After spending some time kitesurfing with Richard Branson and putting pen to paper on his upcoming memoirs, Obama used his first major post-presidency speech to address two critically important topics: food technology and meat consumption. Do I have to say how huge that is?
At the Seeds & Chips conference on global food innovation in Milan, Italy, Obama made some statements that had us at The Good Food Institute practically jumping up and down during his Q&A session with former senior policy advisor on nutrition, Sam Kass (who now invests in and advises food tech companies). For instance, when asked if people should adopt a more climate-friendly diet, Obama said that despite the projected increase in meat consumption as the developing world acquires more wealth, “It doesn’t mean we can’t make progress in educating the advanced world about the need to reduce...the amount of meat we consume at any given meal...but what it does mean is that we’re also going to have to find ways to produce protein in a more efficient way.”
Obviously the emphasis added here is my own, but you can trust that were I actually in the room, I would have found a way to crank up the volume at that moment.
Photo credit: Reuters, Alessandro Garofalo.
Obama also said that he has faith in private-sector initiatives that were leveraging market forces and technology to combat climate change, despite political roadblocks facing the success of Paris agreement. His focus was on clean energy; however, I couldn’t help but think of his statement’s relevance for the clean energy of food: clean meat and plant-based food tech.
And addressing food production as well as energy production is necessary: Scientists have found that it will be literally impossible to meet the goals laid out in the Paris agreement without addressing the problem of agricultural emissions (and the destruction of carbon drawdown mechanisms from unsustainable ag practices, to boot).
To continue moving forward on climate-friendly food innovation, Obama held fast to a facts-first approach, saying, “The approach I took when I was president of the United States was that in the same way I would let the science determine my policies around climate change, I try to let science determine my attitude about food production and new technologies.”
Sorry, I’m getting trigger-happy with that CTRLl+B function again, but I’m sure you can see why.
So whatever your political leanings, I would say the former president shining a light on the globally important issues involving food production and the future of our food system is worthy of a non-ironic #thanksobama.
[Fun fact: Our friend Dominique Barnes, CEO of New Wave Foods, also spoke at the conference!]
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