There are not many things in the world that are as personal as the foods we eat. The “whys” behind our individual food choices may be made for reasons of health, religion, seasonality, or just because it looks or tastes good. In light of our deep and personal relationship to food, it can be challenging to see the intersection of food and technology as it relates to what ends up on your plate. Technology can and does improve many aspects of our lives – from transportation to communications and everything in between. And technology, as it relates to food, can mean greater accessibility, enriched nutrition, better flavor, improved safety and more.
Technology in its most basic element is the modification, use and knowledge of tools and systems that help solve a problem. One reason for the continuing focus on innovation and research when it comes to food is the goal of improving health and increasing the availability of wholesome foods. The addition of biology to technology adds a deeper element of the use of cellular and biomolecular processes. This might include using bacteria and enzymes to solidify the fat and milk proteins in cheese, or the chemical breakdown of the yeasts and bacteria in grapes to make wine or barley and hops to make beer. Modern biotechnology can also include genetic modification, changing the genes of an organism such as a plant or animal, to improve nutrition, enhance food safety, and protect food crops and animals. In the case of the Hawaiian Papaya, biotechnology helped eliminate the destructive ringspot virus that affected papaya-growing areas in Brazil, Thailand, Mexico, and India, Philippines, Hawaii and the southern region of China.
From the baking soda and vinegar volcanoes of youth science experiments to the high-level enological process of wine making that enables one to enjoy a glass (or two!) of red or white, science makes an undeniable and important impact on our lives.