Food and Technology

Authored by: David M. Kaplan

The Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138809130
eBook ISBN: 9781315745503
Adobe ISBN: 9781317595502

10.4324/9781315745503.ch4

 

Abstract

Everything we eat has been grown, raised, or processed using technologies. Even ancient forms of farming and ranching used man-made things to transform plants or animals into food. Foraging for food without technologies is, of course, possible – but unless eaten raw, we require some technology. The diet of a typical city-dweller, a group that includes over half the world’s population, would be impossible without technologies of production, distribution, and preparation. It is safe to say that without some kind of technology everyone in the world would starve to death. Yet technology and food are like chalk and cheese, at least according to common perception. They represent the poles along a continuum of life: one is organic, the other inorganic; one is natural, the other artificial; one is edible, the other inedible; one is wholesome, the other corrupting. Technology, on this reckoning, is viewed as the antithesis of everything having to do with food. The more technology is involved in our food, the worse it is; the less it is involved, the better.

 Add to shortlist  Cite

Food and Technology

Everything we eat has been grown, raised, or processed using technologies. Even ancient forms of farming and ranching used man-made things to transform plants or animals into food. Foraging for food without technologies is, of course, possible – but unless eaten raw, we require some technology. The diet of a typical city-dweller, a group that includes over half the world’s population, would be impossible without technologies of production, distribution, and preparation. It is safe to say that without some kind of technology everyone in the world would starve to death. Yet technology and food are like chalk and cheese, at least according to common perception. They represent the poles along a continuum of life: one is organic, the other inorganic; one is natural, the other artificial; one is edible, the other inedible; one is wholesome, the other corrupting. Technology, on this reckoning, is viewed as the antithesis of everything having to do with food. The more technology is involved in our food, the worse it is; the less it is involved, the better.

The question is, which technologies are acceptable and which are problematic? Which should we endorse and which should we oppose? And what exactly is wrong with technologically mediated food: measurable effects on health, safety, and the environment, social-political problems, or something less determinate and more visceral? This chapter attempts to sort through different frameworks for understanding what technologies are, and how they relate to the food we produce and consume. The argument is that basic assumptions of the nature of technology color our perception of how it affects our food. First, we will consider different theories of technology; then we will apply each theory to food production and food consumption.

Three theories of technology

There are three main theories on the relationship of technology to society: neutrality, autonomy, and social construction. That is to say, philosophers have interpreted technology either as: (a) a neutral tool that is independent of values, ends, or purposes; (b) an autonomous force of social change that is increasingly beyond our control; or (c) a man-made thing that influences the social and natural worlds which, in turn, influence the course of technological development. Most of us believe in one or some combination of these theories. Let us briefly consider each in order.

Technological neutrality

The theory of technological neutrality defines technology in terms of its technical properties. Technology is seen as applied science. It embodies a pure, abstract, universal rationality, i.e., a rationality governed only by natural laws and technical considerations that are independent of social forces. What matters most in a technology is that it works, so this line of argument goes, and what works can be determined objectively according to universally valid and scientifically established principles. The technology itself is simply a tool. It can be used for a variety of human ends and purposes. It is neutral with respect to values and purposes. There is no such thing as morally good or bad technology, only good or bad users. The technology itself obeys only value-free, context-free principles. It is precisely this indifference to ends that makes technology so practical: when it works, it works everywhere, and when it breaks down, it can be fixed the same way, by anyone with the right technical know-how. The same standards, the same rules, the same techniques, and the same concept of efficiency govern the creation and use of technologies.

The theory of technological neutrality states that artifacts are independent of values. Things are mere instruments for human activities. Technology is value-neutral; human users are not. According to the theory of neutrality, devices are subservient to human choices. They are mere means to our human ends. The neutrality of technology assumes a complete separation of (technical) means and (human) ends. Technical objects and human values have nothing to do with one another.

