Nurture: Harnessing Food Nutrition Paragon Through Tech
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First, it is vital to highlight that decisions made regarding health do not occur in a void. Whether physical or mental, they are affected by the policies and economic trends that unfold across different regions and the world. In this sense, the globalization of western diets, led by a small group of food companies, has made global food supply chains increasingly standardized. This uniformity has succeeded in producing accessible, cheap food (high in sugars, fats, and starch) at the expense of the cultivation and consumption of local and regional agrobiodiversity. However, currently, many supply chains are fueling major global movements emphasizing nutritional consciousness and recognition of the role of local food cultures in building more sustainable value chains.
This scenario showcases promising emerging technologies that could capture these ideals and improve global future nutritional models. While some solutions focus on the democratization of food awareness through education and mechanisms that can directly hack the nutritional value of marketed food through engineering techniques.
Technology can contribute to creating new behaviors regarding human relationships with food. To achieve food security in the coming years, it becomes essential to engage citizens in meaningful ways to better understand the challenges facing the current agricultural and food systems. For instance, about four out of five people across Northern Europe are not aware of the nutrients they consume in their daily diet, and this lack of nutritional knowledge is not representative of developing countries or poor households.
Further, finding sound nutritional advice can be confusing and overwhelming, especially with the rise of fake news. Confronted by this uncertainty, people might also rely on solutions that can help them achieve food security. In order to evaluate unwanted chemicals on their plates, consumers might soon be able to use portable devices such as Fiber-optic Biosensors or Nanotagging as resourceful tools to increase household food safety. All these innovative solutions are part of the food literacy movement that intends to help individuals develop healthy eating patterns, and prepare them to make wise decisions in relation to what they eat and consume. In short, in a world that implores urgent solutions to alarming crises, food literacy education could provide immediate health benefits to society overall and strengthen the relationship between citizens and the food system.
Human diets inextricably combine health and environmental sustainability. Climate change, for example, is making food less nutritious, leading to a possible future in which levels of zinc, iron, and protein are likely to be reduced by up to 10% by 2050. Current diets are threatening both the Earth's resources and people's health. Consumption of ultra-processed foods poses a risk of a variety of lifelong health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, microbiome disorders, and autoimmune disorders. Considering that new solutions are trying to achieve more nutritious and resilient food, concerns regarding health, safety, and environmental impact need to be further assessed.
New biofabrication methods, such as Stem Cell Manufacturing, have the ability to speed up cellular agriculture, cutting down on food production's immense space requirements and potentially creating more sustainable, animal-free versions of meat patties, milk, and other dairy products. In a world where lands will be destined to balance natural ecosystems, feeding the world’s population might become more challenging. The possibility of bioengineering lab-grown meals sheds light on solutions to innovate the way humans eat. In essence, the future of bioengineered food may disrupt the agricultural sector, meaning that traditional agriculture might not be needed at all.
A genuine, new nutritional concept requires a general and self-critical reflection on how we got to the “triple burden of malnutrition.” As climate change disrupts the agricultural sector, technologies must empower people to seek healthy alternatives to enhance their well-being in optimizing nutritional intake and stimulating local food practices. Food security means more than overcoming hunger — especially considering that the number of undernourished people in the world has been on the rise since 2015.
However, relying solely on food technology advancements might not be sufficient to overcome dystopian scenarios of hunger and malnutrition. In order to achieve more sustainable diets in the coming decades, we must nurture and protect biodiversity in parallel with the aim of feeding all of humanity. Humans, nature, and technology should relate to each other as an interconnected network, depending on the collective benefit gleaned from each individual part of its overall structure — thereby working like an anthill. The current modern diets underlie changes in human evolution, meaning that anatomical and cultural shifts may occur, similar to when societies became competent to domesticate plants and animals.
By maximizing food production through a series of "green revolutions," modernity produced impressive results to overcome food scarcity. However, across the globe, we are witnessing a new phenomenon: the absolute number of undernourished people continues to increase with more than 820 million people suffering from hunger. Chronic hunger, on the other hand, is a silent, invisible, day-after-day condition, quite different from famines that receive emergency-aid. Another variable at play is the “triple burden of malnutrition,” which implies that malnutrition appears in a variety of forms — not only hunger but also micronutrient deficiencies, as well as obesity. Therefore, in order to achieve global food security by 2030, society will need to improve its understanding of the drivers and processes that influence diets as a whole.