Aptly named UK organic farming organisation The Soil Association has called for the human race to use much more of its own poo to assist food production - in an effort to stave off a new eco menace that the charity has dubbed "peak phosphorus".
According to the organics group, "peak phosphorus" represents nothing less than a "threat to global food security". At present most food grown in the tremendously productive, surplus-yielding farms of Europe and North America uses artificial fertilisers. One of the main ingredients for these fertilisers is phosphorus, which is mined from phosphate-bearing rocks at the rate of 158 megatonnes annually at the moment.
The Soil Association, being an organic-farming outfit, is of course totally opposed to all use of artificial fertilisers, instead arguing for the use of animal manure and other natural sources of nitrate and phosphates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, a new report by the Soil group has concluded that rock phosphates mining production could peak "as early as 2033". This would be a crisis of, er, trouser-soiling magnitude, apparently.
"We [that is Europe, which imports its rock phosphate] are completely unprepared to deal with the shortages in phosphorus inputs, the drop in production and the hike in food prices that will follow," argue the Soil-ers.
The author of the report is Dr Isobel Tomlinson, who holds a bachelor's degree in Environmental Policy and Management and a masters in Public Understanding of Environmental Change. Her PhD was an examination of the development of UK Government policy on organic food and farming over the last 25 years.
Dr Tomlinson says the key to sidestepping "peak phosphorus" is to get human excrement and urine much more involved in food production. Her plan is dubbed "Ecological Sanitation", and calls for changes to EU regulations forbidding the use of human sewage on agricultural land. Apparently, "urine alone contains more than 50 per cent of the phosphorus excreted by humans".
"A radical rethink of how we farm, what we eat and how we deal with human excreta, so that adequate phosphorus levels can be maintained without reliance on mined phosphate, is crucial for ensuring our future food supplies," says Tomlinson.
The enviro-PR doc also, again unsurprisingly, advocates the eating of less meat "because vegetable-based production is more efficient in its use of phosphorus than livestock production".
Previous criticism of meat-eating by the UN - subsequently endorsed by Sir Paul McCartney, in alliance with Dr Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC - has since come in for some criticism.
Those who would like to find out more about peak phosphorus can do so here, courtesy of the Soil Association. ®