The majority of our nation’s food systems and policies are founded in providing affordable food in large quantities. Such systems and policies have led to the success of large agribusinesses while small family farms continue to struggle for survival. At the same time, more and more consumers are becoming aware of the environmental costs and the public health impact of large-scale farming and monocultures and are demanding alternatives, such as organic produce and antibiotic-free meat. Consumers are also increasingly aware of the declining fisheries and fish laden with contaminants and are beginning to select seafood more carefully.
However, the recent trend in “food consciousness” has not necessarily led to improvements in environmental quality, let alone enhancing Aotearoa’s (NZ) biodiversity. With the growth of the organic produce market, for instance, retailers are selling imported organic produce from other regions such as Europe. Such practices, while they may bestow environmental benefits in Europe, do little for our local environment and biodiversity, and are an enormous burden in terms of resource consumption. Likewise, the benefit of consuming fish that is not over-harvested is unclear at the local level, especially when fish are caught hundreds of miles from where they will be consumed.
Locally grown non-organic produce is likely to accrue more environmental benefits than organic produce that are trucked or flown thousands of miles. Te Waka Kai Ora actively seeks to increase consumer awareness and markets for locally made produce. The organisation also seeks to promote equitable standards related to the production of organic foods for international markets. As advocates of fair trade practices, Te Waka Kai Ora is committed to developing inter-indigenous agreements as an attempt to address this issue by providing an alternative trading system of culturally and environmentally sustainable and supports fair trade principles and practices in trading relationships.