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The age of plenty [Issue intro.]

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Summary form only given, as follows. We think of things like nuclear submarines and luxury cars as emblems of technological sophistication. But turn your attention now to an ordinary local supermarket in any developed country. It probably stocks 15,000 to 50,000 different products, including items like organic red quinoa and Tahitian vanilla beans. In the produce section are about 100 different kinds of fruits and a like number of vegetables. The packaged food section has snacks that are scientifically formulated to trigger addictive responses while retaining their freshness for months, if not years. And it is all ridiculously cheap: A typical family in a developed country spends less than 15 percent of its disposable income on food. We are rich in food beyond all prior dreams, and yet there is a swelling chorus of worry that we are headed for catastrophe, as population growth and climate change threaten food security. That anxiety is misplaced. It is true that we need new technologies to grow more and better food using fewer chemicals and less land, water, energy, labor, and capital, while causing less damage to the environment. But as we show in this issue, it is also a fact that those technologies are now being developed, tested, or applied all over the world.

Published in:

Spectrum, IEEE  (Volume:50 ,  Issue: 6 )