Will The Food Industry Ever Swallow Transparency's Bitter Pill?
from the who's-next-for-openness? dept
A fascinating trend in recent years has been the gradual move from a presumption of secrecy to one of openness, transparency and sharing. This began with free software/open source, and has progressively spread to include areas such as open content, open access, open data, open science and open government.
Here's the latest field where people are advocating a more open approach:
Food costs are on the rise, as are obesity and diabetes. Food recalls, environmental pollution, and food insecurity are all far too common. The system clearly needs to be re-engineered to better serve the needs of everyone involved.
Providing detailed information about the entire food chain – from production through distribution to sales – would allow all kinds of interesting data mash-ups to be created: showing how far your food must travel to your table, how long it takes, even things like your cumulative daily pesticide intake.
But before thinking about redesign, we need to really understand how the current system works. Doing so requires the ability to examine the different pieces of the system and supply chain, something currently impossible given the proprietary nature of the food and agriculture industries.
Herein lies the major roadblock and opportunity- hacking the food system requires creating incentives to move from closed, proprietary approaches to open ones.
There would be clear benefits for the companies involved in production and consumption: it would allow foodstuffs to be tracked more precisely, trends analyzed, techniques optimized and savings identified. But it would also make it much easier to expose facts that the food industry would probably rather you didn't know - about what's in the food you eat, how it was produced and who owns the companies involved. Which means, of course, that it is likely to fight this move to openness with every means known to lobbyists.