Originally published on FeedInfo, 10th March 2023

At VIV Asia, Australian food futurist Tony Hunter argued that we need to “reimagine the global food system” using new technologies.

In a presentation, he said that the current global food system cannot equitably and sustainably feed the increasing population which is forecasted to reach about 10 billion by 2050.

Recognising that reducing food waste is one way to be more sustainable, Hunter believes that it is however not efficient enough with the rapid population growth.

The food futurist went on to explain that new technologies are the ways to go because they have advanced exponentially.

“Technology is everywhere in food”, said Hunter, listing new technologies such as alternative proteins, cellular agriculture, genomics, microbiome, and synthetic biology.

In order to use new technologies to reimagine the global food system, he argued that we need to first equitably distribute the means of food production. In other words, rather than growing everything in one place and shipping it to other places, we need to localise food production.

The food futurist believes that localisation of food production means lower chance for supply chain disruption, higher food sovereignty and food security, and probably stabilisation of prices.

He also believes that it helps us to get away from “twin tyrannies of food production”, which are arable land and fresh water. “If you have lots of arable land in your country, lots of water in your country, you have lots of food. If you don’t, you don’t,” he said.

Hunter argued that we need to use new technologies to “leapfrog” some of the old technologies that the current global food system is using.

For example, he mentioned Singapore as the first country to approve the commercial sale of cultivated meat and the existence of 3D-printed meat. For synthetic biology, he gave an example of how GMOs have been used in industrial cheese production for decades.

Hunter went on to argue that anti-GMO sentiment is a threat to the future of feeding the world, claiming that there is no scientific research proving that GMO products are bad for health and that 95% of all animals used for meat and dairy in the US have been fed genetically modified feed for many years while understanding that the sentiment can be philosophical.

“All of these technologies are science fact, they are not science fiction,” he said, adding that some of these products are on the market now, and some are going to take years or decades to come on the market, but “all of these technologies are here already.”

In terms of the meaning of all these technologies for the agriculture industry, he assured that “I’m not saying conventional agriculture is going to disappear” because a lot of these technologies will need “massive capital expenditure to realise their potential and then to contribute significantly to the global food system.”

“We are going to need new technologies if we are going to sustainably and equitably feed 10 billion people but it’s going to take time for those to scale up so they can make a significant contribution,” said Hunter.

“Reimagining the global food system is not about eliminating animal agriculture, it’s about how we fill the gap between what’s sustainable and possible within planetary boundaries.”