Technological autonomy

Next is the theory of autonomous technology, the idea that technology is out of control. According to this theory, humans no longer control technology – instead, it controls us. It is an independent force that follows its own rules and imperatives. Humans merely respond, adapt, and conform. Technology imposes a way of life on a society: everything is technicized. Technical efficiency is the only end in a technological society. In fact, that end is built into things so that users have no choice but to adopt a technicized lifestyle. Technology constitutes a new cultural system that restructures the entire social world as an object of control. It is an independent cultural force that overrides all traditional or competing values. Everything about life in such a world is technological.

Closely related is the theory of technological determinism, the idea that technology drives the course of history. Devices and machines rather than people are the primary engines of change. The strong version of technological determinism maintains that there is a fixed sequence of technological development and, therefore, a necessary path of social change. Technology imposes specific social-political consequences. Society responds more to technology than technology to society. For example, we say that the atomic bomb ended World War II, automation caused a loss of jobs, and the Internet has changed the way we do business. We are all familiar with the well-worn theories about the printing press and the Reformation, and the cotton gin and the Civil War. In these cases, the technology is the primary agent of change, not humans.

The weak version of technological determinism states that technology influences social relations. It helps to shape and pattern history, but this imposition is not so strong as to determine the course of technological progress and social evolution. Technology mediates and steers a society, but it does not quite drive it; it exerts influence without strictly causing specific effects.

Technological constructivism

Finally, the social construction of technology is the idea that society simultaneously shapes technology as technology shapes society. Humanity and technology are situated in a circular relationship, each influencing the other. Social constructivists maintain that when we actually consider the diversity of things we find technologies (plural), no singular essence that applies in every instance. Humans make, use, and assign meaning to things in a variety of ways, in relation to a variety of social contexts. Far from being applied science, technology, on this model, is more like embodied humanity. Technologies are part human, part material, and always social. The advantage of viewing technology in this way is that it calls attention to the way that humanity, technology, and the environment are bound up together in a relationship of mutual constitution. Humans, things, and contexts all fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

From the perspective of constructivism, the theories of technological neutrality, determinism, and autonomy all suffer from the same weaknesses. They each treat technology as if it were something radically different from humanity; they take the technical qualities of things to be their most important characteristics; and they overlook the obvious fact that if a technology is made and used by a person, then it cannot help but reflect human ends, values, and ideas. Constructivists insist that technology cannot be value-neutral because people are not value-neutral; technology cannot determine history because it never is so independent from society to be in a position to cause it; and technology cannot be an autonomous force because technology is a human affair, not a mere technical matter.

The social construction approach tries to show how technologies are inextricably bound to human interests, social practices, physical laws, and a very long list of other constitutive factors. Above all, technologies are flexible and responsive to our intentions and desires. We can design whatever purposes and values we like into our things.

Technology and food production

That food production depends on technologies is uncontroversial, but we get a very different picture of how man-made things relate to our food according to which theory of technology we adopt. If technology is seen as neutral, then so is its relation to food production. The nature of the products, not the nature of production, is what matters. On the other hand, if technology is seen as autonomous, then the entire system of production – including the forms of life related to it – reflects technical imperatives. Or if technology is seen as a social construction, then its role in food production is subject to contingent social choices. In other words, there is no simple answer to questions about how technology relates or should relate to food. It depends on how one fundamentally understands what man-made things are.

To illustrate the point, let’s consider three kinds of technology-intensive forms of food production – industrial agriculture, factory-farmed animals, and highly processed convenience foods – each understood in light of different theories of technology.

Neutrality and food production

On a neutrality model, food production is evaluated in terms of its consequences. The concern is about the product, not the technology – with the ends not the means. The means themselves are neutral, even separable from the ends. Granted, there might be trade-offs that might weigh for or against a technology/system, but the machinery itself is indifferent to the outcome. The only choice is to take it or leave it; adopt a set of technologies or reject them; or set a boundary around them and limit how far they should extend. But transforming or reforming the technologies is not an option on this model, because there is nothing to reform if technology is applied science.

