Australia feeds the world: Fact or Fiction?

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Events, News | No Comments
Australia feeds the world: Fact or Fiction?

On Sat 16 March 2013, Curator of Stories for the One River project, Malcolm McKinnon, will present the second in his series of three symposiums under the heading of Critical Undercurrents. This free event at the Mildura Arts Centre at 4pm is a must see for anyone interested in horticulture, food production or sustainable farming in the Sunraysia. [Pic: The Buronga Salt Pan Interception Scheme north of Mildura]

Malcolm has assembled a hard-hitting panel that will hone straight in on the big issues and tackle some provocative questions. Historian Cameron Muir (Australian National University), Lani Houston (CEO, Regional Development Australia, Riverina), economist, horticulturalist and community activist Ross Lake (SunRISE21), Di Davidson (Board member, Murray Darling Basin Authority) and environmentalist Paul Sinclair (Australian Conservation Foundation) will unpack the myths and legends of farming.

Panelist Cameron Muir recently explored the idea that Australian farmers have an inherited sense of moral obligation to ‘feed the world’ in an article published in the Griffith Review. As an example, he quotes Nationals’ leader in 2008 at the time of the sale of Toorale Station, telling Parliament, “We cannot keep taking properties out of production and expect to meet our obligations to provide food to the world.”

Muir points out that, in fact, Australia contributes less than 2 per cent of global food production. “Throughout the history of settler Australia, we have valued the social function of agriculture over its utilitarian function,” he says. So who do we blame when a third generation farmer is forced to leave the land without a cent to his name after a lifetime of farming? Who are the winners and who are the losers in the myth of the noble, wind-swept Australian farmer providing wheat and beef to the starving millions around the globe?

“The history of irrigated farming is a history of boom and bust,” McKinnon said, “driven by extreme fluctuations in available water and dramatic fluctuations in farm gate prices. We want to find out if it’s even possible that our celebrated food bowl can be managed on a sustainable basis.”

Cameron Muir’s article, “Feeding the World” can be downloaded it here.

Cameron will also be the guest on ABC Local Radio in Mildura at 8:30 on Fri 8 March.

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