Menu
Home
Food & Security of Supply. 6 March 2021

Food & Security of Supply. 6 March 2021

The information below in italics is taken from an article written by Jehan Casinader and published by stuff on Mar 06 2021.

Can we combat depression and anxiety by changing what we eat?

Professor Julia Rucklidge a clinical psychology professor at the University of Canterbury, has spent a decade examining the link between food and mental health.

Rucklidge says – “New Zealand has a huge mental health crisis”. At least 20 per cent of our population struggles with a mental health issue each year. And yet, when we talk about nutrition, we only focus on our bodies. We recognise the impact of diet on obesity, diabetes, teeth and heart health. But we never talk about how our food affects our brains. Why not?

Over the last century, we’ve had the most radical change to our diet in the whole of human history. New technology – like food colours, emulsifiers and preservatives – has made food taste amazing and last longer. We’re eating things that humans have never eaten before, and our bodies have had no time to adapt.

Alongside this food revolution, there has also been a pharmaceutical revolution. Clinicians began to focus on pharmaceutical drugs as the main treatment for psychiatric disorders and that drugs could change the chemistry of our brains, and consequently – a psychiatric disorder could be cured.

Unfortunately, what we have learned over the past 30 years is that drugs aren’t the miracle cures we hoped for. Yes, some people benefit from medication, but many people don’t. If drugs were so effective in treating depression and anxiety, we wouldn’t have a mental health crisis right now.

To function well, our brains need to regularly absorb about 30 different vitamins and minerals.”

For centuries, humans gained those nutrients by eating fresh fruit, vegetables and grains. The reinvention of the Western diet changed that.

So much of our food has been stripped of its vitamins and minerals. Our ancestors didn’t have table sugar. They would have consumed sugar by eating fruit, so they would have also received all the fibre and nutrients that were in that fruit. But these days, much of what we eat has been manipulated.

The processing of food is “not necessarily a bad thing”. Freezing vegetables, canning fruit, curing meat and pasteurising milk are all forms of processing, but those products retain nutritional value.

She believes the problem is with “ultra-processed” food – those perfect, packaged products that have often been robbed of their vitamins and minerals. In 2019, an Auckland University study found that 69 per cent of food in New Zealand supermarkets is “ultra-processed” – packed with additives and refined substances.

So how do we feed our brains well? The recipe is simple: eat a wide range of real, whole, unprocessed foods.

Half of your plate should be fruit and vegetables – a range of colours and varieties. Eat what is in season, to make it cheaper. Use shortcuts, like eating frozen peas or beans that come in a can. These are perfectly fine options. Choose foods that are nutrient-rich, it’s not complicated.

One thing the above article does not go into is the current likelihood that under the recent changes to freshwater regulations and the changes to regional plans these changes may have some drastic perverse effects on the security of our food supply, and in fact will have, in the Auckland/Waikato region.

We need three basic commodities to survive as a species, air, water and food. By the simple act of using each of these commodities to survive we all have an effect on the environment in which we live and the scale of this effect is controlled by how we use these commodities.

We all have direct access to the air which we breathe and we have access to water either direct from nature or from a supply provided by others.

The same situation applies in respect to food. Many people cannot/do not produce their own food and so rely on commercial producers to supply them with good nutritious food items for their survival.

With the use of air, water and food we humans produce a negative effect on the environment and this is controlled by legislative requirements to maintain an acceptable standard in relation to these effects on the environment.

The relevant regional councils set the standards in place for these effects and strategies around how these standards will be met, in accordance with their legislative requirements under local government and other legislation.

Whilst there is a legal requirement for them to manage the environment there are rules that they must follow and these rules require them to take a balanced approach to management of the environment with one example being the requirements under section 5 paragraph 2, of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

5 Purpose

(1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.

(2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while—

(a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and

(b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and

(c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

There are restrictions on the use of land for horticultural purposes within the Waikato area which came into effect in late 2016.

The restrictions mean that all horticulture operations anywhere within the Waikato region have been declared a non-complying activity.

This declaration will over time have the effect of reducing the production of fruit and vegetables within the region as under the land use restrictions when a horticulture operation ceases then it cannot be restarted at any time in the future without gaining a non-complying resource consent, and this is very unlikely to be achieved.

The end result is that we will have to import food from other sources and this then removes any security of supply.

Scientists are warning that with populations growing so fast it will curtail countries’ ability to feed their own people.

Horticulture in NZ is an industry that is growing fast and has an approximate value of $5.6 billion (outside of wine production).

 New Zealand exports 60 per cent of what it grows, approximately $3.4b in value.

Those exports increased by 40 per cent from June 2014 to 2016. The 5500 commercial fruit and vegetable growers employ about 60,000 people.

Experts rate land on a scale from one to eight. The “elite” soils are class one. At the other end of the scale is class eight – sand dune material.

The further down the soil quality scale, the greater the need for fertiliser. More fertiliser means greater nitrate runoff, which then raises water quality issues, so carrying out horticultural operations in lesser soil types carries greater economic and environmental costs.

Contrary to popular belief, New Zealand does not have an abundance of rich soils. Most of it is class six – suitable for pasture or forestry, but not much else.

Since 2001, we’ve lost about 10,000ha of growing land – 6000ha for vegetables and 4000ha for fruit. That’s an area just under the size of Hamilton and shows that we are losing valuable horticulture land to houses and lifestyle blocks.”  (Statistical information taken from NZ Herald article on Urban Sprawl 30th December 2017)

There has been much written recently about the need to change from intensive cattle farming and replacing this protein source with plant based protein but how can this happen when you have land use legislation that prevents any increase in cropping.

