Rewriting the Future of Food and Farming #1

Our current food system is broken

We live with more than 7 billion people on this single planet, of whom almost a 1 billion live in hunger. At the same time our world population is still growing and in 2050, will reach 9 billion. How will we be able to feed the world when the existing food system is already failing to feed the current population? It is time to create a new vision of the future of food and farming.

In 1972, a letter of paramount importance was sent to the President of the European Commission:
If nothing is done, the world’s population will double in about 30 years, and will have risen from 3.5 to 7 billion by the year 2000.’ -Sicco Mansholt, 1972

To ensure the survival of such huge numbers of people, it was time to give priority to food production by reducing the focus given to material goods, avoiding the production of ‘non-essential’ products, and combating pollution and the depletion of natural resources. It was time for a new agricultural policy. However, over 40 years later, we are still waiting.

Sicco Mansholt
The letter was written by Sicco Mansholt. He was the first Commissioner of Agriculture of the European Union, and it was he who designed the European, industrial food system. While in office he increased food production, which caused the lowering of food prices, and improved the well-being of farmers and fed the European population after a time in crisis and shortage of food. He oversaw the modernization of agriculture, viewed as the only possible solution in that time. However, soon the increased food production showed its negative side: the overabundance of food, pollution, the depletion of natural resources, and the lack of justice in the food system.

Mr. Mansholt turned himself against his previous ideas and became an activist for the reform of agriculture. He wrote this letter to sound the alarm bell, and to ask the world’s leaders to come up with a strategy to turn the tide. However, due to political turmoil, the letter never received a response.

2015: The Mansholt-letter
Now, more than 40 years later, the letter Mr. Mansholt wrote is more relevant than ever. The limits of growth the letter describes, have been reached. The world has to take action now. It’s time for a radical, structural change: the world has to adapt a clear worldwide-oriented food policy.

That is why, during Terra Madre Giovani - We Feed the Planet, we are going to re-write the Future of Food and Farming. Food innovators, young farmers and other food professionals will have an input in this new letter, aimed at the political leaders of the planet. During Terra Madre Giovani - We Feed the Planet a team of reporters  will participate in the program, asking questions and seeking out the knowledge, practicalities, ideas and visions to be incorporated into this letter. The letter will be presented at EXPO on the last day of the event.

In the coming weeks, the first videos from our key figures – Carlo Petrini, Emily Mattheisen -, amongst others will be uploaded on this website. Stay tuned to learn from their knowledge, practicalities, ideas and visions so that we can rewrite the future of food and farming.

The Mansholt Letter is a project of Het Nieuwe Instituut in collaboration with Slow Food.