Industrial agriculture would not be possible were it not for several key technologies and technological systems. These include systematic plant breeding, monoculture crops, fossil-fuel energy, farm machinery, synthetic-nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, irrigation, processing, and long-distance transportation of both bulk raw and processed foods. The benefits of Green Revolution agricultural technologies are efficiency, higher yields, increased productivity, greater availability, improved distribution, economic development, and lower prices. The costs include a litany of harms: energy use, pollution, and climate change; wasted drinking water; chemical wastes in soil and water; deforestation and desertification; soil erosion and loss of biodiversity.

The industrialized production of livestock, poultry, and fish has many of the same benefits and harms associated with intensive farming. The benefits of factory farming animals for food include efficiency, high yields, widespread availability, low prices, and contributions to local and national economies. Among the harms are the abuse of animals, environmental hazards, health risks to farmworkers, and food-safety problems. Industrial livestock production uses vast amounts of water, fossil fuels, inorganic fertilizers, and field machinery. The environment surrounding factory farms is often heavily polluted by animal wastes and offal that foul the air and seep into groundwater and surface waters.

Food processing is a vast category that includes pasteurizing, canning, freezing, irradiating, artificially sweetening, and in vitro techniques; use of food additives and artificial ingredients designed to help prevent spoilage and contamination or to make food look and taste better; and the inclusion of dietary supplements with nutritional properties, such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, herbs, or enzymes. We find a similar litany of costs and benefits in processed foods as we do in other industrialized food production. Among the benefits of food processing are improved preservation, increased distribution potential, fortification, consumer choice, and convenience. Among the harms and risks often associated with processed food are reduced nutritional value, adverse health effects, pollution, and an increased amount of energy expended in processing.

On a neutrality model, the technologies of factory farming and food processing are typically not questioned. They are either accepted or rejected wholesale in favor of extensive (sustainable) production methods, humanely pastured animals, or whole and natural foods. Either way the focus of discussion – if one truly maintains a consistent theory of technological neutrality – is on the consequences of use, not the devices themselves. We find an implicit theory of neutrality in the discourses of risk assessments, cost–benefit analyses, and environmental impact assessments.

Autonomy and food production

On the model of autonomous technology, food production is seen as an example of “technological rationality”: a mindset that takes a detached, objective, and overly scientific view of the world. According to this approach, the problem with food production is that it is part of a worldview that treats everything as nothing more than mere objects to be controlled. The detached objectivity of technological rationality is at best limited, at worse alienating. It disconnects us from the world and from each other. While this rationality may be useful for dealing with legitimate technical matters, food production has historically been more than a mere set of technical problems with technical solutions. The more we rely on technology for food production, the more alienated we become from the land and from each other.

The theory of technological autonomy evokes Romantic themes of man versus nature, life out of balance, and the desire to restore lost harmony with nature. On this reckoning, connection with nature is good and alienation from it is bad. When it comes to food production, the technology only makes things worse. We find this take on technology in the local food movement and in much of the organic food literatures, as well as in other calls to eschew industrial agriculture and processed food in favor of sustainable living and traditional cooking and farming methods (Petrini 2006).

We also find this grim view of technology in the agrarian literature. Agrarianism stresses the role of farming and ranching in the formation of moral character and in preserving culture and traditions. By living a rural lifestyle connected to the climate and soil, we acquire a sense of identity and place that can only come about by direct contact with the land. Agrarianism was an early-20th-century response to the social and environmental costs of industrialization and urbanization, premised on the conviction that social life, food production, and the health of the land are inseparably related. That is to say, communities and the environment thrive only when farming is done properly; both suffer when farming is done poorly. The agrarian narrative celebrates the virtues of an agricultural lifestyle, such as care for the land, animals, and each other, and calls for them to be recovered to mitigate the social and economic blight, pollution, and destruction of traditions brought about by large-scale industrial agriculture (Freyfogle 2001; Wirzba 2004).

