Слике страница
PDF
ePub

as still exists in theory, and to a less degree in practice, in the British Empire will have to be abandoned, and that it will be necessary, 'to some extent,' to recognise the status of the Dominions as equal nations of the Empire. 'To a • very large extent,' he said, ' we are a group of nations spread

over the whole world, speaking different languages, belonging 'to different races, with entirely different economic circum'stances, and I think that to attempt to run even the common 'concerns of that group of nations by means of a Central * Parliament and a Central Executive would be absolutely 'to court disaster.'

If this be true of the British Commonwealth, in which the existence of a 'general will' has been so admirably proved, it is far more true of that wider commonwealth of the nations which it is hoped to establish. Without this general will an international federation would be impossible; with this general will it would be at best superfluous, at worst the cause of fresh dissensions. It will doubtless be necessary when this war is at last over to keep an alliance in being, in order to maintain peace during the long and perilous process of reconstruction that will follow, and even perhaps for some time after this process has been completed. But if our statesmen are wise, they will watch with a jealous eye, as their predecessors did a hundred years ago, any attempts to convert this alliance into a permanent system of international government.

WALTER ALISON PHILLIPS.

THE FOUNDATIONS OF FOOD POLICY

Report of the Royal Society Committee on the Food Supply of

the United Kingdom. Cd. 8421. 1917.

TN considering any big and complex problem, such as that

1 currently presented by the food situation, it is of primary importance to take a comprehensive survey of the whole ground, map it out in strong lines and bold colours, and keep steadily before the mind a condensed picture, a bird's-eye view, of the subject as a whole. Only so can the problem be got into proper perspective and the component parts of it be seen in their correct proportion. The picture will, of course, always be ' subject to alteration without notice,' for the various elements of the situation wax and wane in importance with each turn of events, while the emergence of new factors compels a constant redistribution of emphasis. Within the last few months the rapid increase and subsequent decline in the losses of ships and cargoes, as also the entry of America into the war, have to some extent shifted the centre of gravity and the lines of most effective action; while the progressive condition of the world's crops calls for a periodical readjustment of present policy in relation to future contingencies. Yet through all these mutations the broader features of the food situation persist, and it is only by bringing these out in high relief and examining them well that a basis for sound judgment and policy can be formed.*

Prominent among such features is the ratio between our home-production of food and our total requirements as measured by the peace standard. There are now available, for the first time, in the report of the Royal Society Committee on Food Supplies, the data necessary for computing that ratio. The report embodies certain errors—it overlooks the fact that a considerable part of the meat, milk, cheese, eggs, and butter

* For the investigation on which this article is based, I am -bted to sources and facilities placed at my disposal by the on Foundation.

produced at home' is raised on imported feeding-stuffs, and that practically the whole of our home-produced margarine is made from imported materials—and corrections must be made on these accounts. When this is done, it appears that in the five years before the war we produced at home 45 per cent. of the protein, 39 per cent. of the fat, and 30 per cent. of the carbo-hydrates we consumed ; or altogether 36 per cent. of the energy value in terms of calories represented in our total consumption of food. Putting this into a rough statement it may be said that before the war we produced at home a little over one-third of the food-stuffs we were accustomed to consume in one way or another ; we imported the remaining two-thirds.

These figures suggest without more ado one dominant conclusion which, though commonly taken for granted, may still be investigated to advantage : that even though the most rigid economy be universally practised, and the output of our home fields be increased to the utmost extent possible at such short notice and with such a depleted labour supply, we shall still remain vitally dependent on imported foodstuffs. If this impression be confirmed by facts, certain momentous consequences follow.

