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

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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 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.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published June 4, 2019

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About the author

Amanda Little

103 books86 followers
Amanda Little is a professor of journalism and Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University. Her reporting on energy, technology and the environment has taken her to ultra-deep oil rigs, down manholes, and inside monsoon clouds. Amanda's work has appeared in the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and elsewhere. She writes, bikes, and is learning to cook and tango in Nashville, TN, where she lives with her husband and kids. More about her work at: www.amandalittle.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 249 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,737 reviews14.1k followers
July 10, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,078 reviews712 followers
April 8, 2021
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.
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.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,785 reviews1,626 followers
June 6, 2019
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.
Profile Image for David.
652 reviews238 followers
March 3, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,853 reviews231 followers
June 22, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Lindsay Shields.
24 reviews6 followers
August 31, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Justus.
617 reviews73 followers
October 24, 2019
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.
Profile Image for John Weiler.
122 reviews5 followers
October 20, 2019
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.
156 reviews4 followers
September 21, 2019
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!
Profile Image for Marilee.
1,266 reviews
August 2, 2019
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.
May 23, 2023
Something sort of horrifying about this book. I respect the topic and should face the fact that food will be different in the face of climate change but soylent and freeze dried/3D printed sandwiches ain't food... Didn't chomp through this one but did take some good nuggets away from it. First, GMOs are a part of feeding the future and people should be way more educated on what they actually are (SMH PCC etc. for proudly labeling random sh*t Non-GMO). Second, white-savior Americans need to realize that majority world farmers across the globe can discern which farming practices they want to adopt on their own accord. Feeding the future in the face of climate change is scary and this book did not ease my fears but I did learn a lot of random things!!
10 reviews
June 4, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Me.
473 reviews16 followers
June 28, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Ethan Kadet.
74 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2022
This was the kind of book I would like to write if I ever had the chance to write one. The author traveled to a few different countries and states to learn about the future of food growing practices. She learned about the benefits of GMOs in Kenya and how using technology in food could be a net benefit to society, especially in places where the climate is not allowing for food to grow as it did historically. The book's argument was opposed to the last book I read in some ways, as it advocates for the reality that we will need to use more tech in the food industry to adapt to our changing climate. Being sustainable means giving future generations the resources to live as we do, and using technology might be the only way to do so. Like the author, some of the lab grown meat she tried kind of creeps me out, but I liked the idea of using it to minimize the food, land, and water wasted on cows raised just to be eaten.
Profile Image for Will L.
16 reviews1 follower
July 26, 2022
Good overview of food systems, problems and technological solutions. Doesn’t go super deep into any one issue. Balances urgency and hope in finding solutions.
Profile Image for Laura Ghitoi.
205 reviews5 followers
June 12, 2020
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.
90 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2019
You can get the same information by watching the news or simply by surfing the web. Nothing really interesting in the book.
Profile Image for Sue.
202 reviews6 followers
May 18, 2022
This book really challenged some of my beliefs about the use of technology in agriculture. I was surprised at all of the efforts going on in agriculture.
Profile Image for Metin.
31 reviews6 followers
December 20, 2020
son zamanlarda okuduğum en iyi kurgu dışı kitap oldu gıdanın geleceği. gıda gibi her canlının temel ihtiyaçlarından biri olan bir şeye böylesine az ilgi duymamız beni şaşırtıyor. 400 sayfalık biraz uzunca diyebileceğimiz bu kitapta yazar amanda little, bizleri dünyanın dört bir tarafında gıda, teknoloji, iklim değişikliği ve etik sarmalında bir geziye çıkartıyor; öncesinde çoğumuzun düşünmediği "beslenme bu iklim koşullarında ve nüfusun bu denli hızlı artmasında gelecekte ne duruma gelecek?" sorusunu cevaplamaya çalışıyor. büyük ölçüde de cevaplıyor, norveçteki balık çiftliklerinden impossible burger gibi bitki esaslı burgerlere birçok farklı yeni nesil besin, beslenme yöntemi ile karşılaşıyoruz; ne kadar sürdürülebilir, dünya çapında ne kadar geçerli olduklarını öğreniyoruz, okuyoruz. herkese önereceğim bir kitap bu, önümüzdeki yıllarda bu kitapta yazılanları çok daha sık duyacağımız kesin.
April 18, 2020
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. 🤦‍♀️
November 10, 2020
Such an in depth exploration of all of the different ways we produce food in the world, and what the challenges are. Before reading this & starting my masters in sustainable food, I had been totally for a complete re-invention of the food system, all about urban gardens and hydroponics. I still do think those are great solutions for certain regions, but this book opened my eyes to the myriad of ways we can use food production to provide resiliency and security for communities suffering from different challenges. The "third way" of blending a re-invention (tech based, progressive) and a de-invention (indigenous foodways, regenerative ag) is such a good illustration of the all-solutions-on-deck approach we need to solving our food and climate crises. I think that this book is great -- not as a bible for what we SHOULD do necessarily, because things are definitely very different depending on the growing environment, but as an encyclopedia for what we CAN be doing.
Profile Image for كيكه الوزير.
252 reviews12 followers
March 2, 2022
I think most of this was pretty uninteresting to me because I already knew about most of it.

