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In the fascinating story of the sustainable food revolution, an environmental journalist and professor asks the question: Is the future of food looking bleak--or better than ever? "In The Fate of Food, Amanda Little takes us on a tour of the future. The journey is scary, exciting, and, ultimately, encouraging."--Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth In the fascinating story of the sustainable food revolution, an environmental journalist and professor asks the question: Is the future of food looking bleak--or better than ever? "In The Fate of Food, Amanda Little takes us on a tour of the future. The journey is scary, exciting, and, ultimately, encouraging."--Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat, and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world's population is expected to grow another 30 percent by midcentury. So how, really, will we feed nine billion people sustainably in the coming decades? Amanda Little, a professor at Vanderbilt University and an award-winning journalist, spent three years traveling through a dozen countries and as many U.S. states in search of answers to this question. Her journey took her from an apple orchard in Wisconsin to a remote control organic farm in Shanghai, from Norwegian fish farms to famine-stricken regions of Ethiopia. The race to reinvent the global food system is on, and the challenge is twofold: We must solve the existing problems of industrial agriculture while also preparing for the pressures ahead. Through her interviews and adventures with farmers, scientists, activists, and engineers, Little tells the fascinating story of human innovation and explores new and old approaches to food production while charting the growth of a movement that could redefine sustainable food on a grand scale. She meets small permaculture farmers and "Big Food" executives, botanists studying ancient superfoods and Kenyan farmers growing the country's first GMO corn. She travels to places that might seem irrelevant to the future of food yet surprisingly play a critical role--a California sewage plant, a U.S. Army research lab, even the inside of a monsoon cloud above Mumbai. Little asks tough questions: Can GMOs actually be good for the environment--and for us? Are we facing the end of animal meat? What will it take to eliminate harmful chemicals from farming? How can a clean, climate-resilient food supply become accessible to all? Throughout her journey, Little finds and shares a deeper understanding of the threats of climate change and encounters a sense of awe and optimism about the lessons of our past and the scope of human ingenuity.


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In the fascinating story of the sustainable food revolution, an environmental journalist and professor asks the question: Is the future of food looking bleak--or better than ever? "In The Fate of Food, Amanda Little takes us on a tour of the future. The journey is scary, exciting, and, ultimately, encouraging."--Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth In the fascinating story of the sustainable food revolution, an environmental journalist and professor asks the question: Is the future of food looking bleak--or better than ever? "In The Fate of Food, Amanda Little takes us on a tour of the future. The journey is scary, exciting, and, ultimately, encouraging."--Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat, and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world's population is expected to grow another 30 percent by midcentury. So how, really, will we feed nine billion people sustainably in the coming decades? Amanda Little, a professor at Vanderbilt University and an award-winning journalist, spent three years traveling through a dozen countries and as many U.S. states in search of answers to this question. Her journey took her from an apple orchard in Wisconsin to a remote control organic farm in Shanghai, from Norwegian fish farms to famine-stricken regions of Ethiopia. The race to reinvent the global food system is on, and the challenge is twofold: We must solve the existing problems of industrial agriculture while also preparing for the pressures ahead. Through her interviews and adventures with farmers, scientists, activists, and engineers, Little tells the fascinating story of human innovation and explores new and old approaches to food production while charting the growth of a movement that could redefine sustainable food on a grand scale. She meets small permaculture farmers and "Big Food" executives, botanists studying ancient superfoods and Kenyan farmers growing the country's first GMO corn. She travels to places that might seem irrelevant to the future of food yet surprisingly play a critical role--a California sewage plant, a U.S. Army research lab, even the inside of a monsoon cloud above Mumbai. Little asks tough questions: Can GMOs actually be good for the environment--and for us? Are we facing the end of animal meat? What will it take to eliminate harmful chemicals from farming? How can a clean, climate-resilient food supply become accessible to all? Throughout her journey, Little finds and shares a deeper understanding of the threats of climate change and encounters a sense of awe and optimism about the lessons of our past and the scope of human ingenuity.

