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Evidence behind sustainable food technologies lacking

The 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change currently underway in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, includes dialogues on how food choices affect climate change, and recent years have seen more venture capital flowing into the eco-friendly food sector.

But new research in the journal Nature Food suggests there’s little evidence behind the sustainability claims of many food technologies.

“Sustainability” involves more than just carbon footprint; it means balancing environmental, economic and social impacts, too.

A review of scientific literature reveals a lack of research into many such facets.

Expensive plant-based substitutes reduce environmental impacts, but lack robust research on long-term nutritional aspects.

Vertical farms use less land and water, but often require more energy and emit more greenhouse gases.

The sustainability applications of largely energy-guzzling blockchain technologies remain purely theoretical.

The authors call for more research and a fuller framework for assessing sustainability.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.