A commentary by Manuel E. González

Now more than ever we need relentless respect for food and its production — respect for its unique properties, ingredients, relationship to the earth, and an understanding and appreciation of how, where, and by whom it is produced. Because of our lack of respect for food, for ingredients, for how they should be used, we are creating tasteless, useless formulas that need to be masked to hide what they really are.

Excess sugar, salt, and fat is a mask that disguises the actual low quality inherent in far too many foods. This excess results from a lack of respect for ingredients that is based on ignorance and a deluded sense of what we should be eating for ourselves and for the environment. This ignorance negatively impacts our health and the environment and sets us up for a dark future.

“To combat this we must embrace innovation and creativity to unlock a better future for food.”

Innovation will come from forward-thinking food and agriculture entrepreneurs who create solutions that will remove these masks and bring abundance and respect for the earth back to the food system. Fortunately, this process has already begun. These few pioneers in the food tech industry (and the food industry in general) give us hope and point us in a positive direction.

With this in mind, those involved in the food industry must take responsibility to ensure that the world’s growing population is fed responsibly, safely and sustainably. The only way this can happen is by developing a deep respect for food and for those who are consuming the food. Entrepreneurs, food manufacturers, suppliers, farmers, and investors all bear this responsibility. No one is exempt if we are to thrive as a whole in the future.

We as consumers also hold a great responsibility towards the future of food and our relationship with the food industry. We spend the dollars and therefore we need to develop personal standards with regards to food quality and food transparency. We must hold the food industry accountable for providing food that meets those unwavering standards. Unfortunately, with regards to the current system, we are painfully aware that the ethics and values of many food companies have been compromised. In the past, most companies were regarded as flag bearers of quality and integrity. However, people no longer put their faith and trust in these brands, they are looking for a new beacon of quality.

Just as important, we should hold ourselves responsible and have deep respect and high standards towards the food we buy and we put in our bodies. No longer should we tolerate the low quality chemically and genetically grown produce that pervades our supermarkets. No longer should we tolerate additives that are superfluously present in so many processed food items. By consuming these dangerous and unhealthy additives we no longer have respect for ourselves and our bodies. And when we lose respect for ourselves, whether it be knowingly or subconsciously, we lose respect for food. And the vicious cycle continues.

We should support brands that have respect for food, for the people that are growing the food, and for the ecosystem where food comes from.

In our extremely busy lives, it is far too easy to gradually come to accept the convenient but low quality and dangerously unhealthy food that is offered to us through relentless branding, marketing, and advertising. Over time we make excuses, we rationalize, we accept the unacceptable and our food purchasing habits become compromised. We should put aside complacency towards the existing food system and be more vigilant to create change.

Our existing attitude towards food needs to change. How many of us even know what a real tomato, freshly ripened on the vine, tastes like anymore? How about the delicious natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables grown in a sustainable, thoughtful and respectful manner. It is essential that we feel the love and respect that is put into the production of food whether it is processed or picked from the fields. And to have this respect, the chain of responsible and respectful food production must be unbroken. If there is one missing link in this chain of providing food to consumers in an ethical, respectful and sustainable manner, the love and respect of the food we are consuming is lost.