Is Bigger Better?
The abundance of America’s food supply in the postwar period raised concerns and fed controversy. Critics argued that the drive to achieve high yields and low food prices did not always take into account the hidden costs of mass production: threats to the environment, the welfare of animals, the health and safety of workers and consumers, and the viability of small-scale farmers. The debates among scientists, farmers, politicians, and concerned citizens influenced changes in policy, marketing, and public opinion. Because food is so essential, the conversations are ongoing.
A New Breed
Canola oil is one example of a “new and improved” food. Extracted from rapeseed plants, the oil was not consumable by humans until scientists created a hybrid variety in 1986. Then, in 1995, genetically engineered strains of this crop made it resistant to the herbicide Roundup, and large-scale production took off. By 2000, canola was the third most-consumed vegetable oil worldwide, a position it maintains in 2018. Between 2000 and 2017, consumption of canola in the United States tripled.