Straws in the wind

I was browsing the BBC News website this morning, a habit I’m in when up  very early, and came across a story about food safety in China.  According to the author, Martin Patience, rat meat is increasingly (and currently illegally) served, disguised as lamb, in restaurants.  I know that things are routinely eaten in China, in fact in other Asian countries too, that we in the ‘west’ find objectionable: dog, cat, insects, reptiles and so on, but this blog isn’t about cross-cultural sensibilities.  What I found alarming was the inescapable conclusion that China is finding it difficult to feed itself.  The “largest migration in human history” has been taking place as chinese people abandon the countryside for an increasingly urban and industrial life.  According to Patience, middle-class chinese are so worried about the safety of home produced food (remember the baby milk contaminated with melamine?) that they are turning to “trusted” western brands of processed foods and, increasingly, importing food (especially meat and dairy products) from Australia and New Zealand.  They are also spending their leisure time trying to grow food that they know the provenance of, though a wholesale return to the land is completely impractical.  Where is this going to end?  Is famine a real possibility, is global competition for food going to result in shortages here?  With the burgeoning influence of China in Africa, will there be pressure on their scarce resources?  Here, in the UK, there has been a generational shift towards more self-sufficiency, and reconnecting with the land, but perhaps we’ll all need to learn to eat rat?

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