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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 11 November
PRESENTER
TOM HEAP
Tom Heap
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Thursday 11 November 2004
A felucca on the River Nile
In the future could vegetables be replaced by vitamins delivered by nanotechnology?

Future Food

Superingredients and shelf-life extension, nutrigenomics and nutraceuticals, biosensors and biotechnology enchancements.  Whilst Radio Four listeners earnestly debate the pros and cons of organic and GM foods a swift flick through the pages of Food Chemical News or Food Engineering have rather different priorities.  They’re the house journals of the scientists developing the foods we’ll eat tomorrow and they hold out quite a few surprises…

Nutraceuticals are the first to hit the market.  L’Oreal is working with Nestle to produce foods that will ‘improve the quality of skin, hair and nails by supplying nutrients essential to their physiology’.  Kellog’s has cereals containing psyllium designed to lower cholesterol.  Scientists expect to be able to match diets to DNA within fifteen years.

Shelf-life is another area where advances have been rapid.  The US Army has developed a sandwich that stays fresh for seven years.  Packaging treated with carcinogenic chemicals like BHA and TBHQ is already keeping salads fresh for weeks.  High-pressure processing and pulsed electric-field processing are destroying bacteria and much else in our processed foods.  Kraft is even developing a packaging that can detect the growth of bacteria in a product and dose it with the appropriate anti-microbial agent.

And then there’s nanotechnology which opens the door for customisable food.  A milk shake which can be thinned or thickened by the drinker is ready to launch.  Ultimately radio frequencies or ultrasound could trigger the nanocapsules which determine the colour, smell or taste of our food and drink.

Are our natural fears about this tinkering justified or are the benefits in health and wealth so profound that we are fools not to feel excited?  ‘Costing the Earth’ investigates the cutting-edge of food technology.
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