On this page we collect drivers of change and horizon scanning notes, related to food, health and wellness. This is a preliminary step in the design of food scenarios, that we then translated into a tasting menu for Latelab Open Sauces at the Edinburgh Science Festival.

See the whole design process on the food futures page.

(looking back from 50-100 years to today, focusing on problems and possibilities)

  • hygiene, pasteurisation and the (anti)bacterial movement (better understanding of pathogens, pesticides, antibiotics and the rising dangers of antibiotic resistance)
  • industrialisation of food production, focus on efficiency and feeding more people; less focus on taste, more on nutrition
  • increased use of sugar, fat and meat (1995 the first deep-fried mars bar in Scotland)
  • proliferation of cold chain transport - larger volume and longer distances (allowing for delocalisation and specialisation of production), availability of a wide range of products
  • consumption patterns are changing: USA influence, food from around the world, seasonal flattening; food consumption moves from social to functional
  • disposal: city scale, burned rather than composted
  • wide spread of (bio-accumulative) toxins (packaging, hormones, slow-acting poisons, also in organic farming)
  • the battle between bacteria and chemicals (and people who prefer one or the other)
  • complex food distribution and production (present: focus on reduction of complexity and shortening of supply-chains)
  • growing awareness of health risks
  • present: refocusing on the local, respecialisation, relocalisation, bringing back forgotten varieties and species, focus on (hyper)seasonal products
  • vicious circle of more people - more food: focus on cheap and voluminous rather than nutritious; lowering of household's food budgets - health risks due to consumption of junk food
  • dangerous footprint of meat production (concentration of animal manure) and other industrial byproducts
  • internet is changing distribution and consumption patterns, as well as non-industrial food production; information spreads faster and supply-chains are becoming more convoluted and personalised
  • proliferation of foodies movements focused on healthy, tasty, virtuoso food preparation and consumption;
  • open source food movements
  • diet cults (and disconnection from food production and waste)

Social

  • Health
  • Diet
  • Aging
  • Urbanisation
  • Food Culture

Technological

  • Agricultural Technology
  • GMO / Synthetic biology
  • Internet of Things
  • Customisation
  • Antibiotic availability
  • Food science

Economic

  • Energy
  • Financing
  • Equality
  • Dominant crops
  • Scale
  • Patenting

Environment

  • Pollution
  • Unpredictability
  • Degradation
  • Availability of raw materials (water, seeds, soil…)

Political

  • Conservatism
  • Nationalism
  • Unconditional Basic Income
  • Food Security
  • Transnational Agreements
  • Laws and Regulations

Thematically clustered drivers:

L1010383


L1010384


L1010385


Analysis of thematically clustered drivers looking at their social causes, underlying worldviews and cultural myths:

L1010390


L1010389


L1010388


Horizon: less than 50 years.

Technological

Environmental

  • Increasing pollution of water, soil and atmosphere
    • > increasing systemic diseases such as cancer & neurodegenerative medicines
    • > potentially contributing to a loss in biodiversity.
  • Decrease of soil fertility > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food > starvation for specific locations & poor people; adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population; geopolitical instability.
  • Changes in desertification and rainfall patterns > decrease of available arable soil surface > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food > starvation for specific locations & poor people, adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population; geopolitical instability.
  • Climate change
    • Increase of Extreme Climatic Events, e.g. Floods & Droughts
      • > localized food scarcity;
      • > when combined with hyper-specialization of food crops per location (see Economic trends), world-wide scarcity of specific ingredients.
    • Change in seasonal patterns and average climatic conditions > change of food crops production balance worldwide.
      • See detailed results from IPCC report below.
  • Decrease of Biodiversity > decrease of edible animal & plant species > reduced resilience to change in seasonal patterns & climatic conditions > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food
    • > starvation for specific locations & poor people
    • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population
    • > geopolitical instability.
  • Decrease of available energetic resources > Increase on “traveling food” prices > when combined with increased inequities in personal wealth (see Economical Ttrends), reduce of food ingredients availability for most of the population > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food
    • > starvation for specific locations & poor people
    • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population
    • > geopolitical instability.

