Science Could Help Us Feed The World, If Only We Let It

At a university lab in the Netherlands, professor Mark Post is working tirelessly to perfect the world’s first lab-grown beef burger. If he is successful, beef lovers the world over will be able to eat a burger that is possibly more environmentally friendly and healthier than the real thing.

Whether consumers — already suspicious of so-called frankenfood — will ultimately accept an in-vitro burger is an open question. And the same goes for 3D-printed food. And nutrient-enhanced, genetically modified sweet potatoes, even though they could help solve malnutrition in developing countries.

All over the world, scientists and other innovators at universities and, yes, even corporations are toiling to develop technologies that they believe could help solve some of our modern food system’s biggest problems. But we as consumers have often rejected these possible solutions, sometimes forcefully, in the name of food we deem to be more natural to our diets.

Should we be so quick to do so? Though I didn’t specifically ask him during our recent interview, I’d guess Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economics professor at Oklahoma State University, would say no.

In his new book, Unnaturally Delicious, Lusk spotlights a number of innovations in the works — including all of the above examples — that could have a profound impact on the challenges we face as a food system. Mostly, he argues, for the better, though in many of the examples raised it’s too early to know for sure.

Below are highlights from our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

The book covers a range of examples where science and technology are being used to come up with solutions for problems in our food system. How did you choose them and what is the common thread between them?

Part of it was that these are the things that —> Read More