The future of food

By Natasha Fromont

Could the days of the classic Kiwi meat-and-three-veg soon be a thing of the past? The release of the EAT-Lancet Commission’s report last month reignited a global debate on food, health and what we should be eating to save the planet. The report recommends plating up with mostly veg and fruit (no surprises there) and among whole grains and plant proteins, a meagre amount of meat and dairy – far, far less than what Kiwis may be accustomed to.

In short, the report is the first of its kind bringing sectors together and addressing some of the biggest issues facing the planet. Yes, it upset some people – the vegetarian and vegan groups because the report included meat and dairy at all, the health experts who didn’t agree with portion size recommendations, and the sustainable agriculture experts who disagreed with the mix of organic and conventional farming.

However, the report was successful in getting food, health and sustainability in the news headlines and has sparked a conversation. The future of food is important in this era of climate change. The way we grow food, what we grow, where we grow it, how we package it and who we sell it to, are all up for discussion and debate. And when it comes to food, people have vast and varied views on the subject.

Beyond what ends up on our plates, there are other significant issues to consider – water quality, urban sprawl, animal welfare, nitrous oxide and methane emissions for starters. The government’s plans for a billion trees to be planted over the next decade will sequester some of this country’s carbon emissions and give a boost to the forestry sector. However, coupled with the pressure to reduce intensive dairying and livestock on marginal land, it raises questions about the future of NZ’s rural towns. Will the future be forestry? Or horticulture? Or a combination? Or will technological innovation give a lifeline to farming at scale in New Zealand?

If you are interested in joining the conversation on food, head along to Food Talks: Feeding the Bay of Plenty. This event will be held on Friday 8 Marchfrom 1.00-3.30pm at The Orchard in Te Puke. The keynote speaker is Mike Chapman, CEO of Horticulture NZ, who will talk about the challenges and opportunities for the horticulture sector in a low emissions economy. He will also discuss the impact of urban growth and forestry on our food supply.

This event will also feature an expert panel to answer all your questions, along with short presentations from the Kai Western Bay and Kai Rotorua community food networks. Register now to secure your place.