INSTITUTIONAL FORMS & URBAN LOGICS
Salons + Definitions
Biographies + Acknowledgements
Salons + Definitions
Biographies + Acknowledgements
The Article Archive
2015 - 2016
THE FUTURE OF FOOD
El Ejido, an entire region covered in plastic which relies on migrant exploitation, is the largest fruit and vegetable producer in Europe. Mato Grosso generates more soybeans than any other region in Brazil, in monocultures that depend on genetically modified organisms and deforestation. They are closer to production factories than to traditional agricultural formations. Nocton is just a tranquil, small rural village in Lincolnshire, set among mature trees and hedging and of a few more than 600 inhabitants. Can it, however, redefine our connection with food in a way that has never been done before?
The contemporary world, although physically divided by post-colonial boundaries, is fundamentally a borderless structure dominated by its trade system. In this context, food, rather than just being a basic means of survival, is a key commodity that belongs to a global scheme. As a result of the agricultural revolution (10,000 to 8,000 BC), we abandoned our nomadic hunter-gatherer lives in favour of permanent settlement and farming; a transformation considered metaphysically as a developmental stage in human evolution. Ever since, agriculture has been in charge of providing us with the necessary nutrients to stay alive.
From its primitive origins up to our day, it has evolved to become an international, technologically sophisticated system, continuously seeking to feed a growing number of beings in the most possibly efficient way. Involving countless issues related to power concentration, threats to public health and the environment, labour exploitation or animal welfare.
More recent urbanisation has ultimately lead city dwellers towards an emotional alienation with the products we consume, merely delivered to us from purposively hidden production worlds that perform in the background, making sure food is easily available for those who can afford it.
Industrial food worlds such as the monocultural soybean fields in Mato Grosso, Brazil, or the plasticutural peninsula of El Ejido, in southern Spain, can be seen from Space but are mostly invisible to the consumers. These backstage spatial products represent the radical commodification of food, and operate as smart profit-making machines working on a global scale.
The rapid growth of the world’s population, estimating to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, and the pressuring demands of the markets, have progressively transformed food worlds into intensive, geographically concentrated enterprises that we never see. They are the largest spatial representations of the global food network, which connects them between each other and with our kitchen, leaving obscure traces and countless victims behind: small farmers, labourers, animal species, the environment… and us, the consumers. The nutrients we eat are part of a highly lucrative international scheme which ultimate intention is to maximize the profit, commonly for a reduced number of stakeholders.
Nocton Super Dairy
El Ejido, an entire region covered in plastic which relies on migrant exploitation, is the largest fruit and vegetable producer in Europe. Mato Grosso generates more soybeans than any other region in Brazil, in monocultures that depend on genetically modified organisms and deforestation. They are closer to production factories than to traditional agricultural formations.
Nocton, however, is just a tranquil, small rural village in Lincolnshire, set among mature trees and hedging and of a few more than 600 inhabitants. Irrelevant to the national press until 2009, when the Nocton Dairy controversy started to catch public attention. Devon farmer and cheese-maker Peter Willes and Lancashire milk producer David Barnes presented a planning application to the North Kesteven District Council to build an 8,100 cow industrial dairy farm that was to become the largest in Western Europe, setting a dangerous precedent for the British countryside.
After a long campaign against the super-dairy including local voices, landscape protection and animal rights associations, MP’s and celebrities, the application was finally rejected, leaving the proposed site untouched.
“Keeping 8,000 cows in one herd makes no farming sense. It is, however, what farmers are being forced to do by the supermarkets. If one company has only three distribution centres to cover the whole of the UK you can’t expect them to have contracts with 80 farmers, each with 100 cows, so farmers have to gear up to meet the demand of their customers. After all, as governments like to say, farming is a business, just like any other. Farmers like me, who do not think big is always beautiful, will just have to retire.” Says welsh farmer Huw Jones.
Farms and farmers are an essential component of the british countryside, helping tomaintain the pastures, meadows, woods and dry stone walls, hedgerows and traditional barns that compose the distinctive character of the landscape. However, price pressures are forcing them to consider intensive methods or to give up farming, presenting a serious threat for the environment.
(Don’t) panic, it’s organic
In times when corporations are increasingly industrialising the mechanisms of food production with devastating impacts for the environment, animals and our own health, sustainable forms of agriculture such as locally produced organic farming is the most common proposition against the industrial threat. However, aiming to feed billions of people and livestock animals exclusively through organic agriculture is nothing but a utopian endeavour. While being successful in creating forms of resistance against the capitalist pressures that strain the food system, its obvious limitations relegate organic farming to a creative and therapeutic activity for a cultural elite rather a long term solution for a central crisis. The critical point we find ourselves in does not require a step backward, but a radical step forward.
Far from accepting the turn towards factory farming as the only realistic answer to a food crisis, and refusing the utopia that comes with the organic trend, the system is in need of a sustainable alternative that can save the landscape while effectively delivering enough nutrients to meet a growing demand. For that, it is important to rethink farming and everything it involves in a way that has never been done before. Could cellular agriculture, that is, lab grown animal products, be produced at a mass scale? redefining our connection with what we eat and where it comes from. Creating a new food culture that confronts our dystopian food system while saving the landscape and its species. After having defeated the dairy giant, Nocton will be given another opportunity to reinvent the agricultural world and its relationship with our landscape.