That food was grapefruit, a seemingly ordinary fruit that is, in truth, anything but ordinary. Right from the moment of its discovery, the grapefruit has been a true oddball. Its journey started in a place where it didn’t belong, and ended up in a lab in a place where it doesn’t grow. Hell, even the name doesn’t make any sense.
The practice of farming crickets for human consumption is still in its infancy in the U.S., and the crickets here are participating in an experiment to discover how to create a better edible insect. Like with most livestock, there are a number of variables—temperature, humidity, feed, water sources, housing—that are constantly adjusted to create a bigger, tastier, and more nutritious product. The crickets live to breed and then meet their deaths at the hands of an industrial freezer. Eventually, they are churned into cricket powder or sold wholesale to restaurants or companies making cricket products, like Exo’s cricket-flour protein bar or Bitty Foods’s cricket baking flour.
“This is a case where you can be so right and yet so wrong,” says Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke. “We were right on factual arguments and yet so wrong on arguing. It’s not a matter of being right. It’s a matter of engaging the right way and finding a solution.” He adds: “We live in an ambiguous world. We have to be able to cope with that.”
Sometime in the next few years, an entirely new fish will appear on American plates. After several decades of biotech research and a final upstream push past the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month, the AquaBounty AquAdvantage salmon, a genetically engineered species of fish, will go into commercial production. While modified plants like corn and soy abound in the American diet, this will mark the first time in history that an engineered animal has been approved for human consumption. The new fish’s genetic code is comprised of components from three fish: base DNA from an Atlantic salmon; a growth gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon; and a promoter, a kind of “on” switch for genes, from a knobby-headed eel-shaped creature called an ocean pout.
The Western microbiome, the community of microbes scientists thought of as “normal” and “healthy,” the one they used as a baseline against which to compare “diseased” microbiomes, might be considerably different than the community that prevailed during most of human evolution.