Delicious Living Blog

Edible what? Packaging gets sci-fi

Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard have developed new technology called WikiCells that can be used to create edible packaging. But will this really solve our packaging waste problem?

As a kid, I loved reading science fiction. I don’t read much Asimov or Bradbury any more, but I often feel as if I’m actually living in one their odd and disconcerting futures—particularly when news about GMOs (see Are GMOs hidden in organic foods?) and other strange food technology comes across my RSS feed.

Today it's WikiCells, the latest in edible packaging. Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard have developed new technology that allows for “a natural food membrane held together by electrostatic forces and containing a liquid, emulsion, foam, or solid food substance possibly within an edible or biodegradable shell,” according to the description on their website.

According to the Food Channel: “Dr. David Edwards and his team at the Institute have created a tomato membrane containing gazpacho soup, an orange membrane filled with orange juice that can be sipped through a straw, a grape-like membrane holding wine and a chocolate membrane containing hot chocolate. He believes pretty much any food package is feasible.”

The motivation is noble—to reduce food-packaging waste. Consider that Americans throw away 70 billion pounds of PVC plastic per year. On the other hand, it defies common sense: Why not eat just eat an orange, packaged in it’s own peel, which is food for the microscopic organisms that break down plant matter into rich compost for future harvests?

Call me a Luddite, but don't you think we’d all be much better off health-wise and environment-wise if we stopped manufacturing foods that require so much packaging, and if we carved out time to prepare meals from whole foods—packaged by nature—instead of settling for secondhand nourishment?

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