A key note speaker at the national horticulture conference in Rotorua today has given fruit and vegetable growers some serious food for thought.
Canberra-based science writer and author Julian Cribb told the conference modern food production was devouring a vast amount of the world's resources and was unsustainble.
"Every meal that you or I or anybody on earth eats costs the planet 10 kilos of top soil, so that's a bucket of top soil, 800 litres of water, so it's like a ute load of water, 1.3 litres of diesel fuel, and a third of a gram of pesticide," he said.
"And that really reflects the cost to the environment of producing our food by the modern agricultural system and most people are not aware that it's imposing such a heavy footprint on the planet. We're actually eating the planet in order to feed ourselves and that's not a sustainable thing."
Cribb said that and health issues would force the world to radically change its diet.
"The change that is going to happen is going to be driven by climate change, because that's going to make broad-acre agriculture very, very hard towards the second half of this century.
"It's going to be driven by consumer demand as well, because the current diet is not healthy, so it's going to happen and the diet is going shift from a predominantly European one, ie, meat and grains, to one that will be more like an Asian diet, ie horticultural produce, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and fish.
"I'm not saying that we'll give up eating red meat or anything like that. I'm just saying that the balance of the diet is going to shift in that direction, in order to be sustainable."
Cribb said supermarkets stocked only a limited number of plants, despite there being about 27,000 edible plants on the planet, "so we're not even scratching the surface of our own planet in terms of all the wonderful things that there are to eat or to farm".