Why Food and Agriculture Needs to Grow Trust

agriculture, Charlie Arnot, food, food and agriculture, food system, growing trust, Insights, Look East | April 08, 2016

At Look East, we have a singular focus – growing trust in food and agriculture.

We’re passionate about that because trust in food and agriculture affects every person on the planet every day as they choose what to eat.

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Traditionally, the food system could take for granted that the public trusted them to do the right thing. That is no longer the case.

Over the past 50 years, the food system has become more integrated and consolidated and applied technology at an unprecedented rate.  These changes make food safer, more available and more affordable than at any time in history.  They also change the perception of the people and companies involved in farming and food.  Today, the public is much more likely to think of food and agriculture as an institution and be far less trusting of who we are and what we do.

The erosion of trust in institutions is not unique to the food system.  We are skeptical of the motives of most institutions, and have been since the late 1960s.  We can actually pinpoint the year when trust in institutions began to erode; it was 1968.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated that year. The Vietnam War was raging as was opposition to the war on college campuses across the country. At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that summer, war protesters were attacked by police. And that was just the beginning. Violations of public trust by government, business, education and religious institutions have been frequent enough and visible enough over the past 50 years that we have become conditioned to be skeptical about whether or not institutions are worthy of trust.

In this environment, defending the interests of food and agriculture solely with facts or scientific studies is not effective. Building trust requires a comprehensive strategy focused on shared values. Building trust and engaging stakeholders to determine your success requires new strategies and innovative approaches in today’s hyper-connected world.

Why does the food system need to grow trust? Because without trust for people, processes, products and brands in food and agriculture we will not be able to meet the most basic needs of people around the globe. Over the next 50 years we will add more than 2 billion people to the planet.  No human activity has more impact on the earth than food production.  If we are to meet the needs of all while preserving our natural resources, we have to build trust in systems that allow us to produce more with less and to bring healthy, affordable food to all.  To make that happen we need to grow trust.  That’s why we exist.  Look East – we’re here to help.

By Charlie Arnot

 

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