30 review for The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A entertaining of informative look at our future food sources, and the new technology bring developed. It opens with a chicken pie room, yes a whole room dedicated to making chicken pie in a bag. These ready made, easy to prepare meals have a market that will surprise. Robots that can thin lettuce and spray chemicals on only the weeds. The myths and realities of all the chemicals used, as well as the truth about GMOs. Takes us to Kenya, and the resistant strains of corn they are planting in answe A entertaining of informative look at our future food sources, and the new technology bring developed. It opens with a chicken pie room, yes a whole room dedicated to making chicken pie in a bag. These ready made, easy to prepare meals have a market that will surprise. Robots that can thin lettuce and spray chemicals on only the weeds. The myths and realities of all the chemicals used, as well as the truth about GMOs. Takes us to Kenya, and the resistant strains of corn they are planting in answer to the droughts they are experiencing. To China where they are struggling to feed their large population amidst runaway pollution, and sprawling cities. Climate change and how it is changing in our world and the effects on our food sources. An orchard where temperature swings are decimating the fruit drops. As the world struggles to offset all these problems, many are working on the technology to do so. Let's hope they are successful. A timely and though provoking read. To be honest, a little scary as well. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book explores what the future holds for food in the face the uncertainties and problems such as population growth, climate change, and water shortages. Beginning with existing problems such as waste, undernutrition, overconsumption, and harm to biodiversity, the book proceeds to explore various proposed new technologies that may provide improved food production and nutrition. The book acknowledges both positive and negative opinions as it describes the new technologies. The author, Amanda L This book explores what the future holds for food in the face the uncertainties and problems such as population growth, climate change, and water shortages. Beginning with existing problems such as waste, undernutrition, overconsumption, and harm to biodiversity, the book proceeds to explore various proposed new technologies that may provide improved food production and nutrition. The book acknowledges both positive and negative opinions as it describes the new technologies. The author, Amanda Little, notes that people with strong opinions on issues about food divide into two camps; the deinvention camp and the reinvention camp. The deinvention group wants to undo modern agriculture and go organic with smaller scale traditional methods. The reinvention group is in favor of exploring all options that offer better nutrition produced with improved efficiencies in the use of water, pesticides and reduced carbon footprint. The author is conciliatory toward these two sides of the debate, so readers with a strong opinions will probably remember the parts they want to hear. For me, I prefer seeking ways to improve efficiencies, production volumes, and sustainability. Thus one of the comments I remember from the book is that people who condemn all GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food are disregarding scientific evidence just as much as the climate change deniers. I don’t have space in this short review to list all the technologies examined by the book. Thus I’ll mention several that captured my attention. One is Memphis Meats which is developing a technology that produces meat using bioreactors (i.e. no animals involved). We’re not talking about the vegetable based Impossible Burger. We’re talking meat that is identical to muscle tissue at the molecular level. It may be possible someday to manufacture meat in a bioreactor with a smaller carbon footprint than the traditional animal method. And it can be eaten with a conscience free of knowledge that an animal had to die to make the meal. There is brief mention the use of algae as food in aquaculture. I know from past reading that algae can produce hundreds times more organic material per given area than any conventional crop grown in soil. However, extraction of the algae from water requires too much energy to be of practical use. It occurred to me that if aquaculture can raise fish capable of eating algae it would be one way to harvest the algae growth without needing to dewater the algae. There was brief mention in the book that Golden Rice failed to achieve its goal of supplying sufficient vitamin A. NOT TRUE! The fact is that wide distribution of Golden Rice could significantly reduce the incidence of vitamin A deficiency (VAD). Use of the rice has been opposed by anti-GMO people (Greenpeace in particular). Their opposition is contributing to VAD experienced by up to 190 million children, 19 million pregnant women in 122 countries, and 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness (per 2005 study). I wish this book had elaborated on that issue. Amanda Little finishes the book with the following conciliatory comments:There will be trade-offs. The underpinnings of our food system—the methods and tools and techniques future farmers use to grow fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins—will change, in some ways subtly and in other way radically, in order to continue growing the traditional foods we love. We’ll need passionate grassroots activists who continue to protect those traditions, and stronger state and federal policies that guide farmers toward smarter, more efficient practices. We’ll need robust networks of local, organic, small-scale farms, but also large-scale industrial farming, done better. We’ll need smart fish farms and AI-enabled robots and good GMOs and CRISPR’d crops just as much as we’ll need to safeguard heirloom plants. We’ll need rich, healthy topsoil, but also the data gathered from intelligent sensors planted beneath the surface. We’ll need new scrappy little start-ups and old, big food companies pulling and pushing for a third way approach to sustainable food production that serves everyone, not just the wealthy elite. We’ll need to push the bounds of technology with a better understanding of where it has failed us. We must innovate—with humility.There's a role for everybody including both deinventionest and reinventionest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The Fate of Food is a tremendous piece from award-winning environmental journalist Amanda Little and explores novel ideas and advancements we may have to take up given the world population is constantly rising and we are also facing threats to the planet such as global warming which will have a big impact on our food production capabilities. What we need is a sustainable way of producing food and the race to discover it is on. This is intensely thought-provoking and written in a relaxed, convers The Fate of Food is a tremendous piece from award-winning environmental journalist Amanda Little and explores novel ideas and advancements we may have to take up given the world population is constantly rising and we are also facing threats to the planet such as global warming which will have a big impact on our food production capabilities. What we need is a sustainable way of producing food and the race to discover it is on. This is intensely thought-provoking and written in a relaxed, conversational style which held my attention well and was both informative and entertaining. Ms Little details various methods to overcome these issues throughout the book and the ideas and information is solid and interesting. It opened my eyes to problems and possible solutions to the crisis we are now heading towards, and it is clear that Little has extensive knowledge of the subject as well as being incredibly passionate about it. Some of the methods are more than a little contentious, but this is a superb book that grapples with ideas we may need to seriously consider implementing in the future. Topical and highly informative, I learned a lot about agriculture and surrounding issues. Many thanks to Oneworld Publications for an ARC.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    I was half expecting another doom and gloom book about how global climate change and big ag and their chemicals, pesticides and GMOs are destroying the Earth. There was some of that but this book contained so much more! It is a well-researched look at what is being developed to help cope with our changing world and how we grow and provide food for our burgeoning population. Amanda Little's writing style is very readable: it's in depth as she covers each topic but not dry or overly scientific. I I was half expecting another doom and gloom book about how global climate change and big ag and their chemicals, pesticides and GMOs are destroying the Earth. There was some of that but this book contained so much more! It is a well-researched look at what is being developed to help cope with our changing world and how we grow and provide food for our burgeoning population. Amanda Little's writing style is very readable: it's in depth as she covers each topic but not dry or overly scientific. I found it all very interesting and really learned quite a bit. Things are definitely hopeful for the future. I received an arc of this new book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the author for this important information.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

