We’re having carpaccio of in-vitro beef on a bed of sliced tomato ketchup followed by inkjet printed sushi and laser baked inside out bread. For drinks we’ve got champagne that changes colour and flavour as the meal progresses, matching itself to each course. At the wilder end of techno-cuisine, chefs are thinking up ever more unlikely uses for technology. Taking it out of the white-coated empirical environs of the chemistry lab and into the sweaty, hot, crowded inner city kitchen. It’s one strand of the kind of future food we may be eating in 2061.

The second strand of future food is the hyperlocal foraged model exemplified by best-chef-in-the-world Rene Redzepi. His chefs scour the local coastline for edible wild food and the menu rigidly reflects what’s available nearby. A scaleable idea for much of Europe and an attractive one considering the stranglehold retail economics has on our fridges and freezers. The fact is that there’s free food all around us, trees dropping their fruit onto city streets for example not to mention the amount of food wasted and discarded by supermarkets and restaurants every day.

In the places where food is a daily problem such as Somalia, Malawi or Sudan however resources are exhausted or abandoned mainly through unrest and civil conflict. There is no free food to be had – anywhere. How to supply the people of these countries with wheat, corn, rice and soybeans (the foods that feed the world) is a challenge the world has been wrestling with for decades. The third version of future food is synthetic nutrition on an industrial scale. Vat grown meat, long lasting food polymers, further genetic modification of grains and purely chemical compounds could go a long way to supplementing sparse diets both as additives and as meals on their own such as those provided for past space missions.

Lab food will need some time to reach mass acceptability but at the high end it’s already happening, trickle down effect and urgent food needs could do the rest. It’s pretty clear that we can’t keep consuming the treasured western diet at present rates in the same form, we’re simply going to run out of water and grazing space for livestock. Terminator genes, monoculture practices and proprietory seed supply has all but destroyed the last vestiges of mom and pop farms. Huge corporate landscapes are the result and they provide the vast majority of what we eat.

Future food needs to be socially responsible, realistically priced and delicious. Get the best food scientists to design new foods, get the best chefs to come up with a global menu, get the best economists to work out a fair distribution system.

You heard it here first.

John Fass

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