Multi-Dimensional Food Values: New Metrics Integrating Food, Water and Energy

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Jodi KOBERINSKI, University of Waterloo, Canada
A mechanistic view of agriculture and food dominates siloed institutional spaces. This paradigm ignores scientific linkages connecting food, energy and water. The externalized costs of industrial food systems are well documented, calling into question both the mono-dimensional valuation of food-as-commodity and the metrics supporting that valuation. An ecological view of the natural world calls for new metrics and decision tools that overcome policy silos and implement ‘joined up food policies’. Creating food policy that recognizes the intersection of food, energy and water requires a normative shift from reductionist, mechanistic models for both the economy and food systems towards diverse, ecological models. When food is viewed only as a commodity, yield per acre and selective ‘productivity’ calculations are dominant metrics. This review synthesizes seminal works from diverse disciplines of economics, environment, and political ecology to develop new metrics and decision tools designed to create just food systems. First, I examine the inadequacies of 'yield per acre' from both a technical and institutional perspective to adequately measure costs and benefits of industrial food systems. Next, I review the utility of ‘health per acre’ and ‘wealth per acre’ as metrics for linking food, water and energy. Using Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics framework, I discuss Jose Luis Vivero Pol’s Six Food Dimensions model to begin exploring legal and political frameworks. Finally, I conclude that adopting these new metrics may be a necessary pre-condition to achieve ‘joined up food policy’.