A recent article in National Geographic touts the Dutch food growing industries as a model for the rest of the world to follow. While what the Dutch are doing is very interesting and highly productive (I would absolutely suggest you read the whole article), they are by no means feeding the world. I’ve spouted off on this subject before but this Dutch thing raises a whole new bunch of concerns.
First, it relies heavily on petroproducts such as oil. Second, it requires thousands and thousands of climate-controlled greenhouses, with some complexes as large as 175 acres. Just think of the amount of glass and plastic in those greenhouses. Tomatoes are grown using LED lights and the greenhouses can (and do) run 24 hours a day. One scientists waxes eloquent on replacing soy in livestock feed with insect protein. That might work for chickens, but feed insect protein to ruminants instead of soy? Yes, grazing animals do eat some insects with their grass, but in very small amounts. Finally, the Dutch also have a huge food processing industry but import almost all of the grains, meat, seafood, nuts and fresh produce they process. Their farmers are either bankrupt or on the edge in many cases because of the consolidate/get big or get out mantra so similar to that in the US. Many survive only on bank loans. Distributors make money, but farmers don’t.
The Dutch use all kinds of GMOs, although they do at least stick to genes from the same plants rather than mixing something like strawberries and tomatoes. Their products are shipped all over the world – hello air, sea and land transport, fueled by oil. Cell phone apps and other high technology devices provide information about pH, moisture, organic matter and other nutrients.
This is so far from “sustainable” that it makes my head hurt! How is this sustainable in a world of dwindling oil supplies? How is this sustainable if an EMP takes out the grid? How is this sustainable if your plants require all these artificial conditions in order to produce (and they do produce a lot of food). How is this sustainable if the farmers producing the food can’t make a living? How is this sustainable if you don’t have the high technology apps to tell you what to do, and you’re so dependent on those apps that you only know how to follow instructions instead of using your senses, brain, experience and intuition to make decisions?
One of the experts in the story is quoted as saying “Look at the island of Bali!” The article goes on “For at least a thousand years, its [Bali’s] farmers have raised ducks and fish within the same flooded paddies where rice is cultivated. It’s an entirely self-contained food system, irrigated by intricate canal systems along mountain terraces sculpted by human hands.” Correct. And all of those systems will work just fine without petroleum imports or high technology.
Now that’s sustainable.