The director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva, said last month at a meeting convened by Chatham House in London that the ‘green revolution’ food model — a push for new technologies to increase agricultural production — has reached its limits because of huge environmental costs. Now, he said, “nourishing people must go hand in hand with nursing the planet”. Tim Benton, a leading food security scientist and a global agenda steward for the World Economic Forum also adds that “At the global level, every time that we have increased yields, we have disproportionately increased the amount of food that’s wasted. So that’s the first caveat — that we have to think about technologies across the food system, including helping people choose what makes a healthy diet, supply chain efficiencies, waste etc.
The other caveat about thinking too much about large-scale technologies is that to make those technologies profitable, they typically have to be deployed at scale. Some imply that smallholders will convert to largeholders, because that’s what’s necessary for that system to be profitable. So there is a degree of cultural imperialism in that business model, which is not necessarily the same as finding a solution to how people eat healthily.”