“Engineering Food at Level of Molecules”

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The New York Times (which we seem to be reading a lot these days along with our usual favourites The Economist and the Financial Times) picks up on our recent report “Nanotechnologies for the Food Industry” and elicits a quote of “”Compared to nanotechnology, I think the threat of genetic engineering is tame” from Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Ronnie does have a point of sorts, although demonising the ‘nano’ component of food technologies misses the real point by a country mile. If I stroll around the corner to my local supermarket, it seems like half the stuff on the shelves is organic, from beef to soya milk, and if that’s not good enough there is a full blown organic market at Spitalfields every Sunday complete with hippie butchers and bakers who grow their own wheat and live in a windmill. As a result, anyone worried about the interaction of the modern world with their food can still live in central London rather than on a farm, and for hose who are less concerned I have every type of fast food and junk food from hamburgers to pakoras within a few minutes waddle.

Much of the world doesn’t have that luxury of choice, and if technology can help solve that, from golden rice to farmed salmon, then we should expending our energies in making sure that the ingenuity of the human race is used for the benefit of humanity rather than seeking blanket bans on technologies because we don’t understand them.

(The NYT piece is also reproduced in the International Herald Tribune without the graphics if you don’t want to register)

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