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PBS NewsHour Weekend presents ‘The Future of Food’

We at PBS NewsHour Weekend have been working with Mark Bittman, former New York Times food writer and bestselling author, on a series of reports about efforts around the world to produce enough food sustainably and ethically for a growing population.  

Bittman, who is also a correspondent on the series, shares a preview of ‘The Future of Food’ in the video player above. A full transcript is below.

The first segment airs Saturday, June 22.

‘The Future of Food:’ A preview

Mark Bittman: I’m Mark Bittman and this is PBS Newshour Weekend’s Future of Food series. By 2050, the world’s population will reach nearly 10 billion…and although our current food system can produce enough food, it will be difficult to do so sustainably and ethically.

The issues are complicated, but they include an industrial food system that produces food that can lead to chronic illness, barriers to small-scale farming, pollution and the mistreatment of animals. Industrial agriculture is also a major contributor to climate change.

Take meat production. Globally, more people are eating more meat than ever before and demand is projected to double in the next 30 years.

But there are serious concerns about the conditions many animals are raised in. And there isn’t enough land or water to increase production using current methods. With meat consuming two, three, even – in the case of beef – ten times as many resources as plant foods, we need more creative solutions.

Fish are a promising protein alternative. But more than 90 percent of fish are caught at or beyond their sustainable limits. And with many fish farms struggling with issues of pollution and disease, that alternative is far from ideal.

The way we raise crops carry risks to human health and the environment, too. Modern farming practices like indiscriminate tilling, heavy fertilizer use, and pesticides – used on more than 90% of America’s main crops – are damaging soil, contaminating water and ultimately draining our global resources.

And while the world’s farmers already produce more than enough food to feed everyone on earth, more than 800 million people don’t have enough to eat. That’s largely a function of poverty. But we also waste a tremendous amount of food.

Around one third of the food we produce is damaged in transit, spoiled or just plain tossed in the trash. How do we create a food system that can provide us all with nutritious and affordable food while doing so in a way that’s both green and fair?

Over the coming months, the PBS Newshour Weekend “Future of Food” series will report on work being done around the world by people who believe they have solutions.

Some of it sounds too good to be true – we take you to California, where scientists are growing real meat in laboratories. No slaughtering of animals involved.

Megan Thompson: If you didn’t tell me this was raised in a lab, I would have no idea.

Mark Bittman: Some of it is controversial. We will take you to Canada, to see the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption: a faster-growing salmon.

Megan Thompson: Same age, twice the size.

Ron Stotish: Same age, genetically identical except for one single gene. So this opens up a whole new opportunity for global salmon production.

Mark Bittman: But not everyone is happy about it.

Sen. Murkowski: When you mess with mother nature, so to speak, I have concerns with that.

Mark Bittman: Some of it is about returning to time-tested techniques. We’ll travel to Iowa and India, where farmers are using a combination of old and new methods that are better for the soil and water, use fewer resources, support small scale farms and may even improve the quality of the crops.

And as for how food gets to those who need it most, we’ll take you to Lebanon and Jordan, where aid workers are using new technologies to better provide food to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Food aid director: Instead of paying with cash or with a card, everyone pays with their eyes. And you can never forget your card. It’s biometrics, it is the future. We see it more and more. Lastly, we’ll travel to France to look at a one-of-a-kind national program that’s cracking down on food waste, while also helping feed people in need.

Christopher Livesay: So this is stuff that is no longer proper to sell?

Jaqueline Degroot: Yes, but proper to eat.

Christopher Livesay: It’s shocking to think that this is the kind of thing that otherwise would have been thrown away.

Mark Bittman: I’m Mark Bittman. Join us next Saturday for the launch of the PBS NewsHour Weekend series, “The Future of Food.”

Reporting for this series is supported by The Pulitzer Center.