The future of food symposium topic
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
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