Friday, March 23, 2018

Who is Shaping the Food Choices of the Future?

A conference was held by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) in October 2017 to explore future trends in agriculture, manufacturing and retailing, and the relationship between these trends and food choice. I picked a few of the presented topics for your review.
Professor Judith Buttriss, Director General of the BNF, described the grand challenge of securing a sustainable food supply for the world’s growing and more prosperous population in the face of climate change, which will increasingly affect what can be grown and where; the likelihood of the need for trade-offs in relation to the food supply and ecosystem; and public health trend and the associated need to encourage consumer behavior change.

Professor Robert Edwards, Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University, presented a case study on innovation in crop protection. He described how for the last 60 years farming has been heavily dependent on the use of pesticides and herbicides to protect crops. Currently 40% of the global food supply is dependent on agrochemical intervention. Professor Edwards described promising solutions such as new crop breeding technologies and biological treatments, which promote plant vigor and innate defense and precision agriculture technologies.

James Walton, Chief Economist at Institute of Grocery Distribution, discussed results from recent market research that explored the current state of shopper thinking about healthy eating. Currently, 89% of consumers report taking personal responsibility for their diet, with most reporting that they are doing something to make an improvement, such as reducing alcohol or meat intake. The most popular dietary goal was to eat more fruit and vegetables. Mr. Walton ended by describing how online grocery shopping is becoming more popular and can aid healthier choices.

Judith Batchelar OBE, highlighted that legislation, food scares and influential chefs have all shaped consumer food choice over the years and explained how supermarkets have a huge opportunity, to educate and influence consumers about healthy eating.

To conclude, Mark Driscoll, Head of Food at Forum for the Future, suggested that sustainable nutrition is a powerful lens that can bring together thinking and action to focus on and deliver better overall outcomes across the whole food system. He argued that we need to move away from a model predicated on the tons of food produced per acre of land to the numbers of people fed, and that we have only 5 years left to make changes in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

My Take:
This kind of forward thinking from the food industry is encouraging. They recognize the emerging issues and addressed them candidly. However, this conference was held in Britain where agriculture is a relatively small part of the overall economy and they are grappling with aftermath of Brexit.

I have yet to see any of this forward thinking from the U.S. food industry which exports more food than any other country in the world. Only China and India actually produce more food but they use a larger percentage for their own consumption.
I am certain BigAg is aware of the issues of facing the food industry. I just think they have no interest the health of their products, just the profit. However, the issues of sustainability alone should push them away from pesticides toward crop rotation and other ecologically sound practices.

The Bottom Line:
We need to address issues of food source, quality and sustainability on a global basis. If human health and the ecology of the planet are too noble a cause, the economy of America is dependent on the outcome.

Source: Nutrition Bulletin

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