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Thursday, January 23, 2014

If Big Supermarkets want to Survive they must take Sustainability more Seriously

If Big Supermarkets want to Survive they must take Sustainability more Seriously

Farmers incomes across the world are under pressure from multinational food corporations and the big supermarkets like Asda/WalMart, Carrefour and Tesco.

Between them, therefore, they are the most likely customers for overseas producers and that gives them enormous buying power to force down prices for farmers and farm workers.

Around the world, farm income is plummeting, pushing farmers off the land and into destitution.

Farmers are also forced by the pressure to produce more for less to exploit their land to tha maximum and beyond to survive.

This unbalanced and loaded trading relationship is clearly unsustainable and shortsighted in a world where fears about food scarcity and food security are already growing daily.

Yet while people continue to starve across the rest of the world mountains of food are thrown away or wasted in rich nations because centralised shopping in big supermarkets takes no account of local needs.

Not only is this cost pressure shortsighted in terms of helping farmers to produce sufficient food to feed us all it is a disaster for the environment, ecology and land management.

Without help, or access to safe, natural biopesticides and yield enhancers, to financial resources to buy them and without access to training in integrated pest management and sustainable farming smaller farmers could ruin the fertility of the land on which they depend for a living and on which we all, our children and future generations will depend for our food.

Marcus MeadowsSmith heads one of the worlds largest R D companies developing the new lowchem agricultural products like biopesticides.

He believes that lack of the ability to invest and of resources means that many farmers not only in the developing world are faced with an unacceptable choice between producing enough food and draining their land of precious goodness in the effort to do so.

Its plainly obvious that if the planet is to survive something has to give and that something is the nearmonopoly buying power of the big players, the supermarket giants and the multinationals.

If the doomsday ecoprophets are right, the crazy thing is that by being so focused on short term profit for themselves and their shareholders they could be jepoardising their own longterm survival along with the survival of the rest of us. Put simplistically, if the land is so drained of goodness that it cant supply enough food for us all then what exactly are they going to sell?

The key to helping the faceless corporations of the world to see sense could be consumer power.

In 2007 the Coop swapped all its own brand chocolate to Fairtrade and saw its sales rise by 30% almost immediately.

Organic food sales are more than 50% higher than five years ago and are worth a total of around in the UK, more than 70% of it going to the Supermarkets.

Plainly consumers want their food to be chemical free, produced as naturally as possible and they continue to believe that organic is healthier.

As our CEO quoted above has also said, however, while organic is a good lifetsyle choice for those who can afford it, it is lower yielding and cannot feed the worlds growing population.

That means that to maximize yield farmers and growers, wherever they are on the planet, will need access to safer, lowchem, forms of crop protection, soil protection and yield enhancers, such as the new ranges of biopesticides and biofungicides now being developed.

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