2021 Fenner Conference
Discussions over ‘circular bioeconomies’ are challenging our commodity-based food production and trading systems that ignore the critical role of food in our health, says Dr Robyn Alders, Crookwell grazier and Honorary Professor, Development Policy Centre, Australian National University.
Dr Alders is a speaker at the forthcoming Fenner Conference on Environment “Making Australian agriculture sustainable” in Canberra on 30 September and 1 October.
Dr Alders says the existence of our human society rests on access to safe and nutritious food yet it is treated as a mere commodity for trading purposes.
“We need to move away from this food-as-commodity focus and develop a new system in which resources are recycled, natural systems are regenerated and wastes are minimised,” says Dr Alders. “This is known as a circular food system. It applies equally to aquatic farming and fishers as it does to terrestrial farming.
“We need new frameworks such that food producers and consumers know whether the landscapes that produce food are healthy and whether the food itself is becoming more, or less, nutritious.
“Ideally, these frameworks for determining whether the landscape and food are healthy should be collaboratively developed, internationally based and locally adapted,” she says.
Dr Alders says food must be valued not only by its weight or volume, but also by its natural nutrient density, freedom from biological and chemical contamination, degree of environmental impact and fairness to all involved in its production and distribution.
“The current agricultural economic system is inequitable as well as environmentally damaging,” she says. “It allows dogs and cats in high-income households to consume higher quality diets than vulnerable people, especially women of reproductive age and infants in low-income settings.
“New agricultural systems must ensure that farmers everywhere receive adequate remuneration for the food they produce so that they can care both for their households and their land.”