This agrarian narrative often animates the discourses that criticize new technologies, such as genetically modified food, in vitro meat, nanotechnology, and other technical solutions to social and environmental problems. The problems we face, according to agrarianism, are due to increasingly complex technical systems that are geared toward efficiency, higher yields, profit, and convenience. Farming is made worse by industrialization; factory farming is even worse because it treats animals, not just natural environments, as mere things to be managed and manipulated; and highly processed foods represent the full fruition of technologically mediated food production. Industrialized farming, animal, and food production are bad not because of the consequences but rather because they involve too much alienating technology. The solution is, of course, to try to live more wholesome, natural, and simple lives free from artifacts and chemicals. Farming should be more extensive and traditional, animal husbandry more humane, and food should be recognizably food. However, the only choices on this model are either to accept or reject the technologies, never to modify them in such a way as to make the related practices and lifestyles more desirable.

Social construction and food production

The constructivist model treats technology as a social construction that interacts with other social forces rather than as a neutral tool or autonomous entity with its unique rationality. Technology is now seen as interdependent in relation to society rather than independent of it. Food production on this account is inseparably related both to its technologies and to its social-political use context – or political economy, to put it in Marxist terms. The best way to understand the relationship between food and technology is to examine the conditions that lead to the development of a food-production enterprise and the conditions under which it functions. There we typically find a standard set of agents and circumstances: economic imperatives, political realities, and environmental and technological constraints. Predictable capitalist forces drive and pattern food production – yet it is also shot through with contingencies that frustrate attempts to find unchanging rules.

The technologies used in industrialized agriculture should be understood as a series of countless yet related choices. Major choices of things like agricultural machinery for planting, fertilizing, and irrigating typically require compatible machinery for harvesting, sorting, and loading. Related technologies of transportation, distribution, and infrastructure must also be compatible. The choices are not based entirely on concern for cost and efficiency; nor are they completely arbitrary. Instead, machinery reflects a range of preferences specific for a particular farm, farmer, and product. They have to all fit together. That said, the range of choices is always limited by a few constants, above all the national, often international, political economy. Profit motives, expanding markets, and business models are relative constants, as are the typically competing interests of workers and owners. This conjunction of agriculture, technology, and political economy holds for large-scale industrial, small-scale sustainable, and for both advanced and developing nations.

Animal production is no different. One cannot make sense of the design of a confined animal feeding operation or slaughterhouse apart from the political economy and contingent social contexts in which it operations. On a constructivist understanding of technology, things are designed with ends, purposes, and interests. That means things can be designed differently with different values built into them. For example, the humane or harmful character of a factory farm is literally built into its design. It is not a matter of merely using the confinement operation or gestation crate for good or bad purposes. Although a humane gestation crate might be a stretch (and more of an example of something to be accepted or rejected outright) humane living conditions are not. The design features of a livestock facility are what largely (but not entirely) promote animal welfare. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition. The technologies that make up the facility minimally should be spacious, safe, heated, ventilated, sufficiently lit, and stimulating among other design features. Yet if the facility caretakers act irresponsibly or without compassion then the animals will still not live in humane conditions, no matter how well designed the building is. Technologies on a constructivist model do not determine events; but, they play an important role.

The production of heavily processed junk foods is similar. The mass production and distribution of convenience foods with long shelf lives would not be possible without 20th-century advances in manufacturing, packaging, and food science. In many ways, this class of foods is an entirely technological product. The ingredients themselves typically come from places that bear no resemblance whatsoever to the natural world. Yet even the most artificial processed food is shaped by social considerations, market forces, and regulations. As a result, the relationship is complicated and more than a matter of simply embracing or rejecting this class of food, which includes defensible things like pasteurized milk, canned beans, and emergency meals distributed to refugees and victims of natural disasters.