At the end of the day, looking at food trends, it's safe to say the future of food is going to be pretty divided. Between people who are eating locally, seasonally and organically and people who are comfortable eating "alternative" genetically modified foods that is plant based. Look at what is popping up on shelves and you'll follow the trajectory. Grass-fed foods, wild labeled, local labels, I think I'm more optimistic about the future of food than eating 3D printed foods and bitter greens. She kind of mentions that at the end, about the "fitbit generation", but doesn't really go deep into it.
Profile Image for Casey Wheeler.
898 reviews35 followers
May 19, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Matt Lieberman.
106 reviews16 followers
January 19, 2019
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.

Profile Image for Martin.
67 reviews
March 12, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Aurelija.
42 reviews
March 19, 2023
A eye-opening book arguing that to secure good quality food and water for all people will take much more than to switch to organic and sustainable farming - the view I comfortably fell into due to personal and social circumstances. It now seems that such a view is a luxury most people cannot really afford.

It's fascinating to read about variuos technology examples that may have a role to play in solving this problem. And I was so grateful that the book ended on a positive and hopeful note!
Profile Image for Jonathan H. MONTES.
265 reviews14 followers
February 18, 2023
I love books on health, especially nutrition, but this book was everywhere and all around. I could barely keep track of what the aim of this book was. I read three quarters of it before calling it quits. I just can't bother to finish the rest of it.

Maybe at some later time I'll revisit this book. But right now, I am not enjoying this one.
Profile Image for James.
296 reviews3 followers
February 24, 2021
Enjoyable book to teach one about how food production is changing, options, challenges and what's been learned to date. There were a couple of new nuggets I picked up along the journey as well.

Vertical farming is one such nugget and how old warehouses are being converted into food production systems. I also found the amount of food that wasted by stores due to consumer preferences fascinating. More enjoyable is how some of those stores are trying to promote the "single" banana items for one. Along the waste lines, the milk sell by date and how much we could be doing to help food shelters is very much needed in all societies and in all cities great and small.

One of the show's I've for some reason gotten addicted too in this past year is "AG PHD"; Yes, I work in a corporate setting but found what farmers have to do to grow crops fascinating along with all the diseases and chemical needed astounding. Some of the options proposed here do help fix some of these issue but in the end, we still will need large farms, lots of chemicals and other GMO type crops (IMO). However, manufacturing and distributing food locally has so many benefits.

Got a lot of great ideas from this book and hope you do too.
Profile Image for Catherine.
1,158 reviews66 followers
July 11, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Meow.
91 reviews6 followers
October 16, 2019
Fascinating - Informative, well researched and well written.
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