According to Organic Monitor, ecology is the focal theme of the upcoming North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit to take place at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco January 22-23, 2014. For the first time, a summit will discuss ways of promoting ecology in the food industry by focusing on sustainability metrics, ethical sourcing & biodiversity, and sustainable food ingredients, said the organizer in a release.

Highlights at the Summit include the ethical value of food products and the impact of modern agriculture on ecosystems. With intensive agriculture linked to deforestation and desertification, with a loss of genetic biodiversity, how can declines in an ecosystem be reversed and biodiversity encouraged?

Case studies will be presented of food and ingredient firms that are leading in ethical sourcing projects. Ken Lee, Co- Founder of Lotus Foods, will provide details of its sustainable sourcing projects in Asia. This firm has introduced a number of rare rice varieties in the US market by setting up grower projects in Bhutan, India, Cambodia and other countries. The positive social impact of fair trade on growers in developing countries will also be discussed. Another paper by the Union for Ethical BioTrade will show how awareness of biodiversity is rising across the globe.

Food ingredients for sustainability will be covered at the summit. Daabon USA and Loders Croklaan will discuss the opportunities provided by, as well as limitations of, sustainability roundtables for agricultural commodities. Bob Quinn, President and Founder of Kamut, will explain how the re-emergence of ancient grains is helping overcome monoculture. Diana Plant Sciences will explore the use of plant cell technology to produce sustainable food ingredients. Other papers cover emerging natural sweeteners and novel meat analogues. With surging demand for livestock products linked to climate change, the food industry is coming under pressure to find new alternatives to meat & dairy products.

With intense debate over GM labeling of food products continuing, a number of speakers will discuss the future direction of GM labeling in North America. Laura Batcha, interim president of the Organic Trade Association, will give an update on the ‘Just label it!’ campaign, whilst Caroline Kinsmann of the Non-GMO Project will show how non-GMO certified products are soaring amidst the debate. Nutiva will state how ingredient firms can protect their supply chains from contamination by genetically engineered materials.
Another session is devoted to the growing array of metrics for sustainability. The Sustainability Consortium will show how food companies and retailers can use sustainability scorecards. Oxfam America will give details of its ‘Behind the Brands’ sustainability scorecard methodology, which recently gave Nestlé top rating. Quantis will give insights into the carbon footprint of food and beverages, whilst Anheuser-Busch will show how a major brewery is reducing its waster footprint. Insights will be given by Safeway on what sustainability metrics are most important for the retail trade, whilst another paper discusses the role of mobile technology to measure and reduce environmental footprints. The session will adjourn with panelists debating the role of metrics:: are they over-complicating the sustainability discussion, or providing meaningful data to actually reduce environmental impacts?

‘There is a growing realization that sustainable agriculture can play an important role in tackling the environmental and social challenges faced by the food industry. As well as highlighting industry best-practices in ethical sourcing and food ingredients, this North American edition aims to showcase popular approaches to measuring ecological impacts,’ said Amarjit Sahota, president of Organic Monitor, organizer of Sustainable Foods Summits in San Francisco, Amsterdam and in 2014 also in Sao Paulo.