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    Our Changing Menu | Michael P. Hoffmann | Cornell | ProteinX Symposium 2021 | Keynote | Day 1

    Curious to know what’s changing on the menu? 

    Keynote presentation by Mike Hoffmann, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, author of “Our changing menu: climate change and the foods we love and need.”

    Professor Hoffmann points that climate change is affecting our food in subtle and sometimes ominous ways, and it all starts with a plant — the basis of life. Furthermore, he states that the time for coordinated science-driven efforts to address major environmental concerns is now.

    “To thrive, plants require the right temperature, air, water, soil and sunlight. But alas, all are changing except sunlight. In short, the plants that provide us food for life are under increasing stress.” —Michael P. Hoffmann

    Wondering about how we can make better choices that may lead us to an adequate global food supply while sustaining our planet and natural resources?

    This presentation was the keynote of the first day of the ProteinX Symposium 2021, an experience-led digital event promoted by the proteinX Foundation, that united students, scientists, chefs and visionary entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss scientifically meaningful, potentially transformative, innovation and education projects for the future of food, focusing on next-gen proteins, and their potential contribution to improve life on our planet.

    ProteinX Symposium 2021: Scientists discuss the future of food, health, nutrition and sustainability in the food system in light of novel non-animal alternative proteins.


    Day 1 of the ProteinX Symposium 2021 united some of the most compelling brains in the next-gen food space for science-oriented discussions, keynotes, the global first InnoChef Cooking Show, a fascinating fireside chat on how food will become the medicine of the future, startup presentations, to expand upon the evidence of novel non-animal proteins as a sustainable solution to major global concerns.





    Professor Emeritus at Cornell University
    Mike Hoffmann




    Design sem nome (1)
    Market Intelligence Team and Partnerships at ProteinX Foundation


    Key points:

    • Climate change and what it means to the plants we depend on for life
    • With 420 parts per million greenhouse gases — in particular carbon dioxide — into the atmosphere, we're 50% higher than we should be. And unless we do something curious, we could reach 800 parts per million by the end of the century
    • There is an incredible opportunity to connect science, and the food we love in need: resilient crops, drought resistant salt resistant, and we have to consider this genetically engineering



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    Read the transcription of Professor Michael P. Hoffmann’s presentation:

    Professor Michael P. Hoffmann: It's a privilege to be here today with everyone, and the topic is our changing menu: climate change and the foods we love and need.

    This is a story about what's happening to our food, and the intended audience is primarily the US and other rich countries, but especially the US because we have contributed more to climate change than most other countries, and we have the capacity to make a difference. And I love this quote to start a story about climate change. “Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion”, Edward Abbey 1990. And often asked the question: So, what's this, when most people say well that's Earth... Well, it's also home.

    Carl Sagan says it well our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark and our obscurity and all this passionist there's no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. So, what I'm going to do is present a very brief overview of climate change, what it means to the plants we depend on for life. We're going to take a short visit to a restaurant and look out, check out the menu, and then focus on solutions. What's being done is that we can all do that orange band on the surface of the Earth called the troposphere, it's only seven miles high. That's it. That's where all the action is occurring that climate change that's global warming weather clouds it's all in that very thin blanket sunlight comes down hits the surface of the earth heats it up, that heat is radiated up in counts encounters greenhouse gases which absorb some of that heat and radiate some of it back. 

    Simply put, we're adding more and more greenhouse gases to that tiny layer. It's getting denser, things are warming up. The next time you're on a flight, and you're at cruising speed, look down, you are essentially at the top of the troposphere that thin layer, and looking down through it to the surface.

    That's it. It's not infinite. It's a relatively small space, and we're affected by it evolves seen the hockey stick chart shown here, the graph from year 1000 to 2000 you can see in the late 1900s 1800s we started to burn a lot of fossil fuels and pump a lot of greenhouse gases in particular carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.



