If an innovative solution to feeding the world’s growing population is to be found, it is likely to come from Wageningen, a quiet corner of Europe that is the nexus of global food science. But at what cost to the environment?
In the low-lying Gelderse Valley some 85km east of Amsterdam, a Dutch university is changing how humans eat.
There, a bright-eyed press officer with Willy Wonka flair is showing me the miracles of modern food science. One laboratory door swings open to reveal giant, fragrant basil leaves growing under multicoloured lights. In a greenhouse nearby, thousands of tomatoes are suspended mid-air like plump, levitating Buddhas. A few steps away, I shake hands with a world-famous banana scientist, who dreams of introducing Europeans to the many varieties of banana eaten across Asia, Africa and Latin America, and ending the tyranny of the common yellow Cavendish.
For miles in every direction, fields bulge with crops; in some, drones monitor soil fertility, in others, giant luminescent panels light up greenhouses at night. The press officer is accustomed to impressing visitors. “What do you think?” he asks at every turn.
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