    The first way is the crummy way that we've always done things -- wasteful, exploitive, short-sighted, brainless. The second way is an attempt to remedy the first way by the joyless application of a thousand new rules, regulations, and prohibitions, to the point of criminalizing acting with normal levels of human self-interest. The third way is, apparently, the unleashing of profit-driven creativity and new technology to remedy the problems created by the first way. Will the third way actually work? The first way is the crummy way that we've always done things -- wasteful, exploitive, short-sighted, brainless. The second way is an attempt to remedy the first way by the joyless application of a thousand new rules, regulations, and prohibitions, to the point of criminalizing acting with normal levels of human self-interest. The third way is, apparently, the unleashing of profit-driven creativity and new technology to remedy the problems created by the first way. Will the third way actually work? I just finished reading a different good book that basically said that the third way is a bunch of pie-in-the-sky poppycock. Since I tend to agree with the last smart person I talked to, I was somewhat skeptical of the repeated invocations of the third way in the book I am reviewing here. However, the previous book also said that the rich people of the world needed to understand that they had to take less from the rest of us, a mass realization that seems unlikely to get any real traction in the foreseeable future, absent a wave of organized mass murder. This is a book that chronicles a bunch of third-way solutions for problems which, in a more reasonable world than our own, would not be necessary, because we would have already gotten together and agreed not to foul our own nests any more than we have done already. Since the human race is apparently incapable of doing this, however, third-way solutions may be the best of the bad remaining options. So, for example: First way: Nine billion mouths to feed. Second way: Force rich people to pay more for food than poor people. Third way: Genetically modified foods. First way: Spray a crapload of weedkiller on everything. Second way: Forbid weedkiller, live with food shortages Third way: Invent a robot that can kill weeds while leaving useful crops alone. First way: Screw up the environment so that we cannot grow things outside. Second way: Move food production to more hospitable climates, invading them if necessary. Third way: Create food that will grow food inside. First way: Eat meat a lot. Second way: Count on prohibitive cost to limit demand Third way: Grow meat in a laboratory First way: Throw away a lot of food needlessly. Second way: A patchwork of foodbanks and well-meaning individuals. Third way: Spraying stuff on food to make it appealing-looking for longer. First way: Fail to maintain a literally leaky infrastructure that loses an astounding quantity of water on its way to your faucet. Second way: Pay higher taxes, dig up streets ceaselessly Third way: Be Israel. First way: Depend on rain from clouds. Second way: Shake your head sadly over increased rates of farmer suicides. Third way: Seed clouds (not actually an effective solution). First way: Feed soldiers from mobile kitchens. Second way: Meals, Ready-to-eat. Third way: Print food on a 3-D printer. I liked this book. It had interesting ideas, and seemed to say that all was not lost. The wisdom in this book seemed to be similar to the wisdom that I read in other books, which comforts me because it helps me believe that the wisdom is actually wisdom and not just wishful thinking. For example, some of the ideas in the chapter on water overlapped with the ideas in another good book I read on the topic. I chose to believe that, instead of the two authors being joined in a conspiracy to pull the wool over the eyes of a doomed world, they had researched the topic of the future of water mindfully and independently of each other, and had reach similar, cautiously optimistic conclusions. A fun fact: “... no food safety outbreak in the United States has ever been traced to a food being consumed past [its sell-by] date” (Kindle location 3168). A fun quote from a social psychologist: “Accepting recycled wastewater is kind of like being asked to wear Hitler’s sweater. No matter how many times you clean the sweater, you just can’t take the Hitler out of it” (Kindle location 3509). A less fun, but interesting, quote from a high-tech food entrepreneur: “Food is the fossil fuel of human energy. It is an enormous market full of waste, regulation, and biased allocation with serious geopolitical implications” (Kindle location 4267). And a final word from the author herself: “It’s far more likely than not that there will be enough food for all of us, and that we’ll protect and preserve our food traditions” (Kindle location 4325). I was given a free-of-charge egalley copy of this book for review. Thank you to Netgalley and Crown Publishing for their generosity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amie

    I can’t say enough about how excellent and essential this book is. If you think you know just how bad things are for our food supply, you don’t. Maybe you believe that your veganism or shopping local helps. It’s precious little. But the best thing about this book is not its pessimistic read on reality, it’s the hope it provides for the essential marriage of technology, innovation, ecological responsibility, and a reclaiming of ancient methods. As a whole, all of these approaches together can ens I can’t say enough about how excellent and essential this book is. If you think you know just how bad things are for our food supply, you don’t. Maybe you believe that your veganism or shopping local helps. It’s precious little. But the best thing about this book is not its pessimistic read on reality, it’s the hope it provides for the essential marriage of technology, innovation, ecological responsibility, and a reclaiming of ancient methods. As a whole, all of these approaches together can ensure real zero-waste and holistic use of multi-level, systemic farming in which every vertical tier and eco-system sustains another; and it can all be done while restoring our planet to a sustainable level. If you fear GMO this book will enlighten you. If you believe local farming is the answer, this book will educate you. If you are anti-tech, this book will expand your horizons. And if you just want to understand more about the future of food and what kind of creativity, inventiveness, historical research, and hard work is going into making sure food lasts as long as our species, you will adore this book. I came away hopeful, but also motivated to make a difference in reducing food waste in my community. This is an incredibly readable, page-turner of a resource. You will be rapt at the same time you are informed. That’s a rare accomplishment!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Shields

    An important read for everyone. It acknowledges the severity of climate change impact on food sources as well as addresses issues such as food waste and nutrition quality. However I thought the narrator was annoying and often painfully ignorant which made this book a less enjoyable read. Additionally I did not like how she chose to only investigate extreme science endeavors that are often looked at as risky. While the extreme science is cool and interesting to read about, I wished she would have An important read for everyone. It acknowledges the severity of climate change impact on food sources as well as addresses issues such as food waste and nutrition quality. However I thought the narrator was annoying and often painfully ignorant which made this book a less enjoyable read. Additionally I did not like how she chose to only investigate extreme science endeavors that are often looked at as risky. While the extreme science is cool and interesting to read about, I wished she would have at least addressed the less risky science efforts being made to improve crop nutrient use efficient, drought tolerance, and soil improvement. Finally, the third issue I had was that I found the narrator justified the illogical arguments that allow people to distrust experts ( i.e the scientists, farmers etc.). Ultimately if you are involved in agriculture and in science as I am, you will likely get get annoyed by the tone of this book just as I did. However I still think it is an important read for everyone.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    A fantastic book. Amanda has done extensive amounts of research and investigation into the world of food, and addresses some of the most pressing questions current and future generations will have to face. The book is informative, fascinating, and fun to read, and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Me

