Consumers have “never cared more and known less” about the food they eat, according to global food systems expert Jack Bobo. Speaking at the Agricultural Science Association Conference 2023 in Naas, Co. Kildare, Bobo highlighted the gap in knowledge that consumers have regarding food production, particularly in terms of sustainability. He emphasized the importance of involving food producers in the conversation with consumers to ensure that the products they ask for align with their desired benefits. Bobo also drew attention to the economic impact of agriculture and the prevalence of malnutrition and hunger worldwide. He stressed the need for increased food production to meet the growing population’s demands while minimizing the environmental footprint of agriculture.
Bobo expressed skepticism about claims that the food production system is “broken,” noting that progress has been made in reducing hunger and child mortality rates. He highlighted the difference between local sustainability and global sustainability, explaining that consumers tend to focus on the former without considering the global impacts of reduced yields. Bobo criticized the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, arguing that it could lead to a reduction in European food production and increased reliance on imports, potentially contributing to deforestation in countries like Brazil. He called for a more thoughtful approach to food production, considering where and how food should be produced to minimize environmental impact.
Bobo also discussed the innovations in agriculture that have significantly increased food productivity while using the same or fewer resources. He emphasized the importance of continued innovation to meet the growing demand for food while minimizing the need for additional land. Bobo concluded by urging consumers to recognize the importance of farmers’ work and to understand the global implications of their food choices.