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Food – Proposed Way Forward

By 2020, it is probable that there will be a number of global policies in place on climate change, energy and agricultural methods. These will be supported by incentives and public / private collaborations to develop new technical solutions. Regulation is likely that will, for example, direct land usage for meat and dairy production vs. grain and it is a good bet that another ‘green revolution’ will increase the yield of food supply possibly involving bioengineering and genetic modification. These could deliver step‐change increases in the efficiency of food production and may involve frame-breaking science such as edible oil from algae and lab‐grown meat protein. In addition, the development of non‐meat, high protein foods as meat alternatives or acceptable protein vegetable alternatives could help us more efficiently meet the increasing world protein demand.

I see that to both enable and build on this, we should establish a global infrastructure to incentivize public/private collaboration and investment consortia that can be leveraged to advance the necessary technical solutions to address malnutrition, obesity and increasing agricultural production. We need to significantly increase global research investment in biotechnology, genetics, food science and nutrition to reach the technical breakthroughs required for a second agricultural green revolution that will enable us to feed the world. In addition we must invest in exploration/research and development of the meat and vegetable protein alternatives that can efficiently meet the world’s increasing need. We should also initiate a coordinated worldwide science education effort to help developed populations of the world understand and accept the technical solutions that will be required solve the coming world food crisis.

At the same time, we must continue to support Africa, India and China in building viable economies to bring the vast numbers of their populations out of starvation and poverty; we should incentivize developing countries to invest more heavily in their own R&D for self sufficiency and potential global trade; and we need to build substantial food education programs across the world which focus on dietary and nutritional health and wellbeing.

In order to achieve this, a number of compromises may be required – some of which are within the control of the food industry and others not: Free market principles may be compromised as governments become more involved in the food business; food companies may need to consider sharing intellectual property more, being open with technical breakthroughs and, in certain cases, trading off competitive advantage for the greater good; food industry profit margin expectations may need to be adjusted or subsidized in order to enable the provision of sufficient food in key regions such as India; producers may be forced to accept reductions in crop yields to comply with sustainability demands, implement significant shifts in agricultural production methods and also grow non‐traditional crops to produce the right food in the right quantity for the right geography; the established western companies will need to develop partnerships with new companies from developing countries to gain access to the new markets where most of the economic growth will take place; and traditional western agribusiness approaches may need to change as Asian populations grow and these markets become dominant.

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3 Responses to “Food – Proposed Way Forward”
  1. Direct Feedback says:

    Jim’s comments on alternative proteins raised some questions in my mind about how far off this sort of things is – its sounds a bit sci fi. Is this really 2020 or more like 2050? Then yesterday I saw on the front page of the Sunday Times that scientists in Holland have started to replicate pork as cultured meat! ( “they believe the breakthrough could lead to sausages and other processed products being made from laboratory meat in as little as five years’ time.”

  2. Workshop Feedback says:

    I see that there will be two key solutions to the future of food problem and both will come from legislation and regulation. First, in the EU we throw away 1/3 of our food – much of it before it has even been taken out of the packet. So here we need effective legislation around minimising food waste. Second, as meat production is a highly inefficient use of land, we need to make it a premium item. This can best occur through the application of taxes – we need to change consumption to the right, sustainable protein options.

  3. Workshop Feedback says:

    There is a clear dichotomy. In the long term future (the second horizon) we may have the technology available so we can indulge ourselves as we desire and have medicine to correct this indulgence. However in the shorter term (first horizon) it is clear that we need to all consume more healthy food.

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