    June 3, 2021... We're at 420 parts per million. A year ago it was 418, we're 50% higher than we should be. And unless we do something curious, we could reach 800 parts per million by the end of the century. It's gonna be a lot warmer. So it's real, it's us. Experts agree it's serious. But there's hope. And another way to look at this, is think of a bathtub. In the past, the faucet and drain were the right size and there was a balance. But now we've turned the faucet up by pumping more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And it is filling up. It really is serious. Here's a quote from the UN Secretary General, the point of no return is no longer over the horizon, it is insight and hurtling towards us. 


    There are many ways to talk about the topic climate change and help raise awareness. You can talk about being personal with your children, your grandchildren, health heatstroke, etc, as well as increasing the economy, economic impacts are huge, as well as environmental, and then there's food, why food. What are the challenges in communicating about climate change, it has to be relevant. Not everybody cares about glaciers melting in Greenland or something happened and the year 2100 is too far away, but we all need to. It is important to our culture's family traditions. It's emotional. I get emotional over food, break glass of wine, a delightful meal, it's enjoyable. And those liquid liquids are a social lubricant to help us socialize, it's important to the economy, and it's easy to talk about what's so cool. There are unlimited stories to tell how climate is affecting our food.

    First let's pause. So where does it come from? A lot of us don't appreciate that you can go to a farmers market, upper left, buy fresh vegetables probably grown within 20-30 miles, at most, You may have some grass-fed meat. Some of us, but a lot of that is actually grown in Australia. It's where it comes from. This seems like a happy farmer down under upper right, family, bruising cow for our chocolate. They make $4 a day. Lower left. A woman pollinating vanilla. It has to be done by hand. She's probably in Madagascar, maybe Indonesia, the middle on the bottom is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world that's fishing in the north of the Bering Sea. And finally, farmer, Nebraska. It's important to recognize and respect those who are producing crops at the very beginning, it's changing. 

    Remember the Suez Canal and so that not that long ago that ship got sideways and blocked out the Suez Canal. Other “choke points”, such as the Panama Canal as well as some railroads situations will be affected by climate change directly, potentially social unrest or political unrest, compromising the transport of food. 

    We live in need. What's happening to a plant? They need air, specifically carbon dioxide, water, warm soil and sunlight, but everything is changing. Except sunlight. Let's look at increasing carbon dioxide. There's an argument that you will hear this is beneficial, better agriculture does much better because 95% of the crops actually benefit with more CO2 in the atmosphere, but in reality, there won't be a benefit, it's going to be offset by climate change. Tire CO2 Weak becomes harder to control. There's actually a study that showed, there's 30% less protein and pollen for bees on one species that they depend on in the fall, because of rising CO2 in the more ominous one human nutrition, less protein, vitamins, minerals, in many crops with rising CO2 There's some subtle changes to flavors, colors. 

    What about changes in temperature? 

    Sounds like it's just warming, but it's not simple. Cool regions will warm faster than warm regions, say northern latitudes for the southern latitudes, cold seasons, warm faster than warm seasons. So in the US winters are warming twice as fast as summers, and this is a really big deal because fruit and nut crops require a winter chill. If it gets too warm, no fruit, no nuts 2017 Georgia Peach State, very few peaches, because the previous winter was simply too warm. Likewise, lights are warming faster than days, this affects crop yields, and obviously heat waves can result in damage yields. Too many crops, changes in water. 

    Global shifts where it falls, how it falls when it falls in general wet areas will get wetter dry areas drier and more extremes in the Northeast. Were up over 50% and heavy downpours precipitation events, intermittent droughts are increasing. And I think everybody's aware of the mega drought now hitting the southwestern western states, this could go on for several years. And yes, ice melts when it gets warmer. That means retreating glaciers, less water for irrigation, and cities and hydroelectric power. This is serious. Stop and pause. Can you imagine without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos and melting glaciers are bad enough, but the loss of coffee is downright terrifying. This was the one that motivates me: change is changing. 

