What Has Silicon Valley Done to Our Food?

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Journalist, Larissa Zimberoff. Photo by Winni Wintermeyer, courtesy of Larissa Zimberoff

Companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have started to become household names, producing meat substitutes that taste as close to meat as their scientists have been able to engineer. In the midst of a climate crisis that threatens our very existence, plenty of scientists have been recommending that we all look for ways to cut down on our meat intake because cows produce large amounts of methane that has a significant negative environmental impact. Eating animal products also brings up animal rights questions. One of the main selling points of these Silicon Valley companies is essentially that we can save the planet and eat ethically without sacrificing taste. Yet, there is a key question few people seem to be asking about these new products: Are these meat substitutes good for our health?

That’s the question at the heart of investigative journalist Larissa Zimberoff’s new book, “Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley's Mission to Change What We Eat.” Zimberoff joins Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to talk about how so many edible products are marketed as healthy when in fact they may be just the opposite.

“We've had an obfuscated supermarket for a long time, filled with snack foods and junk foods and things we shouldn't be eating,” the investigative journalist tells Scheer. “So the overhauling of the food system is mission-based. These companies purport to be wanting to save the planet from the climate crisis, wanting to end industrial animal agriculture, the death of animals, by creating these new foods. Now, I do think they believe that they can do that, but the thing is that once Silicon Valley's in, once the investors are in, once Wall Street is in--then we've got people that expect to make money.”

Keeping in mind how profit incentives and a lack of adequate regulations affect our food system, Zimberoff and Scheer also examine how some foods that are marketed as sustainable, are highly processed overseas, which impacts both their nutritional values as well as their carbon footprint. On top of this, Scheer argues that consumers are often seemingly wilfully deceived by marketing tactics that blur and hide the facts about the foods we eat and even what foods we should be eating for our health. The “Technically Food” author concludes that while we should all try as best we can to eat “whole foods” that are unprocessed both for our health and to an extent the planet, it is difficult to maintain a whole food diet in the U.S. today for a number of socioeconomic reasons that go beyond what one person can do. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that U.S. companies are not only inflicting these flawed food systems on its own people, but globally.

“We're shipping out our American diet everywhere, and we're making other countries unhealthy,” says Zimberoff. “We’re just expecting to send our snack foods and soda pops to other countries and get them to buy it so that [big multinational] companies can keep their profits, [and] to me that's something that really needs to be changed.”
    
 Listen to the full conversation between Zimberoff and Scheer as they discuss if there are any bright spots in this latest food revolution as well as ways to combat the more dangerous shifts occurring in our food systems on a larger scale.

Credits

Producer:

Joshua Scheer