Last week, the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in New York held its fifth annual Green Summit, an annual event aimed at addressing the world's biggest sustainability challenges. The theme of the occasion was sustainable eating, specifically focusing on the issue of "How to Feed a City." Presided over by Green Summit Patron H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, the day's sessions tackled the concept of "From Farm to Fork" from a multitude of angles, including panels on corporate supply chains and changing public opinions on food and eating.
Highlights included a lively discussion with the producers of Growing Cities, a documentary on urban farming in America, as well as an address by famed ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau, who sought to add a little blue to the Green Summit by calling attention to the plight of the world's oceans. Detailing the tremendous loss of global fish stocks over the past half century, Cousteau implored the crowd to work to both conserve and restore the ocean's bounty; like we all know to plant a tree, we should all now begin to Plant a Fish.
Marcus Samuelsson was an honored guest at the event and served as the moderator for a panel on the personal dimension of food and eating. Panelists included Haakan B. Anderson Guldkula, founder of TracTechnology, a firm that is using radio-frequency identification technology to track meat from farm to table, Chef Björn Frantzén, world renowned chef and partner at frantzén/lindeberg, Gary Hisrchberg, co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farm, a large organic yogurt producer in New Hampshire, and Romilly Newman, the fourteen year-old chef who blogs at The Little Girl in the Kitchen.
The conversations topics of the discussion ranged from organic agriculture to food waste to what kids these days think about cooking, all exploring each panelist's take on sustainable food production. According to Frantzén, the decision to use local, bio-dynamically grown crops is an easy one for chefs. The best tasting dishes use the best tasting ingredients; those who have traveled the least and have been grown using organic or biodynamic methods generally fit this criteria. Ms. Newman, whose blog is aimed at teaching her peers the value of cooking at home, emphasized the importance of food education for her generation of eaters, who are enthusiastically talking about food on social networks like Facebook or Twitter but not necessarily aware of things like proper nutrition or sustainability issues.
For producers like Hirshberg, who founded his dairy in the 1980s when business was great except there was "no supply and no demand" for organic foods, sustainable production is simply a win-win-win for all parties involved. Relying on his personal experiences at Stonyfield, Hirshberg saw organic and bio-dynamic agricultural methods as a means to not only avoid the human health costs of the chemicals used in conventional agriculture, but also a production method that protects farmland, increases crop yields, provides economic growth, and reduces national dependence on fossil fuels. Coming from the perspective of food security, Mr. Guldkula, who developed the idea of meat tracking following the Mad Cow Outbreak in England, believed sustainability, innovation, and food integrity to all be strongly linked. He claimed that a technology such as his, which ensures Texas Steaks are indeed from Texas, not only preserves the quality of meats but also protects the consumer and improves international food security.
While the issue of cost was brought up as a primary obstacle to eating organic, the conversation was generally lively and very optimistic about the future of food. The panel concluded on a positive note from the young Romilly, who assured the crowd of a new generation more engaged with their food who will definitely consider junk food to be "much less cool."