The Age of Plenty

There’s a surging current of alarm that we’re headed for a food doomsday by 2050—that the world’s food-producing capacity will crash before population peaks at 10 billion. Don’t you believe it! Smart technology and better management policies will let us feed the hungry hordes to midcentury and beyond.

Scroll down to browse more than 20 stories that examine the link between technology and food, including views from experts like Keith Fuglie, Nathan Myhrvold and Pablos Holman, and Jeffrey Lipton and Hod Lipson.

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Introduction

We think of things like nuclear submarines and luxury cars as emblems of technological sophistication. But turn your attention now to an ordinary local supermarket in any developed country. It probably stocks 15 000 to 50 000 different products, including items like organic red quinoa and Tahitian vanilla beans.Read More

In the produce section are about 100 different kinds of fruits and a like number of vegetables. The packaged food section has snacks that are scientifically formulated to trigger addictive responses while retaining their freshness for months, if not years. And it’s all ridiculously cheap: A typical family in a developed country spends less than 15 percent of its disposable income on food.

We are rich in food beyond all prior dreams, and yet there’s a swelling chorus of worry that we are headed for catastrophe, as population growth and climate change threaten food security.

That anxiety is misplaced. It’s true that we need new technologies to grow more and better food using fewer chemicals and less land, water, energy, labor, and capital, while causing less damage to the environment. But as we show in this issue, it’s also a fact that those technologies are now being developed, tested, or applied all over the world. —The Editors


Part I: Growing It


Part II: Making It


Part III: Tracking It


Part IV: Future Food