HOW CAN USING OIL TO GROW FOOD BE ‘SUSTAINABLE’? – 3rd wk in Sept ’12

10 calories of oil needed to grow 1 calorie of food. Is the oil red to signify the blood spilt in the Middle East to secure the last drops of this ‘blasck gold’?

Last week I reported on a very impressive presentation at the GIY Gathering in Waterford by Roger Doiron who inspired the White House Kitchen Garden project in Washington DC. One of his slides is shown here to illustrate a challenge for everybody, especially parents, if future generations are to have supplies of food. Currently, Western style farming depends on using unprecedented amounts of fossil fuels, natural gas is a primary ingredient for many agrichemicals and farm machinery is useless without oil. Add in transport, processing, drying grain, refrigeration, grading etc, and it becomes clearer how fossil fuel dependent our agriculture has become. Western agriculture, what we in the west like to call ‘commercial agriculture’ uses 10 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of food – imagine slugging a pint of oil with every bite of food – not sustainable on so many levels!

Why then is our agriculture described by so-called ‘leaders’ and ‘experts’ as ‘sustainable’? RTÉ Radio 1 broadcast an interview with Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture in the Irish Government recently on the Pat Kenny Show. Simon said we all had to KEEP Irish agriculture sustainable, Pat did not bat an eye-lid. Simon the politician and Pat the scientist both seem to agree that using large amounts of oil to grow food is sustainable. At the very least, it is temporarily sustainable – or is that an oxymoron?

How long will it take for the penny to drop? By the way, organic farming is less fossil fuel dependent with no agrichemical requirements. The international and domestic demand for organic food is outstripping supply even in this recessionary period.  A first step towards a more sustainabloe agriculture  is to go organic. Bottom line is more people have to be persuaded to grow more of their local food without needing barrels of oil –  IF we are to honestly call our agriculture in the future sustainable. Thank you Roger from the USA for articulaing a SUSTAINABLE American dream!

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