Three Food Issues for 2013 That’ll Inspire or Depress You

What will 2013 bring?

2013: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

The health and food industry is in a weird spot.  On one hand metabolic disease rates keep accelerating, while at the same time premium health restaurants and expensive organic stores are creeping up at even faster rates.  Food is getting more expensive.

The way we consume food is bi-modally distributing itself into competing extremes: calorically rich, nutritionally sparse commercial food and premium cousine that has expensive preparation to maintain the tradeoff between health and taste.  It ain’t easy.

I get the impression most people are  dour about the state of our health.  People with important opinions mood-affiliate all over their pet causes, and the populace in general seems to be going further out of its way to re-connect with its bucolic roots.

Amidst all that, here are three important food and health developments that’ll leave a big footprint in 2013. (JMO, of course).

Personalized Genomics Hitting the Consumer Market

The field of genomics has undergone a reduction in costs and increase in processing power that’s leaving electronics in the dust.  Over the last ten years here’s the cost of genomics compared to Moore’s Law:

cost of genome sequencing
Slicing and dicing your DNA is getting pretty cheap.

Pretty remarkable stuff.

To put it in perspective, consider the following comparison:

The Human Genome Project began in 1990 with the goal of sequencing the entire human genome for the first time.  It took them 13 years and about 4 billion dollars to do it.

Today you can order a personalized DNA analysis from the biotech startup 23 and Me for $99.

Right now the information from these products is mostly academic, but exponential growth rates make industries pretty important pretty quickly.

The Politicization and Adoption of Genetically Modified Foods

Here’s how much transgenic organisms have penetrated staple cash crops in the last 20 years:

gmo crop adoption
The majority of major crops are grown with GMO’s

I imagine these numbers would surprise most people. Prop 37 is the first time the issue got formally politicized (at least nationally), but public opinion has become much more sensitive to the issue in recent years regardless.

Compared to other people in my niche I’m unusually pro GMO. They’re not evil, just unfamiliar.  I think the opposition to them is rooted in risk aversion, a violation of the divinity/impurity moral loci, and a chilly mood affiliation towards big corporations.  None of these are logically coherent arguments against the technology itself.

But never the less, their time in the spotlight is only moving in one direction.

In Vitro Food (ie, Test Tube Hamburgers!)

This one’s a bit speculative, but it looks like entirely synthetic meat might be released this year.  This is a curious issue because it divides two camps who usually march hand-in-hand:

  1. People who dislike meat because they think it’s unethical
  2. People who villify the modern food system because of its synthetic nature

Using property #2 to solve #1 is a bit ironic.

In many ways this is a piecemeal continuation of patterns that have been happening for many years, but to make the leap to entirely synthetic meat is a big leap.  The technology cultures stem cells that can be selectively differentiated into different cuts of beef.  When you consider its potential ramifications, this is the food industry’s equivalent of driverless cars.

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