S.O.L.E. not simple - the humble rice grain

rice - a simple product, a staple food for billions around the world in a number of varieties, each suitable to specific climates & cuisines; a symbiotic relationship with the climate in which it yields best results.

slow food, organic food, ethicurean - all labels applied to making a moral or ethical choice in regard to food consumption however the labelling, the fadism and fundamentalism obscures the complexity of issues at hand and deters mainstream society from participating in conscious consumerism.

yet rice provides us with an example of the intricacies involved. typically considered the domain of asian nations, was first grown and produced for commercial sale in Australia in 1914, although yields and consumption are low in relation to the global market. with an announcement that the 2008 crop is expected to yield 15,000 tonnes (compared to the 1.25 million tonnes of paddy in 2001/02) I began to think about the application of S.O.L.E to the humble rice grain.

(from weekend financial review 10th November 2007)

sustainability is an elusive and slippery word as it takes into account economic, ecological and sociological issues.
looking firstly at the ecology of rice growing in Australia we know that the irrigation of the riverina has caused salinity issues, global warming has exacerbated the extremities of the earth's weather patterns, and water is at a premium in Australia.
we hear much about global warming and the carbon footprint of economical and social activity, however sustainability extends beyond that. the arability of land, for example, is a key issue in northwestern victoria and southwestern nsw that is not solely related to global warming. However we can extend our concept of sustainability beyond our local farming and question the sustainability of rice crops globally. for an example, see the article referred to in sustainability of sustenance where the linked article cited failed rice crops in china owing to tidal flooding.
at this point in time, whether rice is grown organically or not, seems to be a secondary issue in light of the sustainability issues raised above.
with the announcement of the expected dearth of "local" rice in australia for 2008, the issues will become (a) will there be enough rice for the australian populatioin; (b) will australian grown rice be affordable for the average household; and (c) is it better to stop eatiing rice altogether or to find another (albeit foreign) source.
the largest rice yields in the world come from china, india, and indonesia. each of these countries has received criticism with regard to its "industrial relations" - whether through their caste systems, child labour, slave labour, or poor health and safety standards. Whilst in Australia, our working conditions (although we might not like to admit it) are OECD standard and thereby some of the best in the world.

whilst acknowledging S.O.L.E criteria are not univerally applicable, and that the ethicurean stance is that one of the criteria are met, it is clear that there is no single correct answer in the debate - our choices, with all things in life are half chance.


purple goddess said...

I found myself wondering this very point the other day, as I looked at a packet of Thai Purple rice in my kitchen.

Weighing up the air miles against the fact that it was "ethically" supporting a small Thai community.

Furry has much to say on this subject, as his company is the quarantine for much of the rice that comes from Asia, marketed as "Koala" brand...

As always darl, you give me food for thought.

BTW, the fromage I **ahem** liberated from the BB was gratefully and slurpily consumed by Furry and I last night.

I shall muse and ponder on your words and get back to you.
Most excellent!!!

John said...

Interesting post. Nice blog as well, will return for more at a later stage. Wishing you great sucess in your venture.