Ruminations on Food Security

Today I did my usual zip through the BBC news on the web and noted an unusually high number of stories relating to food security:

Green revolution meeting considers Africa’s food future

Ministers back Food Crime Unit recommendation

Africa’s farmers face ‘failed seasons’ risks

Also in there were a couple of other thought-provoking stories:

Policing report: Victims ‘asked to investigate crime themselves’

Calais migrants foiled as they try to storm ferry

Now, quite a lot of this is probably mere co-incidence but there’s a certain amount to ponder there.

In reverse order, then –

Illegal immigration – it’s estimated that the UK currently hosts something between 470k and 850k illegal immigrants. If they’re holding down jobs, they’re not likely to be paying taxes, so they’re also draining our resources for healthcare, rubbish disposal, etc. If they’re not holding down jobs they must be supporting themselves via, shall we say, unofficial means – either black market jobs or crime. Which means policing costs, of course.

And what the dickens do you do with their kids? They’re born here, probably not registered, won’t be vaccinated, educated, etc, etc…. are they entitled to UK citizenship because they were born here? Or could you deport them to a country that they’ve never been to before? That’s a nasty can of worms.

Ok – moving on…. the nature of the Rule of Law. We do have this expectation in the UK that, generally speaking, give or take the odd punch-up and pub brawl here and there, that if you report a crime, it’s dealt with. If the police aren’t doing it but are telling us to do their jobs, why are we paying them at all? The right and ability to defend ourselves, as enshrined in US law, has been taken away from the ordinary UK citizen on the grounds that the police are there to protect us.

Only, manifestly, they ain’t there and they’re not defending us.

Now, there’s a big difference between being told the local nick can’t afford to send a chap round for every tea-leaf who picks a pocket and full-scale lawlessness, clearly, but this looks like the thin end of a wedge to me. And I’ll bet any respectable citizen who ends up having to defend themselves because the police weren’t there when push came to shove will get the proverbial book thrown at them, too. Guilty until proven innocent, when it comes to self-defence!

And then there’s food security. This is always a big talking point amongst preppers, though most I’ve discussed it with are thinking small-scale ‘how do I fight the zombies off my larder’ type scenarios. This is a much bigger problem, though, and one that fuels quite a bit of the drive for home-production in our household. If you can’t trust the stuff in the packet/tin/bottle/carton to be what it says, then why are you eating it? And what are you going to eat instead? It’s not a question of ‘oh, I don’t eat horse!’ I’ll eat horse. (I’ll eat anything, if I’m hungry enough!) I just don’t want to find I’ve eaten horse stuffed full of drugs that will adversely affect me, when I thought I was getting organic grass-fed beef – and this principle applies across the board. I want to know what I’m eating and what’s in it.

There are other considerations with black-market and illegal food imports, too. The devastating Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, which decimated UK livestock and drove farmers out of business or even to suicide, was traced back to illegal meat imports. What next? Ebola-laced bushmeat smuggled into the country? More Foot and Mouth? Bird or Swine Flu? Heaven help us if Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus gets a grip on the UK’s pig farms – it’s wiped out 10% of the US pig herd this year alone.

Food security in Africa could impact on us, too. Apart from the inevitable charity appeals if famine strikes, hungry people don’t sit still to starve – they move. And they often move to a place perceived as being tolerant, welcoming, awash with benefits and jobs, with lots of family already there….. yep, here.

(A word about charity appeals…. I’ve nothing against them per se, but I do have problems with charities appealing for money to buy food to give to starving people. Back in the first years of the Ethiopian famine, for example, everyone was (rightly) horrified at the pitiful state of Ethiopian people on TV, rushed to hand over money, and food was handed out to prevent people starving to death. Result? Ethiopian population has soared while charities have continued to feed the starving masses. The situation is now worse than it was because there isn’t a hope in hell that the land available can feed the population adequately. If you’re a farmer and you haven’t enough grazing for your livestock, you don’t fix the situation by putting more livestock on the same area of land and relying on the neighbours to give you free hay.)

Which brings us back to the desperate illegal immigrants in Calais trying to storm the cross-channel ferries. This time it was a couple of hundred and they were stopped. What do you do if it’s all 1,300 of them? Or more, if Africa’s harvests drop and more Africans start migrating out of misery’s way?

Food Security is more than putting a padlock on the larder door. It’s about trying to reduce your reliance on other countries, on other people, on unreliable sources, and we should be thinking not just of our own, but of other people’s, too. Nowhere is so remote that the hungry hordes won’t find you, eventually, and nobody has the ability to fight off all the starving masses when they find you.

Though I will admit, the thought of that 6-mile natural moat called the Pentland Firth certainly does make Orkney look attractive as a place to move to!

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