December 27, 2011

Robb Wolf on the future of food

Paleo proseltyzer Robb Wolf has penned an article in which he highlight some changes to food that we could see in the coming decades, and how they could affect you and I as paleolithic lifestylers. In the article, Wolf asks, "can ‘Big Agri’, ‘Big Pharma’, and food technology make paleo obsolete?" His response:
Clearly not at the moment, but what about in the future? Consider foods precisely tailored to our individual genetic profile, and perfectly reproduced in 3d organic printers. Or even assembled at a cellular level by nanotechnology. And if these ‘printed’ meals were better for us, how many of us would choose to consume them? What if meat was made obsolete?Do you think we’d be forced to give up consuming animals, by ‘ethical groups’?

So, is paleo about optimal nutrition, or a natural way of life? Must there be a tradeoff? Perhaps we can use technology to enhance our Palaeolithic foods? For example, genetically identical grassfed beef, but grown in a vat (in vitro) from samples taken from cattle. All fine and good, but would the paleo orthodoxy accept it? Would we trust the FDA if they labelled it ‘safe’?

And what about foods with almost identical nutritional profiles to our favourites, but in strange shapes and colours (to appeal to the kids and the vegans perhaps)? Would you give your children something that in every way resembled and tasted like a chocolate bar, but had the nutritional payload of wild Alaskan salmon? I think I would.

In the nearer future we’re supposed to see the coming to market of a second generation of ’transgenic foods‘ (another word for genetically modified). Their composition would be altered, supposedly to promote health benefits. For example, foods with ‘boosted additives’ such as antioxidising agents that are actually bred into the cellular structure of the food, not mixed in later as an additive. Just the way that antioxidants in nature work.

So to take this further, would Mr/Mrs Paleo eat a transgenic, antioxidant enriched bagel that’d been authentically stripped of the lectins, gluten, nasty carbs and whatnot? What if it tasted like chicken? What if it was good for you? What would the point of paleo be then?

Yeah, it could all get a bit weird for us.

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