What will we be eating in the year 2050?
Embracing a diverse range of plants and foods such as fungi, seaweed and insects are just some of the healthy and sustainable examples of what our growing population will likely be eating within the next 30 years. Deepening our understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ ecological knowledges, investing in high-tech food production, boosting locally-grown produce and enhancing our cooking skills will also be vital if we are to transform our food supply and ensure these foods can reach our plates in 2050.
These issues were on the table at yesterday’s Dietitians Australia National Conference, which held a special “What will we be eating in 2050?” expert panel session.
Renowned science communicator Associate Professor Paul Willis guided a panel of five Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) through a hypothetical scenario of what our food supply will look like in 2050. APDs Professor Mark Lawrence, Dr Rosemary Stanton, Nicole Senior, Tracy Hardy and Emma Stirling each represented different food system stakeholders to provide a perspective on public health, nutrition, food production and Indigenous Australian food culture. The panel faced a challenging task, with current trends placing doubt over our future food supply, and explored what’s needed to be done to ensure our population is adequately nourished with sustainable foods in the future.
“Globally, we’re facing serious food security issues, as we grapple with how to produce enough nutritious food to feed our growing population [estimated to reach almost 10 billion people by 2050] in a warmer and more turbulent climate,” Willis says.
Along with calls for the broader food industry to accept greater ethical responsibility, and the need to advance food science to produce more nutritious food, Dr Stanton says that there is one fundamental issue that needs to be addressed.
“We must change our mindset from thinking of foods as just a profitable commodity and put the health of our population and the environment first,” she says. “We need to prioritise food production that’s both nutritious and supports our environment. This means highly processed, nutrient-poor foods need to be dramatically reduced, and we also need to consider the types and quantities of animal foods we produce.”
Hardy, a proud Gamilaroi descendant and founder of Wattleseed Nutrition & Dietetics, encourages looking to the past successes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ care and management of the land to embrace a brighter food future for Australia.
“First Nations peoples of Australia hold a wealth of knowledge about landcare, native food production and connection to country that we can celebrate and make part of our food heritage,” she says. “It’s about working in partnership with First Nations peoples towards the shared goal of producing unique, nutritious, sustainable food in harmony with the land.”
While the use of technology – such as precision agriculture, artificial intelligence and robotics – will play a key role in the future of food production, there’s also a lot that each of us can achieve with traditional gardening and cooking skills. Growing food locally and cooking and sharing meals not only supports a more resilient and sustainable food system, it can also offer many social and psychological benefits.
“Implementing community gardens, urban agriculture and kitchens in homes, schools and workplaces are just some of the ways communities can access nutritious food and work towards a zero-food waste target,” Dr Stanton says. “When it comes to food, we need to get back to a more empowered, hands-on, personal approach.”