Once again this week, evidence showed that the consumer really is king. The Central Bureau of Statistics announced yesterday that the Dutch economy has grown again in the first quarter of 2018, and that the key role in that growth is for the consumer.
Consumption is a powerful political tool that can direct the course of industries. The food industry follows where the consumer leads. But in agriculture, opinions on the best way to farm our food are divided. On the one hand, we have the ecomodernists; farmers who pursue higher yields through technological innovations, such as genetic modification, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and who believe that farmland and nature should be two separate entities. On the other hand, there are those that believe in nature-inclusive agriculture. They too aim for higher yields, but they emphasise natural processes, clean soil, biodiversity, animal welfare and nature it self.
“Ecomodernists totally overlook the value of the farmland and all that lives there,” professors Michiel Korthals and Jan Willem Erisman argue in a Dutch newspaper. “Ecomodernism disregards the power and inventiveness of nature and nature-inclusive farmers, and threatens them. Therefore, nature-inclusive agriculture must be supported by farmers, government, science and consumers to a much greater extent.”
Ecomodernists claim that the nature-inclusive approach will fail to feed the world, but there is proof that it can yield just as much. Both camps see each other as a threat, but in the end, the consumer decides. More powerful than referendums are the ethical considerations made by the consumer in the supermarket: is this a healthy product? Is it sustainable? Is it animal friendly? Does it respect the farmer? Does it respect the landscape? Does it unite farmers and consumers?
Super investor Warren Buffett highlighted the power of consumers and their wallets again last week: “Consumer behaviour determines the direction of the food industry.”
This post is also available in: Dutch