Holland self-sufficient? It is possible, but only with a frugal diet

If one day in the Netherlands we are solely dependent on our own territory for our food, then we can saturate all mouths. So much for the good news. Because: “Our diet should be drastically changed,” says agricultural economist Petra Berkhout from Wageningen University. “A crucial condition is also that we have enough energy available for food production.”

Fruit, coffee and chocolate

Let us first take a look at our plate: what is left in the case of ‘autarchy’, in other words a country without import or export? Berkhout: “Everything we import that we can not grow ourselves disappears. Olives, lemons, bananas, all kinds of other fruits, coffee and tea. Chocolate will be a great loss to many people. Pasta not to be forgotten. White bread “We can not live without bread.”

According to the agricultural economist, the latter has to do with the type of wheat that can be grown in the Netherlands. “Our grain is very suitable as feed for chickens and cattle. But Holland has few hours of sunshine, which means that our wheat has a low protein content. It is therefore not suitable for pasta. You can not bake bread well with it. We can grow rye. The local community used to eat rye bread, so that’s a possibility. “

Meat and dairy products enough

We will not soon be short of meat and dairy products. Chickens (meat, eggs) can live on our grains. The Dutch grasslands are suitable for cows (meat, milk, cheese) and sheep (meat, cheese).

A healthy, nutritious and varied diet is still possible, says Berkhout. That was also the conclusion of the report ‘Food supply in the Netherlands under extraordinary crisis conditions’ from 2013. The researchers looked at three scenarios: a lean menu, the current menu and a nutritious healthy menu. “All three scenarios were possible. So we can produce enough food and the menu can be nutritious and varied.”

Not pork, but legumes

This report talks about “an abundance of potatoes”. Legumes will also remain widely available. But we will have to learn to live without pork. The car model is based on the most efficient use of land. Pork production takes up more space and requires more feed, so the Netherlands will prefer chickens, cows and sheep.

We can also stop with ‘rice, biscuits, nuts, sodas and alcoholic beverages’. Although the report also immediately makes a few apologies: “It can be expected that all kinds of cottage industry and home breweries will emerge.” In addition, ‘many private individuals will plant a kitchen garden, and pets such as rabbits will be kept for slaughter’.

Energy crucial state

But a crucial condition for adequate food is adequate energy. “The whole model stands or falls with it,” says Berkhout. “Farming in the fields requires energy. The production of manure requires energy. Like making cheese from milk, baking bread, cooking potatoes.”

However, the question of ‘energy’ will throw sand into the self-sufficient engine, says energy professor Wim Turkenburg. “If we are ready to extract more gas from Groningen from the ground, we can last much longer. But in the long run: no, we can not meet the energy needs of the Netherlands alone.”

No own uranium

Turkenburg last week released a note ‘as a comment on the current government’s energy plans’, in which he is critical of the plans for green energy production. “It is not enough. With only solar and wind energy and possibly also geothermal energy, we can not produce enough energy to keep the country running.”

Nuclear energy will not offer a resort in case of autarchy, Turkenburg explains. The Netherlands does not have uranium. “You have to replace the fuel rods in the nuclear reactor every few years. We can enrich uranium in the Netherlands, but we import the raw material. In the future, nuclear power plants may run on thorium instead of uranium, but it must also come from abroad.”

Using your own gas storage

Turkenburg argues for extracting more gas from its own soil. “Without burdening the people of Groningen with more earthquakes. The earth is shaking because the pressure from the earth is falling. It was once 300 bar, but it is now about 70 bar. Therefore, we will not pump more gas from Groningen. But I think We can still get a lot of gas out of it – if we pump other gases, like nitrogen, back in. That’s how we keep the pressure on it. That way, I think there’s still about 400 to 450 billion. cubic meters out to get land. “

However, that will not happen until further notice, says Turkenburg, because the government does not like the plan.

40 years reserve

But suppose how long would the delay last? “The Netherlands now uses about 40 billion cubic meters annually. I expect gas demand to fall to 10 billion cubic meters a year, I expect due to more alternative energy sources. With 400 billion cubic meters, one could then continue for 40 years.”

An additional advantage, according to Turkenburg, is that it is economically advantageous. For the time being, we were not to import gas from Russia at all.

Food more important than cell phone

However, green energy will not be able to meet demand. Not in the long run either. “There is maximum production in the North Sea and on Dutch roofs. It will be tight enough. But: When you store and convert that energy, about a third of the energy generated is lost again. As a result, we lack the bottom line to be self-sufficient. “

For the latter, agricultural economist Berkhout has a solution, although it will not be popular everywhere: “If you are in a situation where you have to choose where you want to spend your energy, then you should all prioritize. In that case, food is more important than fuel for the car or charging your cell phone. “

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