10 Questions with Claire Massey

<p>Claire Massey, editor of <em>The New Zealand Land &amp; Food Annual</em></p>

Claire Massey, editor of The New Zealand Land & Food Annual

1. What’s the focus of this year’s edition of The New Zealand Land & Food Annual?

This year we’ve focused on food, and more specifically the ‘food system’, which means seeing food production in the context of water, agricultural production and all the other inputs and outputs that we rely on to get ‘lunch on to the table’.


2. What sort of writers did your approach to be contributors?

As we did last year with the inaugural volume, we were keen to have all sorts of commentators involved – researchers, scientists, people from industry and from interest groups. The message we want to get across is that there are multiple views, and in a complex area like this there are no ‘right’ answers to any of the important questions we face as a country and as a planet.


3. Did some of them surprise you?

I was again surprised (and delighted) by the willingness of people from outside the university to write a chapter. Anyone who has agreed to write a book or a chapter knows that it is harder than it looks and takes roughly twice the time that one has allowed for it. But everyone who agreed to take part delivered their chapters and provided thoughtful and insightful commentary. The result is a volume which offers multiple perspectives on a problem (or more accurately put, a set of related problems) that have no easy answers and where no one area of science has all the answers. These are the problems that are often described as ‘wicked problems’, i.e. that are difficult to solve because the solution needs to deal with different parts of an integrated system which might be incomplete or have competing or contradictory requirements. This term comes from the social sciences and is the perfect description of a problem that is the opposite of easy (or ‘tame’).


4. Tell us about one thing that you discovered while editing it.

I learned lots given that all the authors are talented communicators who are able to explain complex issues simply. As a consumer I really enjoyed the chapter by Ravi Ravindran which debunks some popular myths about chicken meat. This is a must for anyone who eats chicken – or knows someone who does!


5. Why is this book vital reading?  

We all have a responsibility to be informed about important issues, whether they are concerned with the economy, society and/or the environment, but most of us only have an understanding of a small part of the overall picture. No one will become an expert after reading this book, but I am certain that every reader will learn something new. Not only will the content be new to many, but the reader can also rely on the expertise of the editors, who have deliberately selected a range of views on the topic that complement each other. I hope the reader will be stimulated to find out more.  


6. What is Massey University’s contribution in the sustainably- and nutrition-based agriculture space? 

Agriculture and food are Massey’s legacy as well as a big part of our future. From the first days as Massey Agricultural College we have focused on the best ways to produce safe food in sustainable ways. As the world has changed over the last 85 years the content of what we teach and research has changed, but not this core commitment to safe food for all. We have depth and breadth in this area, with scientists and researchers operating in all of the different areas that go into the production of safe food. As we like to say, through our own world-class scientists and their extensive international networks we cover everything involved in food – from molecule to mouth.



7. Is it the most important conversation New Zealand can have?

Let me answer that like this: the challenge facing us all is to provide nutritional security to everyone in ways that have the least negative impact on the environment possible, while at the same time maintaining the standard of living that we have all come to expect is a right when we live in a modern society. I can’t think of a more important question than this!


8. What do you hope readers will learn from this edition of The New Zealand Land & Food Annual?

That it is possible (and necessary) to engage in the conversations that we talk about here. I hope they will feel better equipped to talk about some of the key areas that we excel at in New Zealand – whether it be seafood or Manuka honey. And I hope they will feel inspired to seek out more information and share this with friends, family and neighbours.


9. Will there be a 2018 edition?

I hope so – with the first two volumes we have only scratched the surface of the conversation, so there is enough material to go on for years.


10. What are you reading at the moment?

I am looking forward to reading Protecting paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife by Dave Hansford. He is passionate about the need to communicate science effectively so that a nation’s citizens can engage in constructive debates about issues that affect us all.