On 17th October, the SFT’s Chief Executive Patrick Holden contributed to a discussion on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today This Week programme about the Universal Expo 2015, which is coming to a close on 31st October after a six-month run in Milan.

The Expo has a long history as a global forum for exploring critical human issues, and stretches back to 1851 when the first global exhibition was held at Crystal Palace in London.

The theme of this year’s Expo, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, turned a spotlight on the global food system, asking questions about its sustainability and looking at what the future holds for our eating. With funding for the event dominated by large corporate sponsors, controversy has been brewing over whether the event has been compromised by the strong presence of Big Food.

Farming Today This Week brought together a range of contributors to discuss issues arising from the Expo and its theme. Alongside Patrick Holden were Andrew Burgess of Produce World and Mark Lynas, co-author of the Ecomodernists’ Manifesto.

Within the discussion, Patrick made the case for better food pricing and the need for true cost accounting within our food system. Although it wasn’t possible to explore the issues he raised in detail, Patrick responded to the clips about food waste, eating insects and algae, innovation and the Slow Food movement suggesting that the underlying focus of the exhibits implied a continuation of ‘business as usual’. Many of the more important questions regarding the development of truly sustainable future food systems were not properly aired at the event.

These included the severity of the problems caused by industrial farming, the importance of linking the discussion about waste to food systems externalities and the need for true cost accounting, why a return to mixed farming is essential to rebuilding soil fertility through crop rotation and the use of ruminants, the effectiveness of minimum tillage, and the shortcomings of genetic engineering, both in the first generation of GMO crops and potentially in the second.

Photograph: Jean Pierre Dalbéra

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