Bakers Journal

Features Nutrition Technical
Editor’s Letter: April 2016

Technology’s strange limits


March 21, 2016
By Laura Aiken


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Paul Hetherington, president of the Baking Association of Canada, brought up some chewy food for thought at a recent Ontario chapter event. Isn’t it strange, he mused in broaching the subject of genetic modification, how people seem to love technology in their communications, clothes, toys, and cars, but are far more questioning of its role in their food.

Few would suggest we go back to life before telephones, but there is a reasonable contingency that thinks maybe we should go way back and eat like our cave dwelling ancestors. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong, but if our ancestors could travel in time to the abundance that we enjoy in Canada I bet they would break that time machine and set up camp outside McDonald’s. It’s all a matter of perspective.  

Some seem pretty comfortable having their privacy invaded by facets of the Internet, but balk at the notion of technology (which brought us the Internet) invading the privacy of our food’s genes. One may argue that food is consumed for survival, and therefore more suspicion ought to be afforded to its manipulation. This is quite valid. Yet, what our minds consume also contributes greatly to the quality of our life, and today’s filter weaves a loose mesh. The perception of junk in our bodies seems far worse than junk in our minds. Why would that be? Most would agree that the two are irrevocably connected. The results of what we eat are more obvious than the effects of what we choose to read or hear. The effects of overeating are felt immediately, sometimes in a fairly unpleasant manner. Overdosing on random Internet junk can feel great. Perhaps as people get bombarded with a type of information obesity, they yearn for greater control over what their bodies are subject to.

When it comes to that which affects our bodies, everyone seems to have a different line for what they will consume. For some, there is no line, and that can surely be problematic for a number of health reasons. For others, they may say no to aspartame but not mind the idea of genetically modified food. The reasons behind acceptance of one but not the other are personal suspicions, and thus unclear. Aspartame and GMOs are both generally recognized as safe by the western scientific community. Another group may adhere to the Canada’s Food Guide and advice from dietitians. Another group subscribes to a highly clean living lifestyle that seems either too time consuming or too unpalatable to many. Many roam from one end of the spectrum to the other in the typical nature of human complexity.

In the end, we can only surmise why technology has the strange limits of acceptance it does. What we do know is that these limits have a tremendous effect on the baking industry. A technology that could help provide nutrition and a superior tasting product may still be rejected in the market on the basis of man’s hand in it, regardless of what benefits it affords. Or it may be accepted. Or it may be proven too risky to health or environment. Either way, it will alter supply and demand and thus prices. And in the end, many years down the road, some of today’s thinking about the world will be overturned as it has been so many times before. We could all be eating powdered pod food. But for today, as for the future and the past, one can only go with what the customer wants. And I have no doubt bakers will rise to the occasion.


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