reference: IPCC WGII AR5 Chapter 7 “Food Security and Food Production Systems” http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/WGIIAR5-Chap7_FGDall.pdf

IPCC AR5 WG2 Figure SPM.2a

Change in Plant Crops Production
  • India: global loss in cereal production.
  • Brazil: loss in cereal, drastic increase in beans.
  • US: no big change in cerelas, slight increase in Soy
  • Europe:
    • Increase in plant crops in Boreal, Alpine, North & Central Atlantic & South Continental climates.
    • Moderate change in Continental North.
    • Decrease in Atlantic South & Mediterranean climates.
  • Australia: global decrease.
Change in Livestock Production
  • Africa: less Livestock & Dairy
  • Europe:
    • France: no impact on dairy yield, but impact both positive and negative + instability on forage fields.
    • Italy & Netherlands: bad for mozzarella & gouda
    • Disease increase: Bluetongue virus
  • Oceania: decrease everywhere but South Australia.
  • South America:
    • Andean mountains: decrease of every livestock but sheep, which increase.
    • Argentina & Chile: more beef cattle.
    • Columbia, Venezuela & Ecuador: less beef cattle.
  • North America: strong decrease of Dairy yields.

Economic

  • Increased globalization of economy
    • Prevalence of large-scale over small-scale food production > environmental impacts such as pollution & reduction of soil fertility > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food + most of the food heavily polluted
      • > starvation for specific locations & poor people;
      • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population;
      • > geopolitical instability.
    • Hyper-specialisation of food crops grown on a given territory > reduced resilience to extreme climatic events (see Environmental trends) > potentially massive scarcity of a essential food crops > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food + most of the food heavily polluted
      • > starvation for specific locations & poor people;
      • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population;
      • > geopolitical instability.
  • Increased financiarisation of economy
    • Adverse effects of speculation on food prices > combined with increasing inequities in personal wealth, reduction of food availability and diversity for most of the world population > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food
      • > starvation for specific locations & poor people;
      • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population;
      • > geopolitical instability.
  • Increasing inequities in personal wealth > reduction of food availability and diversity for most of the world population > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food
    • > starvation for specific locations & poor people
    • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population
    • > geopolitical instability.
  • To a minor extent, localized alternative economies, such as (in French) integral cooperatives, local currencies, barter networks & gift economy initiatives
  • > reduces inequities within economic players at local scale
    • > better global health at local population scale.

Social & Cultural

  • Increase of global population > more food needed > combined with reduction of soil availability & fertility, reduction of available quantity & diversity of food + food heavily polluted or low in nutrients > starvation for specific locations & poor people; adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population; geopolitical instability.
  • Increase of urban population
    • Massive amount of energy used to bring food to urban citizens
      • > increase energetic resource depletion rate (also needed for industrial food production) > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food
        • > starvation for specific locations & poor people
        • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population
        • > geopolitical instability.
      • > increase of atmospheric, water and soil pollution due to massive transport
        • > adverse health effects.
    • Increased urban pressure on neighboring fertile soils > Reducing availability of fertile soils > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food
      • > starvation for specific locations & poor people
      • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population
      • > geopolitical instability.
  • Prevalent cultural preference to industrially-produced food (Nestlé, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Exki…)
    • > existing demand stimulates production & thus industrial agriculture
      • > pollution
        • > adverse health effects
    • > low food diversity
      • > adverse health effects
  • Most prevalent religions & related food regimes (Pork-free Islam & Bee-free hinduism ?)
    • > changing the demand thus the production balance of food crops at world scale ?
  • Minority, stable or increasing, adhering to the GASAPs, Slow Food & Organic Food movements > combined with participation to alternative economic systems (see Economical trends), localized positive impacts on available food diversity & global health.

Political

  • Increase of patenting & decrease of authorized crop varieties (in French), an article from Mediapart on seeds patenting
    • > reduction of animal & plant species available for cooking > global impoverishment of food culture.
    • > decreased resilience to change in seasonal patterns & average climatic conditions > reduction of available quantity & diversity of food
      • > starvation for specific locations & poor people
      • > adverse health effects for a wide range of the world population
      • > geopolitical instability.

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