world, when people get access to dairy products and meat, their stature and IQ tend to shoot up. Denying this opportunity to the many people -­‐    Fabrication   MOBILE ENGINEERING SERVICES   who are vegetarians through poverty rather than choice would be grotesque. MOBILE ENGINEERING SERVICES  


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Agrimart October 19 Issue  

Agricultural magazine covering Scotland & the North of England

Agrimart October 19 Issue  

Agricultural magazine covering Scotland & the North of England

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