Sustainable food systems: Mark Bittman lecture

’40 to 80% of products in the supermarket should be classified as poison not food’ said Mark Bittman in his Wallace Stegner lecture yesterday evening. Mark Bittman is a renowned food writer and cookery book author who shared his insights on the future of our food system – with not a little politics thrown in!


Mark Bittman on stageFood System as an Interconnected Web

Mark Bittman sees the current food system as an interconnected web that is permanently entwined with land and the environment. It is a system that is hard to change, as there is no such thing as a local food system. Every localized area connects to other remote areas, both nationally and internationally. As everyone on this planet needs food, it is the structural underpinning of our society and in order to make significant changes we need to change our system of government too.

Mark thinks that humans are the biggest threat to our planet and that we are currently very poor stewards of our planet’s resources. Industrial agriculture is pillaging our land in the pursuit of profits – and is as destructive as heavy industry in its effect on the environment.


Bringing Sustainability to the Food System

The current Trump administration is not interested in providing healthy, sustainable food for all. In fact, it is actively working against that with its FDA and EPA appointments and funding cutbacks to food services. The Farm Bill is up for renewal and it is likely that it will continue to support destructive practices such as factory farming, monoculture and pesticide usage.

Mark Bittman believes that the capitalist system does not favor sustainable agriculture – as it is driven by the need to make money and has no regard for future generations. A sustainable food system needs legislation that controls agriculture and food production. That means pesticide reduction, more crop diversity, less factory farming of animals, more fruit and vegetables, higher wages for food workers and a focus on growing healthy foods.


Healthy eatingOur Personal Food Policy

‘What’s good for you is good for the planet’ states Mark Bittman. We can all help the environment by following a personal food policy that reduces calorific input and meat consumption. Stop eating junk food and eat less meat! That will make you healthier and reduce your carbon footprint.

Mark quoted the dictionary definition of food; ‘any nutritious substance that promotes life and growth’. In his eyes, much of the ‘food’ being sold in supermarkets today is actually poison as it has no nutritional value and is actually harmful to your health. As Mark says, ‘ eat junk food until you die young’. Think of sugary beverages like Coke and Sprite. At least, some cities are fighting back against Big Food with taxes on soda – and using the revenue to support healthy food.


Healthy Food for All

Mark ended with an impassioned plea for us all to act together to make our voices heard. This year, we must fight to protect the many current programs that protect our right to healthy food. The minimal rights of many are threatened and we must all stand together to hold local, state and federal governments to task. The food and agriculture movements must join with those supporting social justice, women’s rights, minorities rights, immigrant rights and environmentalists. He believes that the next two elections may be even more important for our society and that the fight for a healthy, sustainable diet for all is just beginning.


The Wallace Stegner annual lecture series is held at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, benefits the Peninsula Open Space Trust and is sponsored by the late Bill Lane and his wife Jean, Sand Hill Global Advisors and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati.

Author: Jane of Green Eatz

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