Introduction

Modern eating has expanded to food industry from traceable food chain to an incomprehensible web that in equal parts raises questions and conceals truths. One prevailing attitude is the binary opposition of nature versus technology, and generally food is considered to belong solely to the nature side of the equation. This also goes along with a kind of conservative nostalgia for pre-technology eating habits as a standard for what should be natural and normal. On the other side of the equation is the belief that technology makes humans better equipped to deal with food in a rational and intelligent way, offering endless potential improvements on the outdated, nature-only system. Of course, it is between these two poles that the most insight arises, but the middle ground is generally overlooked and contradictions erased.

In selecting my sources, the priority was to gather a diverse range of opinions, styles, media forms, and targeted demographics, in order to explore the modernization of the food industry through as many different lenses as possible. Genetic modification helped to focus my research, providing a concise example of a controversial issue on which a wealth of opinions are readily available, but I also wanted to branch off from this narrow topic in order to better suggest some of the issues that lie beyond it.

For the art pieces, video performance art, photographic installation art, speculative design work and written socially engaged experimental art are all represented, united by the theme of addressing contemporary food systems but diverse in focuses, media and approaches. Various artists are supportive or suspicious of modern food technology, each with a unique emotional expression they seek to convey through their work. Although they are not all specifically centered around the issue of genetic modification, each grapples with the layer of unfamiliarity that technology has added to the public’s perception of food, and is a call to think about eating in a new way.

The news media articles are equally diverse, gathered from mainstream entertainment, popular news media and more academic sources, with audiences ranging from the general public to those with a special interest in food. A key feature of today’s information society is the vast availability of information contrasted against people’s narrow chosen channels of receiving it. The question of media communication therefore cannot address a homogenous public, but rather a sketch of what is widely available and what is broadly obscured.

Food is a universal need that people confront daily, and yet the complexity within the food industry remains largely unaddressed in favour of simplified, prepackaged ‘factual’ but of course highly subjective information. The question, then, still remains; Where do people stand today in relation to the food we consume?

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