At the intersection of food and technology, you’ll find an interesting paradox. Although companies such as Monsanto would receive nothing but ire for announcing a genetically-modified yeast strain that could create a milk-substitute, when a Silicon Valley startup achieves the same result, the response is considerably less angry. Ask Muufri about it, as they just created that very strain of GMO yeast.
Over the past five years, Silicon Valley investors have pumped over a billion dollars into food technology, as explained in a recent National Geographic article. What exactly are they investing in, besides GMO yeast? Well, egg substitutes, 3-D meal printers and meat replacements, for starters.
Could the Silicon Valley generation, the epitome of the Millennials, a generation obsessed with locally-sourced, fresh-as-possible fare really be interested in creating artificial foods? It seems like an interesting paradox, but when you pull away the layers, the truth is less surprising than one would guess.
The secret lies at that intersection. Monsanto would be vilified for that yeast strain because it would be seen as a move for profits. The Silicon Valley entrepreneurs position themselves as innovators fighting a litany of ills, including global poverty, unsustainable processes, animal cruelty and environmental decay. Considering their reputation of improving the world through technology, it makes sense that the normal consumer would cut a technology innovator some slack.
However, in order for Silicon Valley to truly take the food industry by storm, they will need to convince natural-food advocates that the social benefits of such technologically-created foods outweigh the risks. They must prove that their products are safe, environmentally-sustainable and, above all, delicious, or risk facing a divided front when trying to sell their products in a growing GMO-free market.