    This book was sent to me free of charge in return for an honest review. Although this book is not an easy read it is very informative and current. I appreciated the fact that it wasn't all doom and gloom about the current state and future of our food. Indeed, the reader will learn of many new techniques, many using technology, which will sustain our food system into the future. I also thought the author's inclusion of photos not only helped with her explanation of processes and technology but al This book was sent to me free of charge in return for an honest review. Although this book is not an easy read it is very informative and current. I appreciated the fact that it wasn't all doom and gloom about the current state and future of our food. Indeed, the reader will learn of many new techniques, many using technology, which will sustain our food system into the future. I also thought the author's inclusion of photos not only helped with her explanation of processes and technology but also livened up the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marilee

    This book describes the evolution of the way we eat food and predicts the direction the world is going in nutrition. It had some unexpected viewpoints - that GMOs aren't always bad and processed food has its benefits, and I could see the points the author was making. I'm somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to food. I like the old ways of growing, cooking, and preserving. I'm a scaredy cat when it comes to the changes we're making in the world of nutrition, and I wish the author had addres This book describes the evolution of the way we eat food and predicts the direction the world is going in nutrition. It had some unexpected viewpoints - that GMOs aren't always bad and processed food has its benefits, and I could see the points the author was making. I'm somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to food. I like the old ways of growing, cooking, and preserving. I'm a scaredy cat when it comes to the changes we're making in the world of nutrition, and I wish the author had addressed the health side more than she did, but I felt that I learned more and expanded my viewpoint a bit by reading this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Justus

    From the beginning of the introduction, I already felt some trepidation that this wasn't going to be the book for me. There is a certain style of long-form writing that is almost memoir-like. The author becomes a primary character in the story and the writing becomes more about the journey they go on to reach a new understanding than anything else. Some people love that kind of non-fiction. This book spends more time talking about the farmers than about science. But that wasn't the book I was hop From the beginning of the introduction, I already felt some trepidation that this wasn't going to be the book for me. There is a certain style of long-form writing that is almost memoir-like. The author becomes a primary character in the story and the writing becomes more about the journey they go on to reach a new understanding than anything else. Some people love that kind of non-fiction. This book spends more time talking about the farmers than about science. But that wasn't the book I was hoping to read. I was hoping for something that would be dense and scientific and teach me about the profound ways in which the the food we eat would need to change. Instead, the first chapter is about how....we won't need to make any changes to the apple industry because farmers will just adopt new technology. In the second chapter, farmers in Africa...won't need to make any changes because they'll just adopt new variants of their existing crops that are more drought- and disease-resistant. After two chapters you're thinking...okay, so nothing is going to really change. That's....a bit disappointing. And if that's not the story Little wanted to tell...why is that the story of the first one-quarter of the book? I came into this expecting stories of...I dunno....how corn -- America's biggest crop -- wouldn't grow in America after 2050 because global warming means the corn-belt moved up to Canada. Or how Japanese wouldn't be able to eat sushi anymore because all the fish are gone as China becomes richer. Or how Asia can't eat rice anymore because it is too water-intensive for the hot, dry, crowded world of 2060. I just made all of those up. But those are the kind of things I was hoping this book would be full of. Instead we get anecdotes like how she was interviewing a farmer in Africa and they asked her to adopt one of their 10 children and take them back to America. And it was awkward. So she fumbled in her purse and gave them $25, which was enough to pay for a semester of primary schooling. Uh, okay? What's that got to do with "the fate of food"? Why is she making herself part of the story? Other people might enjoy that style but it wasn't for me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura Ghitoi

    One of the best books I have ever read. It is so well packed with stories, information, emotion and impact that it's hard to not feel engaged by this book to contribute to the food challenges it presents. I loved that the author consciously presented more sides to the same story, for instance the Monsanto seeds or organic farming. The truth has often times many facets, and this book aligns well with this principle. I have underlined so many quotes that it's hard to pick a favourite, but hopefully One of the best books I have ever read. It is so well packed with stories, information, emotion and impact that it's hard to not feel engaged by this book to contribute to the food challenges it presents. I loved that the author consciously presented more sides to the same story, for instance the Monsanto seeds or organic farming. The truth has often times many facets, and this book aligns well with this principle. I have underlined so many quotes that it's hard to pick a favourite, but hopefully I will do that soon once I let all this information get absorbed by my brain. If you are the tiniest bit interested in the fate of food, the sustainability of our food practices and some hopeful solutions, I highly recommend you read this book. It's worth your time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Wallis Greenslade

    An INCREDIBLY slow read by me. However, that’s not to say that it was the fault of the book, although the second half I found infinitely more engaging with a deeper insight into the author’s personal perspective and experience. Good book, heaps of fascinating cases that helped me map out further my understanding of the current, past and future food systems of our finite earth. As a marine biologist, I was particularly taken with the description of aquaculture as a leading option for sustainable An INCREDIBLY slow read by me. However, that’s not to say that it was the fault of the book, although the second half I found infinitely more engaging with a deeper insight into the author’s personal perspective and experience. Good book, heaps of fascinating cases that helped me map out further my understanding of the current, past and future food systems of our finite earth. As a marine biologist, I was particularly taken with the description of aquaculture as a leading option for sustainable protein, and really enjoyed Little’s conversation with Norwegian salmon farmer about how and why our world is changing, and the niche that marine and freshwater polyculture can potentially fill in our fridges. Recommend, but apparently you’ll need to dedicate circa 9 months to reading it, so do prepare adequately. 🤦‍♀️

  14. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    This book is well written and researched. The author traveled far and wide to provide a look into what is currently being developed due to challenges from global warming. Each chapter deals with a different topic ranging from reestablishing ancient foods with some modifications, food waste, water, 3-D printed meat to creative crop growth strategies. It will be interesting to see which approaches gain momentum over the next few years and provide sustainable and affordable food for large populatio This book is well written and researched. The author traveled far and wide to provide a look into what is currently being developed due to challenges from global warming. Each chapter deals with a different topic ranging from reestablishing ancient foods with some modifications, food waste, water, 3-D printed meat to creative crop growth strategies. It will be interesting to see which approaches gain momentum over the next few years and provide sustainable and affordable food for large populations. I recomend this book for those looking for more information on the future of our food supply in a challenging, changing enviroment. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook and Twitter pages.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt Lieberman