There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about the technological character of highly processed foods. Yet these food are intrinsically technological, so any modification of a food item to make it better in some way that benefits the public good (tastier, healthier, safer) will inevitably require some kinds of changes in the technological character of its production, i.e., design change. The social ends and technological means are linked on a constructivist model.

Food consumption and technology

Consumption raises a unique set of questions concerning the relationship between food and technology. Namely, food is eaten, and we tend to treat edible things somewhat differently than we do inedible things. Most of us are wary about what we put into our mouths. We tend to be conservative about strange and unusual foods. Yet our food is often filled with artificial ingredients and processed in ways most of us would find unappetizing. Most of us would prefer to eat wholesome, natural foods to high-tech foods filled with additives. Surveys show that both American and European consumers are overwhelmingly willing to pay more for healthy foods, particularly those grown on farms that care for the land (Eurobarometer 2014; W. K. Kellogg Foundation 2012). People value foods that are natural, clean, and traditional; we are skeptical about certain kinds of technological processes and additives. The question is, which technologies and additives, and for what reasons are we skeptical?

Neutrality and food consumption

On a neutrality model, the salient issue is the consequence of ingesting technologies along with our food. Let’s take artificial ingredients to be the test case – particularly the long list of unpronounceable additives found in highly processed convenience foods. There are a number of good reasons why artificial ingredients are good to put into food. Most of them are practical and technical issues food manufacturers and distributors have to contend with, such as preservatives to prevent spoilage, or replacement vitamins and minerals lost in processing. The consequentialist arguments claim that the benefits of artificial ingredients outweigh whatever other harms they might pose. In other words, the technological element in food is neither intrinsically good nor bad. It depends on what its effects are.

Artificial ingredients can make food safer, better looking, and better tasting. They can add sweetness without adding calories, give reduced-fat foods the texture and mouth-feel we have come to expect, offset color loss due to storage conditions, and prevent crystallization in food products. In other words, they can make food more enjoyable to eat. They can also be beneficial. For example, Plumpy’Nut, a nutrient-enriched peanut butter used to treat severe acute malnutrition, has made famine relief far more effective than it has ever been. Food with additives can also be fortified to be more nutritious. Enov Nutributter is a nutritional supplement intended to fortify the diets of children after they stop breastfeeding. It provides missing nutrients in children ages 6 to 24 months to aid in their motor and cognitive development.

The vast majority of artificial ingredients are safe to eat. Regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and UK Food Standards Agency, study, monitor, and regulate all food additives to ensure their safety. In the US a food manufacturer must seek FDA approval to make a new food or color additive and provide evidence that a substance is safe. From a consequentialist perspective, artificial ingredients either improve our food or do no harm.

Then again, there might be occasions when artificial ingredients either pose risks or have some other adverse effects that outweigh their benefits. For example, the consensus among nutritionists is that highly processed foods – the kinds of convenience foods that only exist because of artificial ingredients – should be avoided (Nestle 2007). These foods are high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar, and they provide little nutritional value. Most processed convenience foods contain additives that should either be avoided or eaten in moderation (Center for Science in the Public Interest 2015). Some additives, particularly food colorings, pose risks to children. The UK Food Standards Agency recommends that parents eliminate food colorings from the diet of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) maintains a list of food additives and colors that pose risks for infants and very young children (EFSA 2015). Recently, the European Commission requested that all authorized food additives be systematically evaluated by the EFSA. There are legitimate concerns about the safety of many food ingredients, particularly for infants and children.

Autonomy and food consumption

On a model of technological autonomy, the conjunction of food and technology is never a good thing. Artificial ingredients are seen as impurities that endanger our health and erode our well-being. These impurities are bad in themselves, not because of any consequences. It is simply better to be as natural and pure as possible. The more natural foods we eat, the more healthy and balanced our lives will be. Food, according to this Romantic ideal, should have organic origins and be free from additives and excessive processing. People, food, and the environment are all connected in the act of eating, provided we eat the right foods in the right way. Artificial foods, with artificial ingredients produced by industrial facilities, disconnect us from our food and from each other. The closer we are to our food sources, the more in touch we are with a vital part of our health and our communities. The further we are from our food sources, the more alienated we are. At the risk of over-simplifying: connection is good, disconnection is bad. It is better to be connected to than cut off from our food. Technology gets in the way.

