The Future of Food

J0384740On the occasion of the current world food summit meeting in Rome this week, my employer, Fleishman-Hillard is holding a breakfast forum in New York today at the University Club called "What’s in Store?" that focused on forecasts for food over the next 30 years and the communications implications thereof.  The keynote speaker will be Clem Bezold, Ph.D., a nationally acclaimed futurist and chairman of the board and founder of the Institute for Alternative Futures

Dr. Bezold made five primary forecasts in his White Paper – Download Food2028doc.doc (373.5K):

  1. Food prices will increase sharply over the generation ahead, having risen 83 percent worldwide between 2005 and today. 
  2. Prices for meat, and especially for beef, will increase most of all, putting pressure on the market segment.
  3. New forms of advanced sustainable agriculture will emerge over the next 20 years that will be critical in meeting the global food challenge with a shift by consumers to prefer "sustainably produced" products.
  4. Personalized nutrition, supported by genomics, biomonitoring and personal coaching will enhance health.
  5. Continued study into the properties of nutritional components will blur the line between many foods and natural medicines among many consumers.

Following Dr. Bezold’s remarks, a panel will discuss the communications implications of these changes for stakeholders.  The panel included Eileen Kennedy, D.Sc. dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, my Fleishman-Hillard colleagues Alan Rambam, Senior Vice President and Senior Partner and Karen van Bergen, Senior Vice President and Partner in the Netherlands office and the Co-chair of the Food and Agriculture Practice, Kathleen Zelman, M.P.H., R.D., L.D., director of nutrition and a senior correspondent at WebMD, and most humbly, myself to talk about the communications implications of the coming changes in the regulation of food. 

During my part of the panel, I am echoing a theme that I have often talked about in pharmaceuticals.  The 1990’s stood for a time of an expansion of access – whether for drugs or food and that resulted in public policy changes that did just that.  Today, people want a risk averse environment and the public policy machine is set to respond accordingly with aggressive reform that will affect both food and drugs. 

I will recall my conversation during my November 2007 podcast with Dr. David Acheson, Assistant Commissioner for Food Safety at the FDA as to whether or not there will be user fees to support the safety of imported products in the future and whether or not there will be a retreat from globalization in the interests of safety.  The communications challenges will lie in the public affairs jockeying that will occur as policy-makers attempt to make the current system not reactive to safety concerns, but more geared to prevention.  Stakeholders will need to develop a playbook of scenarios for the range of proposals that are going to emerge and begin building their communications plans to support them, particularly through the development of alliances and key relationships.  And needless to say, if stakeholders are trying to do this without considering new media, they are not maximizing their potential for success. 

It will be an interesting day. 

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