    When most of us in the wealthier pockets of the world think about the negative consequences of global warming, we often fixate on rising sea levels, massive storms, droughts, and other catastrophic weather events that can destroy homes and wipe out populations. These concerns are completely warranted, but as Amanda Little illustrates in her insightful new book The Fate of Food, our warming and crowding planet will also pose some large problems to the global food supply across all regions and inc When most of us in the wealthier pockets of the world think about the negative consequences of global warming, we often fixate on rising sea levels, massive storms, droughts, and other catastrophic weather events that can destroy homes and wipe out populations. These concerns are completely warranted, but as Amanda Little illustrates in her insightful new book The Fate of Food, our warming and crowding planet will also pose some large problems to the global food supply across all regions and income levels. Food production is forecasted to decline across the next several decades due to drought, changing temperatures, flooding, and less productive land and the world population is projected to 9.8 billion by 2050. In The Fate of Food, Little offers a tour of global food production innovations and highlights the various people, technologies, corporations, and organizations acting to help mitigate these issues and shape the future of what we’ll eat in the decades to come. The book is structured around major innovation topics, including vertical farming, farming and harvesting robots, and meats produced in petri dishes. Little’s quest takes her across the world including stops in Norway, Silicon Valley, and Kenya and this globetrotting allows her to provide a rather comprehensive overview of the future of food across the world and not just limited to WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) nations, which is especially valuable given the increasing interconnectedness of our global food chain. Little, a journalist who has written about energy and the environment for over 15 years, does an outstanding job of distilling complex scientific concepts such as how cloud seeding works and how seesawing temperatures impact crop biology into digestible prose. The Fate of Food is also more than a science lesson and features some fun facts (including that Winston Churchill apparently foresaw the development of cultured meats in petri dishes in 1931) and profiles of some of the quirky and passionate personalities at the frontlines of food innovation including an aspiring Chinese organic food tycoon and Chris Newman, who overcame a tough upbringing in Southeast Washington DC to become a programmer at the Department o Homeland Security and then quite his job and become a permaculture farmer using traditional techniques of food production. The title is a bit misleading, as Little showcases efforts to actively change the future of food and a dismal food future is by no means circumscribed. The Fate of Food is not a book-length warning siren and although Little clearly argues that maintaining the status quo will have some severely negative consequences she also offers up reasons for optimism based on the cutting-edge technologies showcased in her writing. Given that discussions of topics such as global warming and food consumption can become incendiary and have passions take priority over the facts and peer-reviewed scientific research, Little’s even-handedness is very refreshing. She is certainly a concerned global citizen who cares about our food future, but she does not have an agenda to push and she’s a realist throughout. It is illustrative that Little recounts dalliances with veganism and other movements that ultimately lost out to concerns over cost and convenience (and the delicious barbecue of her home state of Tennessee). The Fate of Food presents a platform for both sides of the issues on subjects like GMOs and she relies on the opinions of experts and cites respected studies, while also granting exposure to dissenting voices. Rather than wholeheartedly endorse traditional farming methods (which have issues at scaling affordably) or fully putting fate of global food supply in corporations and technocrats, Little advocates for a “third way” solution that forges a middle ground between groups arguing for the return of traditional food production methods and those advocating for completely technology-driven food solutions. Additionally, she recognizes that some of these problems are so complex that they often require the sizable budgets of humongous corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta to properly research (though Little is by no means an apologist for these corporations and describes how big business certainly needs to shoulder some heavy blame for some of the problems facing the world food supply). The Fate of Food does a strong job at covering most of the major areas in food innovation but I felt that Little could have spent more time discussing alternative proteins such as insects and the role of major food corporations such as Nestle and Pepsi in adapting to future sourcing and supply chain issues. NGOs and Silicon Valley startups can have a tremendous impact on solving the world’s food issues, but the big industrialized food companies will also have a huge role to play given their outsized role in feeding and hydrating the masses. Little does devote some pages to chemical companies and interviews the CEO of Tyson Foods but she only scratches the surface of a subject that will be crucial in shaping the future of our food. That was really my only (slight) criticism, however, and I found The Fate of Food quite enjoyable overall. Little’s book does a fine job of both educating and entertaining and anyone looking to better understand the issues facing the global food supply and the most promising approaches to solving them should check it out. 8/10

  16. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    At first I didn't like the book very much. The narrative is down through descriptive stories and not focusing on technical facts. But later I start enjoying it very much. Book gives light insight into number of different technologies and approaches how people and companies are tackling their or world's problems with food production and distribution. It gives me hope for a near future that I will have enough to eat.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Unless you've been living under a rock (willfully or otherwise), you know that we're in big trouble in regards to climate change, global population, and the unsustainable food system we currently use. One of the reasons I like to read post-apocalyptic fiction is because I want to see what the world might look like in the future, how humans might survive. But no one actually knows what the future will be like until we get there. Are we better off looking for new ways to feed our ever-growing glob Unless you've been living under a rock (willfully or otherwise), you know that we're in big trouble in regards to climate change, global population, and the unsustainable food system we currently use. One of the reasons I like to read post-apocalyptic fiction is because I want to see what the world might look like in the future, how humans might survive. But no one actually knows what the future will be like until we get there. Are we better off looking for new ways to feed our ever-growing global population in rapidly shrinking agricultural space or returning to an older way of raising food with less environmental destruction? As someone observing this debate for years, I've come to see it's not serving us well at all, and to wonder: Why must it be so binary? Why can't we do some version of both? It seems to me there can--there must--be a synthesis of the two approaches... Our challenge is to borrow from the wisdom of the ages and from our most advanced technologies to forge a kind of "third way" to food production. Such an approach would allow us to improve harvests while restoring, rather than degrading, the underlying web of life. While Ms. Little can't provide a definite answer as to what we'll eat in a world transformed by climate change, she does offer an overview of some of the food developments taking place around the world, from drought-resistant seeds to rediscovered ancient plants, from lab meats to farmed fish.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Pilz

    Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher via a goodreads giveway.... ...and it is the first of those that received a 5-star rating. I read, as a food engineer, pretty much anything related to food. Most books are polarizing, one-sided to drive a very controversial opinion home - not this one. This book it written like a travel journal. On her journey, Amanda encounters challenges in the food supply chain (drought, food waste, basically 1 for each of the 13 chapters) and looks at how we try t Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher via a goodreads giveway.... ...and it is the first of those that received a 5-star rating. I read, as a food engineer, pretty much anything related to food. Most books are polarizing, one-sided to drive a very controversial opinion home - not this one. This book it written like a travel journal. On her journey, Amanda encounters challenges in the food supply chain (drought, food waste, basically 1 for each of the 13 chapters) and looks at how we try to address the challenge (mostly via engineering), and the consequences of these solutions. At the end of it, there are no clear winners or losers, no good or bad, and the reader can form their own opinion on the hottest and most controversial topics in the food industry based on very neutral writing and great journalistic performance

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Weiler

    Total Disappointment A “fascinating look at the race to secure the global food supply.” HA! This is a random collection of anecdotes ... a jumbled mishmash of shallow articles. Very different from being woven together as claimed. The stories do deal with food or proto-food. To call them fascinating is laughable. The tales are overly simplistic. The author spends more time describing the people she met, their looks and personality, than she does on any real science. Almost all of the disconnected a Total Disappointment A “fascinating look at the race to secure the global food supply.” HA! This is a random collection of anecdotes ... a jumbled mishmash of shallow articles. Very different from being woven together as claimed. The stories do deal with food or proto-food. To call them fascinating is laughable. The tales are overly simplistic. The author spends more time describing the people she met, their looks and personality, than she does on any real science. Almost all of the disconnected articles read like propaganda for the people she met. A couple of articles hint at the challenge a good journalist might have performed. But, the challenges here are feints, based far more on a gut level cynicism than on any scientific method. I can easily see a reader suspecting the “research” and its presentation being sponsored by Monsanto or John Deere. It’s a shame ... this book had an order of magnitude more promise than it delivered.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Carr

    In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell wrote that "A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into...I think it could plausibly be argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion...yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognised". In the Fate of Food, we see how the way human's create food changing largely for the better, albeit not nearly as fast as our planet needs it to. There are two ways to read this excellent journal In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell wrote that "A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into...I think it could plausibly be argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion...yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognised". In the Fate of Food, we see how the way human's create food changing largely for the better, albeit not nearly as fast as our planet needs it to. There are two ways to read this excellent journalistic tale of the changing face of food. One is as a story of technology, culture and change. A recognition that humans have the ability to meaningfully improve their world and are continuing to do so. Instead of just sticking things in the soil and hoping they grow, we can now control both the environment and the plant's unique makeup to grow what we want, as we want, as efficiently as possible. This is all part of the story of mankind moving in the last 200 years to effectively remove famine and malnutrition excepting cases of political cause. The other way to read this book, is a story of climate change. That we have plundered the planet, put the animal world to the sword, soiled the water and polluted the soil. And now people around the world are desperately racing to find ways to reduce, reuse, conserve, and protect what we have. We have played god and now suffer the wrath of our hubris. With drought, decay and hunger looming over us once more. How you read it might be how you go into it. The author, Amanda Little, like many who will pick this book up, seems to have begun with the second path - cautious of GMOs, preferring a local, natural approach and cautious about big business and big science when it comes to her zucchini. Yet as she details in the epilogue, the reality is that both stories are fundamentally true, and we can't solve the genuine problems of the latter without recognising, respecting and celebrating the achievements of the former. As Orwell warned, it is easy to forget the importance of food. Personally, I've made an effort the last few years to become a good cook because I didn't want to keep doing something (making a meal) 2-3 times a day that I didn't appreciate the process or outcome of. Those who concentrate on story two and see a world on fire, or rage against capitalism, too easily forget just how important the spread of available food has been for human wellbeing. This truly is the best time in all human history to be alive. Bar none, and the revolution in the availability and quality of food world wide is at the heart of that improvement. This is thus a book of hope and gritted-teeth challenges. The technology to fix many of our issues- too many chemicals, not enough water, too much methane, not enough land, etc etc - is there, but still rudimentary, in testing and likely with offset problems of its own. We need more and we needed it yesterday. But here we are, and that's still not a bad place to be. The fate of food, Little argues is, assuming we're smart and respect both stories' truths a third way, and largely one of improvement. Of healthier, more nutrious and greater tasting food. One where we not only provide the calories needed, but continue improving the range and appeal of good food. Where we grow just the meat - but not the cow, or produce 10'000 lettuces with the water and chemicals that previous generations used to produce just 100. We may be just bags for putting food into. The most important story of the last 200 years is that we've gotten much better at putting more food into many more bags. The most important story of the next 200 years is whether we can keep doing so under much more difficult conditions. The Fate of Food by Amanda Little is a good place to start for understanding how humanity is trying to face that challenge.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wallis Chan

    An enlightening read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

    You can get the same information by watching the news or simply by surfing the web. Nothing really interesting in the book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Chassen

    I found this book to be incredibly eye-opening, even alarming at times. The diversity of what Little covers is incredibly impressive, and more importantly the depth in which she dives into each topic is exhilarating. Sometimes Climate Change can feel abstract and out of reach. This book brings the topic right to your doorstep, and I hope that it opens more eyes to how our world is going to change, and what we can do to remedy that where possible, and prepare ourselves where not.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenna M

    a breezy read and a good mix of existential horror and get my heart out of my throat solutions

