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Green paper on food plan is not good enough, Milne says

By Tina Perinotto

10 October 2012 – Drought and fire in the US is likely to create another global food crisis and there are challenges for Australia on food at every level. Yet the Federal government’s national food plan green paper fails to provide a realistic path to food security, Greens Leader Christine Milne told the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Leaders’ Forum in Canberra on Wednesday.

Ms Milne, cited UK chief scientist Sir John Beddington, with his warnings that the world now faced a series of “simultaneous and interrelated crisis, and they are climate change, energy, water and food.” And Oxfam’s recent report on land grabbing, “Our Land, Our Lives”, which  noted that during the 2008 crisis land deals tripled as both states and the private sector recognised that arable land and water are critical commodities.

In 2008 Senator Milne said, the food price shock shifted the thinking on food from a trade matter to a matter of national security.

Land, food and water were likely to replace oil as the key commodity over which resource wars will be fought, Senator Milne said.

Scientists say there are only 50 months or so left

to keep global warming to less than two degrees,which would cause

a more disrupted food supply.

Australia had an opportunity next year as a member of the “G20 Troika”, the three countries that set the agenda for the G20, in preparation for taking the Chair of the G20 in 2014, Senator Milne said.

“We therefore have an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility over the next two years to influence global food policy, and it will be happening in the context of another global food price crisis.

“France, the current G20 Chair, has been calling for the creation of a global strategic food reserve to counter food price volatility in situations like the current one, where major crops fail.”

But so far the Australian government isn’t saying how it will use

the chair of the G20

on the issues of food and agricultural policy

around the world.

The Federal government’s Green Paper and the Food Plan fails on a number of levels, Senator Milne said.

“It’s actually a document for the best of times, it forecasts a boom in food exports for Australia, it says that there’s continuing domestic food security and largely technological solutions to critical challenges.

“Now that is a recipe for incremental change, not transformative policy. It suggests that there’s no serious engagement with the extent of the crises that are coming and therefore the opportunities that Australia might be able to take up.”

The basis for the plan are “very narrow and optimistic projections” and based on a “dangerous set of false assumptions”.

“The first thing you should ask of the Food Plan is what’s it for?

“This is not a holistic plan, yet claims to be. It fundamentally misunderstands the food system,” Senator Milne said.

Ecological constraints and challenges for the food system in Australia had not been adequately addressed. “It’s hard to believe that the Green Paper has seriously consulted the Department of Climate Change, the CSIRO or other key organisations advising government on the challenges we face from climate change.”

For instance, the paper proposes that the country double its food exports by 2030, while predictions forecast a reduction of almost 20 per cent.

“Little wonder that the WA Department of agriculture immediately declared such a goal unrealistic.”

Australia was not only facing land degradation from acid (sodic) and saline soils and erosion, it was also losing top soil much faster than we can replenish it.

The expansion of coal seam gas mining was another challenge, not sufficiently acknowledged, Senator Milne said.

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