How near can we get, by economy and by the utmost increase in home food-production that may be considered feasible, towards becoming nationally self-sufficing ? In regard to production, two facts give, perhaps not a basis for reckoning, but at any rate a clue-first, that we normally produced at home one-third of the foodstuffs we were accustomed to consume, and second that the production of that one-third occupied about two million people. Therefore, if the Rule of Three could be assumed to hold good, to produce at home all the food we were formerly in the habit of consuming (were that otherwise possible), would require an additional four million workers on the land ; or, to bring the statement more within the realm of immediate possibilities, for every 60,000 additional workers placed on the land, I per cent. more of our accustomed food requirements can be produced at home. The Rule of Three cannot, of course, be applied without innumerable allowances and reservations. Greater zeal, improved and multiplied machinery, an extended and more carefully studied use of artificial manures, better organisation and methods, and the extension of spare-time horticulture, would, on the one hand, all contribute to a larger yield in produce per person employed ; while the law of diminishing returns and the fact that the mass of the additional labour would of necessity be inexperienced, would, on the other hand, tend to make the yield per worker less. When these considerations are duly weighed, it will be seen that the Rule of Three is not so unreliable as might have been supposed. At any rate, it is clear that if we cherish the notion of increasing home supplies to any relatively important and material amount we must think, not in thousands, but in hundreds of thousands of additional agricultural workers ; and if we have any dreams of making the British Isles selfsupporting in the staple foodstuffs, we must dream in millions. The extra million acres stated to have been put under the plough during the present season should afford us, except in so far as the stinting of artificials and the over-growth of weeds diminishes the yield, an additional million tons of grain—a substantial contribution towards the four or five million tons of bread-grain required for our full sustenance. The extra three million acres projected for next season might very well, under shrewdly ordered cropping, come near to making us self-sufficing in bread-grain in 1918, and might even, as Mr. Lloyd George stated at the Guildhall, place us in a position in which, 'without a ton of foodstuff from abroad, no one could *starve us.' But neither the one million nor the three million acres will yield up their harvest without labour; and so far the labour, even for the adequate cultivation of the smaller acreage, is nowhere in sight.

It is not necessary, however, that we should produce or obtain, in order to live and labour, as much food as we managed to get through in one way or another in the years before the war : that was a peace and plenty allowance : in the face of war and scarcity we can make shift on a good deal less, and are doing so now. But on how much less could we subsist in a real emergency ? The report of the Committee on Food Supplies, referred to above, presents here also data upon which an opinion, if not an estimate, can be formed.

Economies can be effected in three ways : by people eating less, by the curtailment of sheer waste, and by using all the foodstuffs at disposal in such a way as to secure from them the maximum amount of human nutriment. In regard to the first two of these, the report expresses the opinion that, calculated on a minimum physiological standard, there were either wasted or consumed in excess of requirements in the five years 1909–1913, 11 to 14 per cent. of protein, 25 to 30 per cent. of fats, and 10 to 14 per cent. of carbo-hydrates. The rate of food consumption appears to have been reduced considerably during the first two years of war, for the Committee reports that 'up to the present (July 1916) the supply of food has

provided a general margin of about 5 per cent. above the mini'mum necessary for proper nutrition. If this be correct, the limit of personal retrenchment beyond which the health and productive energy of the nation must suffer, had, even at the date mentioned, been almost reached. These figures should not be accepted too implicitly. They are based on the researches of the physiologists—who are all too much given to regarding the human being as a glorified test-tube, whereas he is in fact a much more complex affair, with a mind and spirit that can on occasion do astonishing things with protein and calories. The accounts of peculiar people who flourish on five peanuts and two small lettuces a day, as of those others who live on next to nothing by chewing it after the manner of the celestial mills, ‘slowly and exceeding small, may also be received with reservation. We are not all quite so curiously made. The truth of what a person or a people can live and work upon, when they are so disposed, lies at the bottom of a very deep well.

In considering the economies possible under the third headthe using of all available foodstuffs to the greatest nutritive advantage—we are on somewhat firmer ground. The Royal Society report mentions six ways in which economies of this nature can be effected : the coarser milling of flour ; the early killing of cattle; the use of fodder for the production of milk, pork, and veal rather than of beef, mutton, and eggs; the making of more cheese and less butter; the curtailment of brewing; and the diversion of a certain quantity of the material used for stock-breeding to human food. The conclusions reached, especially in regard to the food-value of beer, are somewhat indeterminate ; but the gross saving that may be accomplished on the six counts appears to range between 10 and 11 per cent. The limitation of brewing, as well as the coarse grinding of flour, has been in force for some time past.

« ПретходнаНастави »