Beyond Business As Usual - towards a systainable food system

“Beyond Business As Usual – towards a sustainable food system”, a report by the Food Ethics Council, 2013, 62 pages.

This report is based on a range of 1-1 interviews in 2012 with senior business figures, policy makers, public servants and civil society organisations, supplemented by an online consultation and three roundtable discussions.

The report can be downloaded for free from http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/publications/2/20 where you can find a whole range of reports.

The report first looks at barriers to achieving a fair, healthy and environmentally sustainable food system and identifies three main barriers:

Insufficient demand: “Society’s attachment to, and dependence upon, cheap food is a critical barrier in moving towards a sustainable food system.”
Commercial and operational obstacles: “For many businesses, there are insufficient incentives to adopt such [sustainable] practices.”
Lack of government leadership: “Most damagingly, the government has not provided the coherent, joined-up, long-term food policy that businesses – and other sectors of society – require …”.

The report then looks at the next phase towards a sustainable food system and list three main areas for change:

How the market operates: “The food prices must reflect the full social and environmental costs of production – the era of ‘cheap food’ is over. But as food prices inevitable rise, steps must be taken to ensure that all people have access to a healthy, affordable diet.”
New business models: “business models that are commercially successful by providing social value within the limits of the planet.”
Fundamental shift in government approach: “Most fundamentally, government must reconsider its faith in an economic model premised on continued economic growth.”

Finally, the report lists priorities for what businesses, government and civil society should do to implement the above. Although some of the priorities are common sense one has to ask whether even the sum of them is sufficient to create a sustainable food system.

For example: do we need to move to a fully organic food system, based primarily on local food production rather than importing from around the world, do we need to drastically reduce our meat consumption – particularly red meat – to make the food system sustainable, which must include reducing the food sectors high level of greenhouse gas emissions (around 18% of total emissions).

However, the report is an important contribution to how we need to create a sustainable food system.