What’s Wrong with Our Food System?
For the first time in history more of us live in cities and suburbs than in rural areas. As we begin to face up to the impacts of climate change and resource depletion, we need to think carefully about how best to feed our urban populations now and into the future.
The way the food system currently works does have benefits. On the face of it at least, supermarkets offer convenience and choice at a low price. However, supermarkets control a whopping 95% of the grocery market and their business model is based not on seasonality, locality or nutrition, but on the profit-driven choices of large food corporations.
Supermarkets and agri-businesses have created long, centralised supply chains to drive this model. These are supplied by large farms growing monoculture crops and by industrialised food processors – both of which require massive inputs of fossil fuels in the form of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, machinery and in the energy required to process that food and get it from the farm or factory to our plates.
Our food system is heavily dependant on fossil fuels and responsible for at least 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not even that efficient – we currently put in 5 to 10 calories for every 1 calorie we get out of the food we eat!
The real cost of our current food system is hidden.
- It is borne by food producers and suppliers who are not paid a fair price for their produce and by local small-scale food retailers who are priced out of business by the stranglehold of the multiple retailers.
- It is borne by households and communities who are losing touch with ‘real’ food and have become passive consumers in a top-down system from which they expect unlimited ‘choice’ but over which they have little control. Much of the food created by this system is not even good for our health – obesity and other diet-related health problems are affecting more and more of us.
- And whether through resource depletion, the impact of pesticide use, industrialised monocultures, transport pollution, loss of habitat and species or through waste, the impact of our food system is borne by our environment.