Let’s Discuss: Does Food 2.0 Have a Place at the Table?

by Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed.org

The New York Times on Sunday (Aug. 24) ran an article by journalist Kate Murphy titled “Rethinking Eating.” It described what it called “Food 2.0,” technology-driven efforts to isolate nutrients and flavor elements, mainly from plants, to produce alternatives to naturally grown foods — particularly meats and eggs.

We at Good Food on Every Table hope you will share your opinions on Food 2.0 in the comments section below. Our goal is to compile comments into a subsequent post that will advance the conversation.

To get a sense of what this is all about … Murphy wrote, “Instead of the go-to ingredients previously used in animal protein substitutes — soy, wheat gluten, vegetable starches — Food 2.0 companies are using computer algorithms to analyze hundreds of thousands of plant species to find out what compounds can be stripped out and recombined to create what they say are more delicious and sustainable sources of protein.”

She added, “Meanwhile, in vitro meat producers … and researchers in Europe are using tissue engineering technology developed for medical purposes like growing skin and organs.”

The article notes that many people — and we’re guessing some of our readers would be among them — react to this better-eating-through-technology approach with horror. “This, of course, flies in the face of an entrenched local and artisanal food movement that has restaurant servers waxing romantic about where items on the menu come from and how they are prepared — the more natural and less processed the better,” Murphy wrote.

She quotes Good Food movement pioneer Marion Nestle — a New York University professor and author of Food Politics — as asking, “Why not just eat the vegetables?” instead of centrifuging out plant proteins for recombination into new types of food products. To the suggestion that preparing a balanced diet is complicated and labor-intensive, Nestle responded colorfully, ““Sex is messy and a lot of trouble, too.”

So — what do you think? Your comments would be greatly valued.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Does Food 2.0 Have a Place at the Table?

  • I had two immediate thoughts after reading this article: one, is that we often find the natural world to be infinitely more complicated than we can imagine, model and replicate. An example that comes to mind is the recent research being done on the human micro-biome and some early findings that babies born via c-section might be missing out on important bacteria picked up in the birth canal leading to later development of food allergies, digestive troubles, etc for the child. So, we humans, in the name of “progress” thought, “hey, no biggie, small incision and we’ll have this baby out in 30 seconds, no pushing needed! Let’s do away with those messy 3am births… how does 10am on Tues. work for you?” Oops! Perhaps arriving in this world via your mother’s birth canal (as we all have done since we came down out of the trees) actually serves some sort of purpose. That is to say, I find it hard to believe that making meat in a test tube won’t have some unintended consequences.

    The second is that, to me, going the route of test tube burgers and laboratory eggs signifies that we have given up. We’ve come to the collective conclusion that we simply CANNOT create a healthy, holistic system of food production that provides high-quality meat, poultry, fish and dairy produced in harmony with the land and water and with respect for the animals and people involved in that supply chain. Are we really that easily defeated? Does that seem like a satisfactory answer to most people?

  • Food 2.0 (food tech) should not be about test tube burgers and this kind of nonsense. Tech is valuable for how it can help connect farmers to eaters locally, how it can improve crop management and how it can reduce energy, water and chemical inputs. But we already have way more than enough fake food the our bodies don’t know what to do with. For an early model of this fake food trying to model nature, just look at baby formula – not even close to breast milk. Such a waste of valuable time, money and resources pursuing this fake food. Have we not learned anything from GMOs?

  • How interesting to hear two food stories this week at pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum… Food 2.0 vs Inspiring good health through cultural food traditions http://oldwayspt.org Very different people producing our food depending on which way we lean.

  • The capitalistic drive for profits combined with the hubris of scientists. Nature gives us complex foods to eat. High fructose corn syrup has led to one third of Americans being obese. Food 2.0, if adopted, would be an even larger disaster for our health.

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