Look beyond the feelgood start-ups

Financial Times Letters

Look beyond the feelgood start-ups

From Mr Eric Stryson.

Sir, It is refreshing to hear that some high-flying MBA students are now shifting their attention from technology to food (“Sustainable enterprises give students food for thought”, Business Education, February 4). Yet to consider niche start-ups such as artisan tequilas, biodegradable cups or gourmet home dining as sustainable agri-enterprises is to simply not understand the global food threat or even the notion of sustainability.

A global food system that is “sustainable” is not just about organic products and US local farming initiatives, though such projects certainly provide feelgood factors and make for nice case studies. MBA programmes that want to make an impact on global food systems and give students the awareness and skills to stay relevant in the future should first consider the implications of the industrialisation of agriculture that thrives on externalising true costs (excessive use of inputs) and its impact on farming communities. Certainly they will want to address the steep global decline in the quality of arable land, and perhaps even critically examine the politics and business of food to understand the devastating impact of US food subsidies on farmers in the developing world. Are MBA programmes bold enough to have these discussions in their classrooms?