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Who's not interested in the future of food? I liked the various technological innovations being pursued, but not sure the author ever really committed to expressing on overall view. Will it be enough? Can we keep going at current population levels? An example of the genre where the author has to insert themselves as a character, instead of just researching and reporting - but maybe that reflects what most modern readers want.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    I enjoyed this book and the examples of how alternative food production is being pursued globally; especially with advances in technology. Disappointing that as with many of these type of books, no one wants to mention the pressure of supply vs demand being eased from the demand side; principally population control measures.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Art

    “A tour of the future.” — blurb, Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History Although the introduction and first chapter got off to a slow start, the book gained heft from there, discussing our food supply, food security and sustainable agriculture. Amanda Little wanted to understand the effects of population growth and climate change on agriculture. She raises many issues and takes us on tours of modern agriculture. Collapse of the food system ranks as the single biggest threa “A tour of the future.” — blurb, Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History Although the introduction and first chapter got off to a slow start, the book gained heft from there, discussing our food supply, food security and sustainable agriculture. Amanda Little wanted to understand the effects of population growth and climate change on agriculture. She raises many issues and takes us on tours of modern agriculture. Collapse of the food system ranks as the single biggest threat of climate change, according to the Agriculture Department. Disruptions in the food supply will affect everyone. Food prices could double in thirty years while international conflicts over food could erupt. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that the warming trends could cut global crop yields about four percent every ten years. Whew. That sets the stage for this book. Along the way we learn about current food troubles and how we could get out of it. About thirteen thousand years ago people began cultivating food as our nomad ancestors settled. Over time robust food systems conferred political power. The countries today with the least reliable food supplies live under the least diverse economies and the most vulnerable governments. Food production accounts for a fifth of greenhouse emissions, contributing more than any other sector. As one indicator of an inefficient system, a steer eats tons of wheat and soy during its lifetime before producing only five hundred pounds of beef. Yet another argument for eating low on the food chain. Andy Ferguson grows apples in western Wisconsin on three orchards, separated by twenty miles, a strategy of spreading the risk of extreme weather events. Ferguson farms three hundred acres producing seven million apples in a good year. A spring frost three years ago killed millions of apples. Wisconsin apples died and New England lost its peaches that year, the year trump became president, rejecting climate science. “Most farmers recognize that the weather trends are out of whack, many still accepting the prevailing conservative attitude that climate science is bunk,” said a farm reporter. Meanwhile, off the farm, the people in ag research accept climate science. The GMO food scare began about twenty-five years ago. Every major national scientific society concluded long ago that genetically modified organisms pose no human health threat, despite the critics. After all, humans began modifying genes by cross-breeding and cross-pollinating when agriculture began thirteen thousand years ago. I buy green trash bags, which claim the absence of GMO material. That’s ridiculous to the extreme. Agriculture moved indoors eight hundred years ago when the Vatican built the first glassed-in greenhouses. Then two hundred years ago, the Dutch built greenhouses that controlled light, heat and humidity. In turn, that led to today’s hydroponics. Half of humanity eats fish for protein. But the United States maintains its obsession with beef. Let’s rethink beef, Little writes. Eating high on the food chain makes a poor return on investment, considering all the inputs to get a little beef. (This weekend we heard on NPR about the vegetarian Democratic hopefuls at the Iowa State Fair who find little to eat.) Eating inefficient food is one thing. Meanwhile, the average American throws out a pound of food a day. Five percent of food waste gets composted. Everything else goes to landfills, where it rots and emits methane. “Wasting food also means wasting all the water, energy, agricultural chemicals, labor and other resources we put into growing, processing, packaging, distributing, distributing, washing and refrigerating it,” said Darby Hoover of the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the United States, two percent of the population grows our food. But many of us will need to adapt our food supply to the ongoing pressures of climate change. The United Nations last week issued a report urging people to take more responsibility for their own food. Good and interesting, but a stronger finish would tie the factors together. The book relies too much on first-person anecdotes and immersion. Excellent annotated notes support this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nupur

    (I started reading the book but could not finish before the library due date; I will be picking up this excellent book again). My notes: Introduction: the industrialized world in general is enjoying a more abundant, diverse and accessible food supply than any time in history but many people are buying into the survival food trend. There are growing fears of political and environmental instability in our lifetimes. Post-food companies such as soylent are betting on disruptions. This book explores (I started reading the book but could not finish before the library due date; I will be picking up this excellent book again). My notes: Introduction: the industrialized world in general is enjoying a more abundant, diverse and accessible food supply than any time in history but many people are buying into the survival food trend. There are growing fears of political and environmental instability in our lifetimes. Post-food companies such as soylent are betting on disruptions. This book explores whether and how we will feed a hotter, drier more populous world sustainably and equitably. 1. A taste of things to come: This chapter has a good overview of the history of agriculture. “There’s a deep distrust of technology as applied to food.” There is a deinvention camp that advocates a return to preindustrial farming (but can it produce enough food?) and a reinvention camp that is vying to build a better, smarter new food system. There could be a synthesis of both approaches. The wisdom of the ages plus our most advanced technologies could lead to a third way of food production. 2. Killing fields: This chapter is set in an apple orchard (fascinating description of fruit crops) and explores climate change and its effect on crops. This chapter was dismaying to read because of the farmer’s attitude towards climate change when he says he pays no attention “to the global warming debate, there’s extremism on both sides”. The chapter covers high tech methods to adapt farming to changing and more extreme climate patterns. 3. Seeds of drought: This chapter covers the controversy of GMOs. How to increase agricultural productivity in Africa while also protecting the interests of small-scale farmers. 4. RoboCrop: This chapter covers chemical use in agriculture and new alternatives to chemicals. 5. Sensor sensibility: Set in China, this chapter covers precision farming, soil sensors, smart data networks and surveillance tools. 6. Altitude adjustment: Indoor food production, aeroponics, vertical farms. 7. Tipping the scales: fish farms in Norway. 8. Meat hooked: meat alternatives 9. Stop the rot: food waste 10. Pipe dreams: water management 11. Desperate measures: cloud seeding in Maharashtra 12. Antiquity now: ancient superfoods 13. What rough feast: food innovation like 3-D printing, soylent.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marathon County Public Library

