Disruptions in the food chain – good or bad?
by Chris Jackson, Export Manager UK TAG
This month I am back in the UK where the weather that affects every single farmer in the world is drastically different to that experienced in Australia. Throughout the past year both countries have been hit by an astounding lack of rainfall, leading to emergency measures being announced in Australia to assist the starving livestock. As large parts of South-East Asia and China rely on imports of meat, along with the Middle East, any shortfalls have serious implications on the agricultural industry.
The tragic shortage of crops will push prices up in the general market, pressurising livestock farmers into critical positions as food retailers seek to keep shop prices low to sustain their market shares with the inevitable further shrinkage of the livestock sectors. If rainfall still remains minimal, vast tracts of land will not be cropped this year, placing additional strain onto farmers.
The free market has seen an increase in the quantity of water being purchased for irrigation purposes, meaning that the cost is not viable for cotton or rice.
The UK is unaccustomed to water shortages, but with a hotter than average summer and less rainfall we have seen a reduction in yields which proves difficult, although not yet critical.
UK livestock remains healthy despite the struggle, as they need less food to maintain their body temperatures. Whilst the farmers have to adapt their farming to align with these unusual weather conditions we have witnessed man-made factors that could have far reaching implications for production, especially for crops.
Many years ago, Monasanto developed a glycophosphate weed control system that has been hugely beneficial to farmers worldwide, giving them effective weed control and a successful desiccation method to allow an even and successful harvest.
This week we have seen an American court award a supplicant a huge sum of money as he successfully argued against Monsanto that their product had caused his cancer. This case remains subject to appeal but opens up a possible opportunity for exploitation at the hands of farmers and lawyers. Due to the endless quantities of cancer-inducing chemicals and products, it is strange to single out one specific product as a cause for one"s cancer.
This event proves the importance of ensuring that our food is produced safely, whilst also maintaining profitability for farmers. With Monsanto being one of the primary farming tools used in crop production now being under fire, scientists may need to work towards alternative methods of weed control maintenance.
Whilst in the UK our geneticists have managed to produce pigs that are resistant to a world-wide debilitating disease, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). This is achieved by snipping and editing the animal"s chromosomes. This breakthrough is of huge importance to the industry as it will mean that more pigs will survive and a great deal less antibiotics will be needed to maintain their health.
Despite this apparent success, one group have asked the high court to intervene and halt production, as the animals are classed as being genetically modified.
The question remains, whether people should be allowed to disrupt the food chain because of their own personal beliefs. It seems to me wholly wrong that these people have the choice to buy more expensive free-range product, but the majority would surely benefit from healthier animals being brought through the food chain. Science has already proven that animals fed GM soya produce meat that is absolutely identical to non-GM meat.
Let us hope that common sense can prevail to keep farmers doing what they are so good at; producing primary products that are healthy, nutritious and profitable.