Michael Pollan’s food writing relies on a Romantic theory of technological autonomy. He makes a strong distinction between wholesome natural foods (tied to a traditional diet) and unwholesome processed foods (tied to industrialized production). The reason that traditional diets are healthier and better for the environment is because they treat food as more than its chemical parts. It is always a part of a diet and a lifestyle. His oft repeated mantra is to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” – to eat the kinds of things our grandparents might have grown up eating and to avoid new developments in agriculture and food processing. Food is culture, not science. For Pollan, a broad, holistic view of food is good, and a narrow, reductivist view is bad (Pollan 2009). This is another version of a critique of technological autonomy.

Social construction and food consumption

On a constructivist model, the good and bad, beneficial and harmful character of highly processed food is a function of several different factors, not merely the presence or effects of food additives. Whether it is better not to consume foods laden with technologies will be relative to circumstance. It depends what the artificial ingredients are, what purpose they serve, how often consumed, what other technologies and practices are related, and if the food manufacturer deserves to be supported. Answers to these questions can help explain what it is that makes Plumpy’Nut so much more justifiable than some cool-ranch, bacon-flavored snack food.

Consider a simple point: not all artificial food ingredients are the same. The FDA’s main classes include preservatives, sweeteners, color additives, flavors and spices, fat replacers, nutrients, emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners, pH control agents, leavening agents, anti-caking agents, humectants, yeast nutrients, dough strengthener and conditioners, firming agents, enzyme preparations, and gases (FDA 2010). Is it the case that all of these are problematic simply because they have chemical-sounding names, or are some more problematic than others? The intrinsic arguments (of technological autonomy) against artificial ingredients hinge on their man-made, artificial character, which inherently worsens food. The extrinsic arguments (of technological neutrality) hinge on the consequences of eating them. Presumably, if the bad consequences could be lessened or removed there would be no reason to avoid artificial ingredients. Of this class of ingredients that are extrinsically bad, some seem to be worse than others. Preservatives, food dyes, sweeteners, fat substitutes, and artificial flavors tend to be the ones we have qualms with, either because they have health risks or are part of deceptive schemes to make food appear better. Emulsifiers, thickeners, nutrients, anti-caking agents, and the rest are less controversial.

Yet the moral valence of food technologies depends on how informed consumers are and how accurately food is labeled. Each of us is responsible for what we purchase and eat, provided we have choices. If food ingredients are labeled accurately, then it is the consumer’s responsibility to make informed choices whether or not to consume foods with additives. However, if the best available science can establish long-term harms to the habitual consumption of legal food ingredients, then producers bear some responsibility, as well. Children, of course, need special protection since they are unable to make informed decisions about their well-being.

But adults need special protection, as well, from ingredients whose effects we cannot reasonably be expected to understand. Although adults should know the effects of eating too much fat, sugar, and salt, we cannot be expected to know that certain combinations of these ingredients are addictive, as mounting evidence seems to indicate (Parker-Pope 2012). Nor can we be expected to know that certain artificial flavors are designed to entice us to eat more than we would with a naturally occurring, non-synthesized flavor. Addictive foods and ingredients should be labeled. They are part of deceptive schemes to which people can never in principle consent.