    In today’s world, more and more people want to know about the food they eat, where it comes from, and how it’s grown. But what does the future hold for consumers – and the food on their plates – in a world that’s getting increasingly hotter, drier and that has more extreme weather? In "The Fate of Food," author Amanda Little explores the different techniques and technologies that scientists, experts, and inventors around the world are developing to help prepare for a future that may include more In today’s world, more and more people want to know about the food they eat, where it comes from, and how it’s grown. But what does the future hold for consumers – and the food on their plates – in a world that’s getting increasingly hotter, drier and that has more extreme weather? In "The Fate of Food," author Amanda Little explores the different techniques and technologies that scientists, experts, and inventors around the world are developing to help prepare for a future that may include more droughts and famines. Little travels to New Jersey, where vertical indoor farms are growing leafy greens in the heart of urbanized neighborhoods; to Kenya, where small villages rely on genetically modified crops to combat pests and droughts; to San Francisco, where plant-based and lab-grown meats are being developed as an alternative to mass-produced meat from factory farms; and to Massachusetts, where military scientists are developing 3D-printed food for soldiers and, eventually, the general public. Little also visits Norway, where salmon farms are becoming more environmentally-friendly; to Arkansas, where robotic weeders and produce pickers are being perfected through artificial intelligence; to Israel, where the country went from a water deficit to a surplus by employing water-saving and desalination methods; and to Utah, where a variety of vacuum-sealed meals are being developed to cater to a growing number of doomsday preppers. In addition, the topics of food waste, pesticide use, unpredictable weather, and the proliferation of ancient grains are also addressed. Little writes in a manner that is educational but also highly accessible. She explains various agriculture processes and techniques in an easy-to-understand way, and includes statistics that are often eye-opening and, sometimes, alarming. The book also includes over 30 pages of notes and sources, so the reader knows exactly where Little has gotten her facts and figures from. I would highly recommend this book to people interested in agriculture, slow food, science, or technology, or to anyone who wants a glimpse of what could be on their plate in the next 15 to 20 years. Dan R. / Marathon County Public Library

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Fate of Food I listened to the audiobook read by the author. She did a great job narrating it but I wish I’d read a physical or ebook copy so I could have made highlights and notes! There was SO MANY interesting things that I wanted to look up later or make note of so I wouldn’t forget, but there’s no easy way to make notes while listening to an audio book. The basic premise of this incredibly researched book was: as the earth gets hotter, drier and more populated, just how screwed are we? And th Fate of Food I listened to the audiobook read by the author. She did a great job narrating it but I wish I’d read a physical or ebook copy so I could have made highlights and notes! There was SO MANY interesting things that I wanted to look up later or make note of so I wouldn’t forget, but there’s no easy way to make notes while listening to an audio book. The basic premise of this incredibly researched book was: as the earth gets hotter, drier and more populated, just how screwed are we? And the answer was a lot more hopeful than I expected! This book will give you a crash course in many topics - (What?! No spoilers! You have to read it for yourself to learn the answer to her thesis question.) - including farming, cattle raising, crop breeding, irrigation, draught, meteorology, recycling and trash management. The author travels around the world from Northeastern apple farms to Mexican maize farms to cattle farmers in Ethiopia, looking for answers to her big question, and in the process asks many others — could GMOs actually be good for us? Can we make military food solutions taste good? Will insects one day be a more prevalent protein source than meat? How realistic are Star Trek’s food replicators? How will robots revolutionize food production? Tough topics are broached with clarity, frankness, and a helluva lot of research; we dive deep into overconsumption, waste, mal- and undernutrition, climate change, overpopulation, and human’s effects on biodiversity. The author approaches the whole endeavor with a candid humor, weaving in a personal element to the narrative and acknowledging how easy it is to fall victim to the too-busy-to-eat-healthy and too-lazy-to-really-garden and too-skeptical-to-believe-X mindsets, sharing anecdotes of her own skepticism or culpability. The future of food production is FASCINATING. The technological and idealogical advances being made in the agro/food industries seem so futuristic — robots that can discern between leaves of different plants, lab-grown potatoes that can last 3 years in storage, vertical farms that don’t use water to grow crop, 3D food printers that use avocado as ink. And there are some really progressive and ambitious zero waste efforts being made in major cities around the world and by large retailers in the US. There is so much to be worried about (fresh water is really going to be a big issue in the next few decades for a lot of the world), and a lot of the environmental factors are intimidating to approach from a consumer perspective (how will my recycling efforts actually impact anything?), but there’s also a LOT to be excited for. So many of her interviews with people who are innovators in or on the cutting edge of their field revealed a lot of hope and optimism, even from people in food production, agriculture, and waste management. I was hooked from the first chapter and enjoyed learning about so many new things. I now have a long list of things I need to learn more about, but the chapter about food waste was maybe the most urgent and eye-opening to me; I was riveted listening to the scary numbers, learning about how we have put ourselves in a garbage crisis, and the myriad ways we can turn things around, both old fashioned and tech-forward, for the average consumer, governments, and large companies. I was already really enjoying the book up to that point, but that chapter felt like a call to action sung by a siren. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in continuing to live on the planet without killing it for future generations, those who are curious about the future of agriculture, food and nutrition, or environmentalists who need a dose of hope. Fun fact: this book was written by a fellow Nashvillian!

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