We’ve seen how technology has greatly affected agricultural systems over the past decades with the green revolution’s GMOs, machinery, fertilizers, and sadly not in the best of ways. This article’s aim will be to visit how today’s new technology is affecting the food we eat on a daily basis. Here are five examples of how food has changed and the trends your food habits will follow in the years to come.
Farms often spread out over large areas, and farmers may find it difficult to keep track and monitor their productivity. Drones are becoming a popular alternative solution to additional farm hands or satellite-technology (see teledetection). The cheaper and more advanced technology is making the drones more accessible to all type of farmers. With drones, they can locate precisely where a diseased or damaged plant is, more accurately release their fertilizers and/or pesticides, and snap photos and have immediate information about a certain area of the farm. The collected data can then be analyzed with specific tools and programs in order to have more efficient and productive crops.
A report released in March 2016 by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said that drones could create 70,000 jobs after the Federal Aviation Administration approves commercial drones. But in farming, drones may replace more jobs than they create.
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
GMOs can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) who have seen their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally (by mating and/or natural recombination). (World Health Organization, 2016).
Genetically modified (GM) foods are developed – and marketed – because an advantage can be found either to the producer or consumer of these foods. Initially, GM seed developers wanted their products to be accepted by producers and have focused on innovations that bring direct benefit to farmers (and more generally the food industry). However, some GM seed developers like Monsanto (now Bayer) now have major control over today’s agriculture and tend to reduce its seed biodiversity. Although these seeds aren’t proved to be harmful to Man, Monsanto’s control over farmers’ seeds can become a threat when it comes to what they’re immune to: toxic herbicides which pollute the environment and Man.
USA. Three major commodity crops are raised predominantly from GMO seed: field corn (92%), soybeans (94%), and cotton (94%) (USDA, 2015). CANADA. Almost 98% of Canadian grown Canola is genetically engineered for herbicide resistance. U.S. sugar beet production is estimated to be over 95% genetically modified for herbicide resistance (Institute for Responsible Technology, 2017).
To feed the world’s rapidly-expanding population in the coming decades, either the produced food must be evenly distributed or agriculture must be more productive and waste less. Big data holds an important key for farmers, even though it can also become a weapon that could be used against them.
With the burden of figuring out how to feed the 9 billion people that will be on this planet by 2050, farmers find themselves in an uncomfortable state of flux. While they live every day knowing threats to food security are looming, they are caught in a profession often viewed as archaic and have struggled to progress in the 21st century.
And then Monsanto caught on.
Monsanto considered big data in agriculture to be worth multi-billion dollar investments, evidenced by their acquisition of several farm data analytics companies between May 2012 and February 2014. The technology has the potential to increase yield production considerably, and as we near an era of history wrought with more people and less resources, this makes farming one of the most important careers in the world.
The overwhelming fear is that it falls into the wrong hands, be it a neighbor, a seed retailer, a fertilizer company, or a big agriculture corporation. And then that data is used against the farmer by being sold to a competitor or undercutting a neighbor for a better deal on land prices.
« There were the pieces of the puzzle and nobody had the wherewithal to pull them together, so a false hope was provided and there was frustration on the part of farmers and managers. » –Dennis Buckmaster, Purdue University
Knowing that 40% of America’s food is wasted away each year, this percentage can drastically be reduced with the help of social media and new technology. Huge progress is being made with mobile apps and internet websites in order to put food back where it should be, in our mouths. Environmental initiatives are multiplying all over the world at the very moment you are reading this and it is important to encourage local projects to get them going and have a real impact.
On the way to 2050, food is becoming of greater concern to western like eastern civilizations. Farmers across the globe face an increasing amount of problematics linked to the rising population and climate change. The agriculture revolution has helped produce more but has it really helped feeding the ones in need? Today’s technology is solving the problem with an additional factor: the ecological footprint of the food that is to be produced.