The (imaginary) starting point
At some point in the past, say around 1900, all food in the UK was produced by natural methods. This was 'by default', because there were no other techniques available - it was what we would today call 'organic'. People had done their best, slowly breeding better types of plants and animals, working out how to improve the soil with manure, to improve yields and fertility. People's bodies had adapted to eat this local diet over thousands of years.
Three main points can be made about this:-
- There were major problems with this 'natural situation':-
- insect pests,
- animal diseases and sicknesses,
- losses due to poor storage,
- high costs for the horses which did the work (typically consuming 10% of each farms production, and up to 25% of the national product),
- it was highly labour intensive and dependant on the weather.
- famine and hunger were common, even in 'the west'.
- Because of these 'random' problems, farmers grew as wide a variety of crops as possible, then if one crop failed, they would have something else to sell or eat
- These original problems are now nearly all solved
We have effectively undergone a 'quantum leap' with food in the last century, and particularly in the last 40 years. Many people in this country have diets now where all the components of their diet were unknown or even undreamed of here 100 years ago.
Although this starting point (when everything was natural ....) is imaginary, I think it still has validity as a sort of reference for the progress and changes which have been made since.