A better environment and sustainable food systems

We waste too much food because it is too cheap according to Jason Clay, the Senior Vice-President for Market Transformation at the World Wildlife Fund. If we were to include the cost of the impact of food production (the externalities) food would cost twice as much. The World Wildlife Fund was established over 50 years ago to protect nature, but faced with the enormity of the task, 20 years ago they determined that food production  was the biggest threat to biodiversity.

“the single largest threat to every place is where and how we produce food”

In his 2010 Ted talk Jason Clay identified that 300 to 500 companies control 70% of the connections between producers and consumers in each commodity. Just 100 companies control 25% of that trade. These companies are typically motivated to optimise their profits and the food supply chains continue to get longer. As value is extracted in the middle of the chain, the rewards for producers diminish. Ironically and tragically, millions of small farmers don’t have enough food.


The bottleneck in food systems (from Jason Clay’s TED talk, 2010)

Jason Clay’s thinking is directly relevant to Northland and our move to more sustainable food systems. We want to see more local producers, less processed food and closer connections between producers and consumers.

The other important work for the World Wildlife Fund is working with inefficient  producers that tend to create more damage environmentally and the failure of governments to enforce regulations – again relevant in Northland.

Jason Clay is in New Zealand now. Listen to Kathryn Ryan’s interview here. Here is his 2010 TED Talk.


One thought on “A better environment and sustainable food systems

  1. Jason Clay gives a coherent and believable presentation on how we can feed an exploding world population more efficiently. Personally, I find his message deeply depressing and frightening as it is based on the idea of concentrating even more power into the hands of existing multi-national corporations. For the past 50 years we have watched corporations grow ever larger and in the process, destroy the world financially, culturally, socially, ecologically and morally. To my mind, taking actions to further consolidate and increase that power is nothing short of insanity and a perfect recipe for suicide.


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