By enacting the restrictions on land use for horticulture as the Waikato Regional Council have done through their plan change, the security of food supply in the greater Auckland/Waikato regions has been severely constrained.

We think that it’s very important that the region is able to grow and supply its own fruit and vegetables and not have to rely on importing food, and pay the resulting increase in transport costs.

Professor Julia Rucklidge is advocating that we all eat a diet that is at least 50% fruit and vegetables. She says – The recipe is simple: eat a wide range of real, whole, unprocessed foods.

We have many other medical experts that are discussing the rising problems that we have in the health of our country’s youth population related to poor diets high in processed foods. Many of these experts are advocating for a similar return to a natural food diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Yet we are making it harder to produce fresh fruit and vegetables due to the recent legislative changes.

This effectively means that having to bring supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables into this area from outside the Waikato Region will add un-needed expenses to the cost of supply and also increase the chances that the security of supply will be compromised as a result of impacts on the extended supply chain.

Nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s population lives in the Auckland/Waikato Region and they are likely to be severely affected by any adverse events that impact on the extended supply chain for fresh fruit and vegetables.

As the levels of horticultural production decrease in the Waikato Region this will also have the effect of transferring the jobs of those employed in the total supply chain in this region, to other areas outside the Waikato Region.

This will also have a severe effect on all of the support industries that have grown around the horticultural industry in the Waikato Region and also the investment in the horticultural industry that has been made by the producers currently in the region.

The changes to the land use rules whilst well intentioned in relation to the environment, are likely to have a severe detrimental impact on both the economy of the Auckland/Waikato regions and also the national economy as well as the ability of people on lower incomes to provide a secure supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for their health and wellbeing.

Effectively all that is being achieved by these changes to the land use rules is that the Waikato Regional Council is exporting any economic benefits, horticultural jobs and any environmental effects from horticultural production to other areas outside the Waikato region as the same amount of fresh fruit and vegetables will be required by the region’s population whether they are produced locally or not.

A perverse outcome from the decision to change the land use rules in the Waikato Region is that by reducing the ability to produce fresh fruit and vegetables in the Waikato region this will have the effect of raising the prices across New Zealand as a whole by the simple effect of supply and demand in the Waikato causing producers from outside the region supplying their products into the Waikato due to the higher prices being paid there, rather than selling locally where they are produced.

Another perverse outcome of the plan changes is; the replacement of 68% of sheep & beef farms and 13% of dairy farms from the region (as modelled by the Regional Sector Water Subgroup, and quoted by the Chair of that group Vaughan Payne) with speculative, largely foreign owned, carbon farming operations.

The loss of this amount of farm production will have a significant effect on our agricultural exports with a resultant negative impact on our overseas income and therefore a negative impact on our national economy.

There is also no recognition given to the fact that the change to forestry will come with reduced levels of employment and virtually guarantee that there will be another large move from the rural towns into the cites to allow the population to try to find stable employment.

We will see more rural ghost towns when the effects of reducing populations in these rural centres see the local doctors, dentists, supermarkets, hotels etc. unable to sustain operations with a reduced number of customers due to this drift away, because of the lack of employment opportunities.

You only need to go and spend some time in the Tokomaru Bay and the whole East Cape area, to get a taste of what happens to communities where farming is deliberately replaced with forestry (as it was in the Northern cape post cyclone-Bola)

There is no mention whatsoever about the effects from urban developments on the water quality even though it has been publicly acknowledged by the government that some of the worst polluted waterways have come about from urban development discharging to natural waterways.

In addition to the Rural Ghost Town effect, this population drift into the cities can only exacerbate this problem in relation to the water quality, caused from discharge to natural waterways from urban developments.

The Prime Minister is on record as saying that in bringing agriculture into the ETS (and working within the water quality restrictions) her government wishes to avoid the traumas of the 1980s when subsidies were removed.

She is concerned about rural communities and their welfare.

In actual fact I believe that these changes are leading New Zealand into a situation that will create a much worse trauma than anything that we experienced as part of the removal of subsidies in the 80’s.

Since 2001, we’ve lost about 10,000ha of growing land – 6000ha for vegetables and 4000ha for fruit. That’s an area just under the size of Hamilton and shows that we are losing valuable horticulture land to houses and lifestyle blocks.”  (Statistical information taken from NZ Herald article on Urban Sprawl 30th December 2017)

There has been much written recently about the need to change from intensive cattle farming and replacing this protein source with plant based protein but how can this happen when you have land use legislation that prevents any increase in cropping.

By enacting the restrictions on land use for horticulture the security of food supply in the greater Auckland/Waikato regions has been severely constrained.

We think that it’s very important that the region is able to grow and supply its own fruit and vegetables and not have to rely on importing food, and pay the resulting increase in transport costs.

I challenge the government to show me how these reductions in farming, farm employment and consequent reductions in export commodities will maintain our current overseas income levels and allow New Zealand to service our loan commitments.

Since the occurrence of the coronavirus and the lockdowns we are now back to the situation where we are reliant on agricultural exports for the vast majority of our overseas income yet we are still making it harder for the agricultural sector to produce these export commodities through using the agricultural production sectors to meet our agreed reduction targets for GHG emissions under the Paris Agreement, even though this agreement specifically excludes food production from reductions.

So as Professor Rucklidge said: “The recipe is simple”.

We need to ensure that we support the agricultural sector with rules that are workable and that don’t result in risks to both our levels of food supply security and our overseas income whilst still managing to protect our natural environment and meet out Paris accord targets.

Andy Loader

Co-Chairman P.L.U.G.