Palm oil is a major industrial commodity today. It is economical, versatile, immensely popular, and it is being produced in an increasingly sustainable way. An industrial feedstock in food and confectionery goods, cosmetics, detergents, and biofuels, it is also an important food source in large parts of the developing world.
But a number of factors suggest that the future lies in new oils. Rapid expansion of palm oil production has destroyed areas of the rain forest, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and eroding biodiversity. The planet cannot sustain ever-expanding production levels, which some project could nearly triple by 2050. And while in some food uses palm oil doesn’t require hydrogenation, its ubiquity in packaged foods still makes it a health concern in the developed world, where diets are high in saturated fats. Alternatives are required. Although sustainable palm oil and other vegetable oils are necessary elements in today’s oil portfolio, they are insufficient. Buyers, governments, and nongovernmental organizations need to accelerate initiatives to develop new oil sources. Keep Reading
On August 10, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture revised its estimated for this year’s corn crop, cutting it by nearly 17% due to the severe drought the United States experienced this spring and summer. And yet, this year’s corn harvest is expected to be perhaps the fifth largest on record. Recently, Kelly Hensel, IFT Digital Media Editor, spoke with Colin Carter, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis, to get his insight on how techniques, including genetic modification, have helped U.S. farmers meet increasing demands under extreme weather variation. In addition, Carter addresses the concerns surrounding GM crops. Listen to the interview on IFT’s ePerspective blog and don’t forget to add your opinion to the dialog by commenting.
Transgenic technology is a new high-tech tool developed by scientists to increase productivity and profitability of commercial food production, while at the same time increasing sustainability of food resources. Atlantic salmon is one example of such a nutritious limited food source. Our oceans cannot keep up with consumer demands for fish, a commodity that is not only highly sought after due to its culinary appeal, but is increasingly seen as healthy alternative to red meat. A transgenic line of Atlantic salmon (AquAdvantage salmon) was genetically engineered (GE) to grow faster by inserting an additional salmon growth hormone gene. The fast growth increases the annual output of aquaculture farms and also increases the efficiency of feed conversion (i.e., they need less food to produce the same amount of food compared with their slower growing, non-GE counterparts). Also, these GE-fish will be grown in contained, land-based facilities, preventing escape of the fish to the ocean and allowing general expansion of salmon aquaculture to meet growing demand without expanding the use of ocean net pens. Keep Reading
On October 16, the world will celebrate World Food Day, which is designed to increase awareness and motivate year-around action to alleviate hunger. In 2010, IFT published a Scientific Review discussing the importance of food science and technology in feeding a growing population. Recently, Kelly Hensel, Digital Media Editor at IFT, spoke with one of the main authors of the review, John Floros, to discuss this important global issue. John has worked in the food processing industry, was on the faculty at Purdue University, and since 2000 he has been leading the Department of Food Science at Pennsylvania State University. He is widely published, is currently a Member of the Science Board for the Food & Drug Administration, and a Fellow and Past President of IFT.
Professor of Food Process Engineering and Packaging
Head of the Department of Food Science
The Pennsylvania State University
I’m glad to be one of the Co-chairs of the Global Packaging Project (GPP), because it’s a revolutionary, collaborative effort between retailers and brand owners from around the world to address packaging and sustainability. We’re working together to create a shared language, metrics, and procedures to help all of us make more sustainable business decisions. The GPP is sponsored by the Consumer Goods Forum, an industry group that brings together the CEOs and senior management from 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries, which is truly impressive. Keep Reading
In a recent study, Wolfram Schlenker and I set out to develop a better statistical model linking weather and U.S. crop yields for corn, soybeans, and cotton—the largest three crops in the U.S. in production value. Corn and soybeans are of particular interest because they are really important for global food prices and the U.S. contributes about 40% of the world’s production of these crops, and a much larger share of world exports for these crops. The goal was to find the causal links between observed climate and yields so that we might predict how yields will change as the climate changes. Keep Reading
Voltaire once said that “common sense is not so common,” a statement that resonates as particularly true lately. In recent years, our modern food system has come under attack by people who may mean well, but they may lack the knowledge, experience, foresight, and/or historical perspective to understand its complexity and importance. Numerous popular press articles, books, movies, blogs, etc., use some truths, some imagination and seductively simplistic, sometimes even misleading, approaches to blame “industrial” agriculture and the “industrial” food system for many of the problems that afflict our society today—energy shortages, environmental degradation, climate change, obesity, diabetes, allergies, etc. My belief is that our modern food system is not perfect, but has served us well, and before we dispose of it, we better design the new one very carefully with creativity, innovation, knowledge, and the responsibility of making life better for present and future generations. As a scientist, I trust science and the progress and solutions it brings, but I also know that science alone will not solve all of our problems. Keep Reading
Food, as we all know, is so much more than a simple source of sustenance. And the process of delivering food to the consumer increasingly requires companies to be aware of issues of sustainability and social responsibility.
“Food is risk today; it is ethics today; it’s medicine; and it’s fuel,” said Sylvia Rowe, SR Strategy, Washington, D.C., speaking in a symposium (Session 013) on Sunday morning, June 7, titled, “The Convergence of Health and Wellness and the Environment: Drivers Behind Consumer Choice.” Keep Reading
IFT is a nonprofit scientific society of individual members working in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. The views and opinions posted on ePerspective are those of authors and these opinions do not necessarily reflect the positions of IFT.