Finally, because artificial ingredients are produced by the food industry in large-scale industrial complexes, it is reasonable to questions whether their use deserves your support, or if should be eschewed in favor of more ethical alternatives. This is an industry that very aggressively creates a favorable sales environment for its products. It does so by lobbying political representatives to eliminate or not enforce unfavorable regulations; by co-opting nutrition experts by supporting favorable research; and by marketing and advertising, often to children who are unable to read ads critically (Nestle 2003: 95–136). Sometimes the food industry succeeds in producing and publicizing goods that people actually want and need; other times its means are less honest and serve to deceive people into thinking they want and need things they really do not. The success of the food industry is due less to consumer demand than to its own efforts, even force. The deck is stacked in their favor. Or to put it another way, foods made by mom-and-pop producers typically do not have artificial ingredients in them; foods made by multinational food companies do. That may be reason enough to avoid their products on ethical grounds.

Some artificial ingredients, in conjunction with various market and political forces, play a key role in the health-related problems associated with a high-fat, high-sugar diet. Without artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives, unhealthy Western-style convenience foods would likely be consumed far less. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 35% of adults are overweight, 11% obese. Sixty-five percent of the world’s population lives in countries where being overweight and obese cause more deaths than being underweight (WHO 2015). The causes appear to be urbanization, sedentary forms of work, and a diet of energy-dense foods high in fat. Food technologies make unhealthy foods available and thus enable unhealthy lifestyles. On a model of autonomous technology, the artificial ingredients are responsible for making our diets worse. The product itself is the problem. On a constructivist model, these technologies are simply one, albeit vital, part of a vast web of actors, things, and events that make up food production and consumption.

Conclusion

We’ve seen how the models of technological neutrality and autonomy fail to do justice to the contingent, flexible, socially embedded character of man-made things. A constructivist model is a better way of understanding what technologies are and how they relate to food production and food consumption. To say technologies are constructed realities moves us away from scientific and technical considerations into the mangle of social life and political economy. It lets us see the relationships between food and technologies as contingent, open-ended, and flexible. If things were designed in a particular way, they can be designed differently. Farms, livestock facilities, and food-manufacturing plants large and small involve countless man-made things. Most of these things are neither problematic nor crucial; most are innocuous parts of a larger whole.

The key to an insightful analysis of their relationship is to identify precisely which technology networks are essential for what particular kind of food production, and how the technological component can be changed for the better. Granted, technological modification alone is not going to reverse climate change or bring about perpetual peace, but at least it is something that is reasonably within our control. Any designs we might collectively have to improve global food and agricultural systems will have to be designed into production. It is a daunting task but it can be made easier the sooner we reject the idea that technologies are either neutral or autonomous and recognize the social dimensions of our technical choices.

References

Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Chemical Cuisine,” viewed 15 July 2015, http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm.
Eurobarometer. (2014) “Europeans, Agriculture, and the Common Agricultural Policy,” Eurobarometer 80(2), viewed 26 May 2016, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_410_en.pdf.
European Food Safety Authority. (2015) “Food Safety: From the Farm to the Fork,” viewed 15 July 2015, http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/oldcomm7/out06_en.html.
Food and Drug Administration. (2010) “Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives, and Colors,” viewed 15 July 2015, www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/.
Freyfogle, E. T. (ed.) (2001) The New Agrarianism: Land, Culture and the Community of Life, Washington, DC: Island Press.
Nestle, M. (2003) Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Nestle, M. (2007) What to Eat, New York: North Point Press.
Parker-Pope, T. (2012) “Craving an Ice Cream Fix,” New York Times, 20 September, viewed 15 July 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/craving-an-ice-cream-fix/.
Petrini, C. (2006) Slow Food Revolution: A New Culture for Eating and Living, Rome: Rizzoli.
Pollan, M. (2009) In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, New York: Penguin.
Wirzba, N. (ed.) (2004) The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and Land, Berkeley: Counterpoint.
W. K. Kellogg Foundation. (2012) “Perceptions of the U.S. Food System: What and How Americans Think about their Food,” viewed 15 July 2015, http://www.wkkf.org/resource-directory/resource/2005/09/perceptions-of-the-us-food-system-what-and-how-americans-think-about-their-food.
World Health Organization. (2015) “Obesity and Overweight: Fact Sheet No. 311,” viewed 15 July 2015, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/fs311/en.
Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.