There are many adages about the power of people uniting for a common purpose. One of my personal favorites is the old proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
IFT’s vision is of a world where science and innovation are universally accepted as essential to a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply for everyone. The sheer audacity of this vision is impressive. But that’s what a vision statement is: it is the guiding star for an organization. It’s a goal that may take generations to fully realize but is nevertheless a worthy course of action and aspiration.
IFT’s pursuit of this vision has always been anchored by the idea that if we are a partner to individual scientists, engineers, and technologists in their education and careers in the science of food, we’ll achieve that vision. If we provide members with the most relevant and current information, tools to pursue their own career goals, and a network of peers to provide support and knowledge, then the collective excellence of this community will positively advance the global food system for humankind.
However, there is another chapter to the story. IFT also leverages the power of a single voice, representing our nearly 17,000 members, to advocate for ideas, values, and principles that are core to our profession. We use this voice to enhance the reputation of our profession and to address issues and influence outcomes important to our community.
Not long ago, the Board instructed the IFT staff to develop strategies focused on providing tools for IFT members to be their own advocates and advocates for our profession. While the IFT voice has significant reach and we will continue to use it, our members living in communities and working in institutions around the world have the potential to share the story of our profession with much broader audiences. As such, IFT has begun developing advocacy tool kits for members on a variety of hot topics. These tool kits will aggregate research, commentary, and resources to equip members with information and empower them to speak accurately about the sound science behind highly charged issues. Members can expect to see these tool kits on IFT.org later this year.
Meanwhile, IFT has long been a sought-after source of comment and expertise from media looking for an authoritative voice on topics that have the potential to impact our profession—some controversial, some not. For this, IFT trains and maintains a cadre of Food Science Communicators from among IFT’s membership. They volunteer their time and knowledge to bring accurate information to the media. It is because of this program that IFT has been able to dispel myths, correct misconceptions, educate, and celebrate the contributions made by professionals in the science of food to a broad audience.
IFT’s science and policy team maintains an office in Washington, D.C. Staff members with scientific and technical backgrounds contribute to informing thought leaders and policy makers across a spectrum of institutions that impact science, scientists, and the global food system. This team works to ensure IFT, on behalf of its members, is at the table where important topics are being considered and decisions made that impact our community, including ongoing participation in Codex Alimentarius. This team also articulates the case and promotes the need for funding of discovery and translational research in the science of food.
IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center is leading the conversation around traceability. Together with the World Wildlife Fund, with support from the Moore Foundation, IFT is leading the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, from which key learnings are emerging that can be used to develop new models and measures for traceability across the food system.
Finally, the game-changing documentary film commissioned by IFT, Food Evolution, continues to shine light on the importance of sound science in our global food system and the essential role our community plays in ensuring a safe and nutritious food supply. The film continues to expand in reach with new discussion guides and curriculum being developed to support its use in educational and institutional settings.
These are just a few of the many ways IFT is using its voice, and the voice of its members, to positively impact our profession and to work toward the audacious vision that we’ve established for our institute. And in this era of innovation occurring more rapidly than we can keep up, it has never been more urgent to speak on important topics like science with a clear and united voice and the collective authority of an independent community of scientists. I am truly looking forward to connecting with you next month in Chicago at IFT18. Let’s go far, and let’s go together.