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Building a Resilient, Sustainable, and Healthier Food Supply Through Innovation and Technology

  • McClements, David Julian
  • Barrangou, Rodolphe
  • Hill, Colin
  • Kokini, Jozef L.
  • Lila, Mary Ann
  • Meyer, Anne S.
  • Yu, Liangli
Published Article
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Mar 25, 2021
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-food-092220-030824
Annual Reviews


The modern food supply faces many challenges. The global population continues to grow and people are becoming wealthier, so the food production system must respond by creating enough high-quality food to feed everyone with minimal damage to our environment. The number of people suffering or dying from diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, continues to rise, which is partly linked to overconsumption of highly processed foods, especially high-calorie or rapidly digestible foods. After falling for many years, the number of people suffering from starvation or malnutrition is rising, and thishas been exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The highly integrated food supply chains that spread around the world are susceptible to disruptions due to policy changes, economic stresses, and natural disasters, as highlighted by the recent pandemic. In this perspective article, written by members of the Editorial Committee of the Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, we highlight some of the major challenges confronting the modern food supply chain as well as how innovations in policy and technology can be used to address them. Pertinent technological innovations include robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, advanced diagnostics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, gene editing, vertical farming, and soft matter physics. Many of these technologies are already being employed across the food chain by farmers, distributors, manufacturers, and consumers to improve the quality, nutrition, safety, and sustainability of the food supply. These innovations are required to stimulate the development and implementation of new technologies to ensure a more equitable, resilient, and efficient food production system. Where appropriate, these technologies should be carefully tested before widespread implementation so that proper risk–benefit analyses can be carried out. They can then be employed without causing unforeseen adverse consequences. Finally, it is important to actively engage all stakeholders involved in the food supply chain throughout the development and testing of these new technologies to support their adoption if proven safe and effective.

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