I am concerned about the widely held public belief that technology cannot be trusted. This distrust is often vigorously fanned by journalists and articulated by highly visible personalities. What has happened to other technology-reliant industries is now also being experienced by agriculture and food manufacturing.
The terms “additive” and “processing” have taken on negative, almost Frankenstein-like, meanings with some consumers. Short of doing away with an established industry, the call is now for “alternative” practices. There is nothing wrong with that; maybe we should invoke a “precautionary principle” against such a change and thereby disallow it (as the Europeans do with genetically modified food).
A recent IFT scientific review—Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology—makes the point that we must forge into a technological future and not regress into a primitive, pristine, and oversimplified historic age.
This report must become required reading in all IFT-approved educational programs. IFT members must become familiar with this comprehensive review of what our profession stands for.
Almost all professions have their particular manifestoes, each being a public declaration of motive and intentions regarded as having some public importance. There can be no nobler intention than participating in “Feeding the World.” This document, probably the first time in IFT’s history, lays out the basic platform of what constitutes IFT’s areas of knowledge, which must be considered the basic and necessary intelligence to be aspired to by young food science professionals and proclaimed by all practitioners.
Even the general public, educators, policy makers, and all others need to be familiarized with what food professionals do. This report does it well and even highlights what we have done in the past. But it does not excessively glorify the profession with historic summaries; it merely points out that we are eminently qualified to deal with all impending crises, be they agricultural, environmental, social, or nutritional.
The report repeatedly stresses that food science efforts and achievements are no longer confined to the traditional areas of chemistry, microbiology, engineering, and nutrition; we now also claim some credit in other fields: genetics, agronomy, pest control, physiology, distribution logistics, to name a few. The new interactions with so many other disciplines should command immense respect for food science. It is truly an eclectic field of endeavor whose importance is noted wherever it touches. For example, the gradual intertwining of the food and pharmaceutical industries that began only a few decades ago is now in plain view as evidenced by “nutraceutical” products on the market, a new genre of publications, and novel food/drug consumption practices.
Another impact the eminent authors of this report are seeking is to communicate the concept of “technology.” And the time is ripe for that, indeed. A popular course has emerged at many colleges over the past 40 years under such titles as “Man and Food,” “Feeding the World,” “Food in Society,” and, in my case for three decades until retirement, “Food Facts and Fads.” All these and similar courses evolved during a time of gradual emergence of anti-technology views in all strata of human societies around the world. This report is the best rebuttal I have seen in this usually heated public debate on the merits of science and technology.
Early in my food science career as a student recruiter, adviser, and instructor, I never needed to assume a defensive stance toward our profession. For example, on the first Earth Day, in 1979, I gave a public lecture and proclaimed to the audience that technological tools would assure us a cleaner environment from which to extract air, water, and food. But eventually louder and louder anti-technology voices were heard in classrooms and elsewhere. Colleagues also heard them and we bemoaned the fact that all our textbooks were only descriptive and did not provide us with some sort of a “unified field theory” to rely on in this new age of people belittling, even attacking, achievements in science and technology, including food processing.
My enthusiasm for the report “Feeding the World” knows no bounds. I urge you to read it in the September issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1541-4337), to copy and disseminate it, and to integrate its message into your professional consciousness and practice.
by Manfred Kroger , Ph.D., an IFT Fellow, Scientific Editor of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety and Professor Emeritus of Food Science, Penn State University ([email protected]).