The fu­ture of food sym­po­sium topic

Franklin County News - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - JOHN ALLEN

OPIN­ION:

The fu­ture of food is top­i­cal at the mo­ment.

Who would have thought that food had a fu­ture other than the ob­vi­ous ‘‘it-will-go-on-for­ever’’ one that I grew up with?

Even a decade ago, food pro­duc­tion was not con­tem­plated as an is­sue of con­cern for us.

To­day, there are ques­tions around each of the three sus­tain­abil­ity as­pects of our food pro­duc­tion sys­tem.

For the so­cial sus­tain­abil­ity as­pect, we face is­sues around: food se­cu­rity and avail­abil­ity with con­se­quences for so­cial jus­tice; de­clin­ing food safety due to the in­creas­ing pres­ence of her­bi­cide residues in our foods; and re­duc­ing lev­els of nu­tri­tion due to the ex­ces­sive use of ar­ti­fi­cial fer­tilis­ers.

For the en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity as­pect, we face is­sues around: the degra­da­tion of the soils nec­es­sary to grow healthy foods; the avail­abil­ity of clean fresh­wa­ter for grow­ing crops to ma­tu­rity; a re­duc­tion in the diver­sity and num­bers of crop pol­li­na­tors.

And then there are the ef­fects of cli­mate change - for an ex­am­ple of this, just look at the price of salad greens and the crops left to rot in the fields be­cause of the hot and wet sum­mer.

For the eco­nomics sus­tain­abil­ity as­pect, we are fac­ing is­sues around: a re­duc­ing diver­sity of com­mer­cial seed va­ri­eties; the in­creas­ing use of her­bi­cides and, as a con­se­quence, their pres­ence in our food chain in in­creas­ing den­si­ties; the ev­er­in­creas­ing in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of hor­ti­cul­ture.

I do not choose to be a doom sayer, but these myr­iad is­sues need to be named.

Only then can we look for the so­lu­tions in a sys­tem­atic way.

To me, the root cause of these sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues is the eco­nomic sys­tem that our so­ci­ety op­er­ates un­der.

That eco­nomic sys­tem is it­self not sus­tain­able when it fo­cuses on short term mon­e­tary gains, re­lies on growth, ig­nores eco­log­i­cal con­straints, and bull­dozes through the so­cial in­jus­tices it cre­ates.

So what are the so­lu­tions to this root cause?

First, is to move away from an ex­trac­tive econ­omy to a gen­er­a­tive one as ad­vo­cated by David Bol­lier.

In the short term, a re­gen­er­a­tive ap­proach to our agri­cul­tural sys­tems is nec­es­sary if we are to re­store the pro­duc­tive po­ten­tial of our soils.

Sec­ond is to move away from the big-is-bet­ter mantra of com­pet­i­tive busi­nesses and to in­stead think small.

An eco­nomic sys­tem pred­i­cated on com­pe­ti­tion which puts a squeeze on profit mar­gins and drives the spi­ral of ev­erre­duc­ing costs down­wards is not sus­tain­able.

A col­lab­o­ra­tive econ­omy, as ad­vo­cated by Daniel Wahl, mim­ics na­ture and the way that evo­lu­tion oc­curs in the nat­u­ral world.

If the changes ad­vo­cated above are ever to gain trac­tion, then an all-in­clu­sive so­ci­etal dis­cus­sion needs to be had around the fu­ture of food.

That dis­cus­sion is start­ing: a sym­po­sium, ti­tled The Fu­ture of Food, is be­ing held at the Univer­sity of Auck­land on, April 17, 2018. I’ll be there to learn more. Will you? * arts.auck­land.ac.nz/en/ about/news/2018/04/the-fu­tureof-food.html

HAVE YOUR SAY

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John Allen

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