    Beverages are water dependent. So, impact on quality and quantity of water is a very important concern to the food and beverage industries. Gin, for example, crossing all brands requires about 150 Different botanicals. Some of those are at risk... Salads with 40% decrease in fields in California. In the next 20 years because of higher temperatures, the main course of upper left seafood is being impacted in a variety of ways, populations of fish are moving, so they can stand clients that are acceptable to them, and where the food is Seitz bread. I already mentioned, decrease in protein in wheat, garlic. An interesting story is if you feed garlic to cows they produce less nothing, olive oil, most of it comes from Spain, and they're being challenged by droughts and higher temperatures. Finally dessert, like chocolate, like vanilla, a variety of things, and many stories to be told. And last, the most important coffee. Not only have they been stressed by new changes in the environment, but also a new pest.

    And here's something you can do... Make a list of your favorite foods or beverages. Pick your smartphone, and just do a search, climate change in your favorite food, and you're going to find that there's a story behind many things. You can also put on this list things that you sort of care about. Think about plant based products, perfumes, pet food, and a lot more. These are billion dollar industries cultural changing for saving the foods we love and need.

    Also, stories that need to be told they hope they're inspirational. Let's talk with star we're stewards of the land, farmers and ranchers that are adopting, but it's blunt, there's a long way to go, but a lot of them are adopting climate smart farming, where they focus on the soil.

    The best management practices for water and pest diversification for financial resiliency so if you are hit with a storm, and you have multiple crops, you still have an income, reducing stress on livestock especially heat and long term planning, thinking ahead, what's it going to be like in 10 years. What can I grow, how will I be successful? And the food and beverage businesses are also doing a lot. They're looking at their supply chains, such as transport of their raw product, they're investing in suppliers to ensure productivity and middle sales. Yes, those are the growers wherever they may be in the world. It's good for all parties involved both the growers and the companies that produce the final product. They're encouraging climate smart farming. They're mitigating the impact on the climate by reducing everything from bottle wait for some beverages to reducing energy use in their facilities, and some are starting to look at alternative ingredients to stay in business, — what science was doing to me was an incredible opportunity to connect science, and the food we love in need. Resilient crops, drought resistant salt resistant, and we have to consider this genetically engineering. Soil Health again water and pest management, lots of work on that climate modeling, what's it going to be like in 100 years to help those growing the food those transporting the food, to get it to our table decision tools, helping farmers decide when is the best time to irrigate, communication is so critical. 



    The research we have to research behind how to tell the story the best is so important. And obviously, a lot of work on economic impacts of climate change, both sort of the challenges but also opportunities. And what can we all do? First, make sure we're all climate change literate, understand the cause, understand the impacts and make sure you can make informed decisions about what you do to address it. Talking about it... Two thirds of people in the US never talk about climate change, yet it is the starting point for understanding and appreciating and raising awareness about climate change. Like this symposium, consider a more plant based diet. In particular, and the approach we take is considered red meat, a delicacy, not a staple assess your own carbon footprint, get involved, his political get political be courageous, most important push for change is big enough to matter. 



    And I'm glad to be here, because this is about where the food and ag industry meets for a healthy future of food. Future food for a sustainable future of food, glad to be part of this conversation. And let's look at what we can possibly do, through food. Can we find a common ground, such as joining forces, the consumers chefs restaurant tours food industry producers, and we don't see villains in this whole process.



    Can we join forces to create the transformation we need? 

    So, what have we done... We have a book, the website. And we aspire to create a climate change social movement, driven by food. And that is why I'm here today to listen to learn and see how we can fit in and join forces. 


    Thank you very much. I hope you all enjoy this symposium.

    About this keynote: 

    Date: 06/08/2021

    Speaker: Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, Dr. Michal P. Hoffmann.

    More about “Our changing menu: climate change and the foods we love and need”, by Michael P. Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle L. Eiseman.

    The book’s website.

    More about the Cornell Institute for Food Systems.

    Engage with the ProteinX Foundation:







    ProteinX Foundation is a nonprofit institution based in Silicon Valley, CA. Its mission is to provide students and scientists around the world with resources to develop solutions that will reduce carbon footprint, improve health, and nutrition.

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this Podcast as well as in its transcript are those of the participant guest speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of proteinX or its partners and sponsors. In the same way, the participant speakers do not endorse any products, services, brands, practices, professionals or views other than what they specifically and directly expressed by verbalizing at the time the episode was recorded. In addition, transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio file (podcast) before ever quoting in print.