One of the most eagerly anticipated applications of blockchain is that of the organic food industry. There have been numerous scandals involving certain types of food and a large question of product mislabelling. With increased numbers of people getting sick and suffering from allergies, the public is starting to wonder what really resides in the food they are eating, and are beginning to connect the dots between the increase of various illnesses and the impurities found in modern food. It was not long ago that the UK horsemeat scandal took place, and the Walmart blockchain could be symbolic of a more transparent approach to how food is traced.
Walmart blockchain trials a huge success
After people started getting sick from contaminated romaine lettuce, Walmart went further than simply removing the products from the shelves. They have been pilot testing food (mangoes, chicken, greens, etc.) on the blockchain for two years now, and are prepared to push it forward. On September 24th the company announced that all leafy greens will be recorded on the Walmart blockchain
All data can be displayed to a customer within 2.2 seconds simply by scanning a QR code, and the pilot tests indicated that food on the blockchain could significantly reduce waste. Within a year, suppliers will be expected to input all data on leafy greens supplied to Walmart. The Walmart blockchain was designed by IBM, specialists who have emerged as market leaders in supplying large-scale blockchain designs to companies and governments.
The initiative could save Walmart money. If another outbreak occurred, Walmart would simply recall the goods of the contaminated supplier instead of removing every single item. People will also feel far more comfortable buying a product where they can be sure that the information is correct. Healthy eating is now a massive business. It has gotten to a level where many are afraid of what they eat, given there is so much conflicting evidence on what healthy eating resembles.
Skepticism from some quarters
While many are proclaiming that these types of initiatives are going to result in a fairer society where everybody has a voice, some are expressing skepticism about what is termed political maneuvers. In many ways, it is just a database involving the same old actors, the ones who have consistently made and broken promises time and time again.
If companies and suppliers lie on labels, there is little difference from inserting wrong data onto the blockchain. And the Walmart blockchain was designed by IBM, for Walmart, two massive companies. A complete change of ownership may be a necessity to facilitate true change. Simply putting the word ‘blockchain’ on a database does not automatically mean that all evils are going to be removed. According to David Gerard, author of ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain’
“I can’t see how doing this in a blockchain data format will make this magical in any way. I think it’s mostly a P.R. move, so these companies can sell themselves as blockchain leaders.”
But all things considered, food on the blockchain is at least a step in the right direction. On balance, it will provide more transparency in the food sector so that customers are more informed. Spinach and lettuce are only the beginning; What people are really after is traceability of organic meat products. This has already been trialed in the UK by the FSA, and the trial was deemed a success.
Digital Nomad with an interest in Zen and Blockchain technology.
Law graduate with 3 years experience as a consultant in the capital markets industry and 4 years experience freelancing on UpWork as a Creative Writer.