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Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need.

What is the evidence that can lead us to see major changes within the entire food value chain as viable solutions for major global concerns?

Food Science is a multidisciplinary field involving chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology and engineering to give one the scientific knowledge to solve real problems associated with the many facets of the food system.

In order to feed more than 10 billion people by 2050, while ending hunger and tackling unhealthy eating habits, humankind will have to rethink and change the global food system.

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?

Becoming better informed about the science of climate change, the impacts it is having, and how to talk about it is essential for us to make better choices that may lead us to an adequate global food supply while sustaining our planet and natural resources.

Shifting to a more plant-based diet is very helpful, as is reducing food waste. But it’s not just all about food. There is more.

Virtual Coffee, Special Episodes: Where scientists discuss climate change, the future of food, health, nutrition and sustainability in the food system.

This new season of Virtual Coffee is dedicated to climate change and food of the future. It kicks off with a 3 part episode based on the book "Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need", by Michael P. Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle L. Eiseman.





Professor Michael P. Hoffmann, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University
Michael hoffmann


Dr. Danielle L. Eiseman, Author, Lecturer, Climate Change Research Scientist.
danielle eiseman




Lavítor Matzembacker, COO at ProteinX Foundation

Key points:

  • How Farmers, Businesses, and Scientists are helping to tackle climate change
  • Becoming informed, climate-change literate, changing habits and supporting sustainable solutions can lead us to become a force of nature and help bring about changes


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Read the transcription of the panel discussion:

Lavítor M.: Welcome to Virtual Coffee, Season 3, Special Episodes. This new season premieres with a three part special episode based on the book Our Changing Menu. So today, once again, for Part II, we have the pleasure of the company of two of the authors of this amazing book. By the way, it's on sale on Amazon, with a special discount for a limited time... Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, Mike Hoffmann and Author, Lecturer, Climate Change Research Scientist, Dr. Danielle L. Eiseman.


So, Mike and Danielle, we all want to know what to do about this grand challenge of climate change. Would you please give some examples of what farmers, businesses and scientists are doing?

Mike H.: I want to emphasize that there are 1000s of people around the world looking for solutions. And with this great challenge and sometimes we can look at it as opportunities for research for new practices for new business, better business practices etc standards, just frankly stay in business. So I'll start with what farmers are doing and refer to them as stewards of the land. 

There's a lot of opportunities to go further, but a lot of what farmers are doing is also called common, it's simply common sense or climate smart agriculture. So the biggest focus is on the soil. I think everybody realizes the soil is critical, has to be maintained. It also is capable of storing enormous amounts of carbon. If managed correctly some think that soil can actually tip. The whole climate change issue is a little bit more positive, if soil is managed as well as possible, but without good Shiloh, you don't have a crop, soil health is at the top of the list of many of those who grow our food, water would be another one. 

Adopting better practices for irrigation. Drip irrigation, there are now tools out there, developed by scientists that actually can be, it's like a little chip inserted into the plant like a great plant and it actually will determine exactly the water status of that individual plant, and therefore you can irrigate. Accordingly, you're not going to waste any water, you're going to just provide that plant what it needs. Another thing or I'll call them catchment basins essentially when it rains. It fills up, and then you can tap that water later. 

And our research also discovered that a lot of farms were using specially on the prairie solar powered waterfalls, rather than using fuel in some sort they actually use solar panels to power the electric pump that keeps the water available to the cattle past new pasture moving north, some are getting worse because of climate change some less so, but are trying to do that using something called Integrated Pest Management. 

And if you know all kinds of factors to control the pest. But if ultimately needed, maybe a pesticide has to be applied. Another important one is diversification, if you're growing one crop. And that's wiped out by climate change, there goes your income, but can you grow multiple crops of the loser feed you still have some others there to provide an income. If one is growing livestock, no college or other beef animals. The heat can take a toll. Whether using misters or using shade and so on to make sure the animals continue to be comfortable and productive. 

And lastly, it might be hard for all of us but long term planning. And what's it going to be like in 10-20 years when I need to invest in irrigation. As a farmer. So that's another way of growing our food or staying in business and helping us keep that mega supply farm, or excuse me, food businesses. 

Mike H.: Danielle, would you like to share some of their ideas too?

Danielle E.:  Sure, so a lot of food businesses are starting to really pay attention to what's happening, especially across supply chains. I think the you know the events of, Especially the last two years have really shown that there are significant risks to the supply chain, whether it's an extreme weather event or a global pandemic that limits the amount of workers that can claim common and work within the supply chain so companies are starting to conduct supply chain risk assessments and think about, not just one backup in the supply chain for sourcing ingredients or products but multiple backups within the supply chain for sourcing ingredients and products.

A lot of big companies especially Starbucks and Nestle are investing in suppliers, in terms of their farming production practices to ensure that their soil health is maintained and that they're using best management practices on their farms, so that these companies are ensuring that their suppliers all the way down to the farmers are maintaining their productivity and the resiliency to any kind of shock that may occur within the supply chain. 

And there's also a lot of pressure from some of the big corporations, for instance Walmart. That is really pushing for climate smart farming practices. And so, again, these big corporations like Starbucks and Nestle and Walmart are really spending a lot of time working with farmers to make sure that they are maintaining their productivity, and doing so in a way that aligns with climate smart agriculture practices. And then looking internally at business assets and looking at ways in which they could mitigate their impact on climate, whether it's energy efficiency or transportation, the way that they cool products. 

There's for instance one company in Chicago called test to produce and they have one of the most aggressive carbon mitigation plans in their warehouse so they have, they built this whole new plants, several years ago where they use renewable energy for their refrigerators and their freezers they have low emission vehicles that transport food, and they will only deliver food within 250 miles of their warehouse to limit the emissions from transportation. Already more so than their low emissions vehicles they also put in permeable pavements in their parking lot, so that makes sure that Rainwater is collected instead of just going off into the sewer so there's a lot of great examples of companies that are taking this issue seriously and really thinking in a very forward way, and how they can have an impact and reduce climate change impact.

Mike H.: One example or result. Another example is some companies are actually looking at alternative ingredients, because we on the rock product may not be available and I'm okay with that as long as they don't find a replacement for chocolate. 



We can go into scientists and what they're doing. Again, Around the world there are 1000s of scientists, taking on this challenge, and put at the top of the list is more resilient climate resilient crops that are drought resistant resistant to heat resistant, maybe salt tolerant, a lot of work, there's a team, between, let's partner up with between Costa Rica, and of all places the UK on better, Kyle. They have a huge collection of germ plasm and they're tapping into that to develop more resilient column plants. Although the topic to some is, this is controversial, I think, genetic engineering has a really important role in developing new crops, and the science tells us at least from a human consumption standpoint, there are other issues that the consumption of genetic genetically engineered problem is poses no more risk than one that is developed by traditional breeding mechanisms. 

So we have to keep our mind open, especially as the demand for food increases. This is an option we need to consider. We have a lot of scientists again looking at soil health, how to help farmers come up with the best practices. There are also efforts to develop new column management tools that can help farmers more precisely determine when to irrigate, or not to irrigate, when to buy that equipment. The climate modelers are helping predict what the conditions will be out in the future. So again, those in the business of growing food can adapt. So there's a lot of activity on the science side including things like how to communicate about what we really need. All of us need to be able to talk about this issue, and there are enough ways to do it. And this is something that Danielle does in part, is to tell how all of us engage in these kinds of dialogues and so there's a long list of efforts in the science community to help address climate change.

Lavitor M.: What can we all do?

Mike H.: Let's put it this way, we can all do something. And these may be the small things recycling compost, but bear in mind. Those are the small things. It's a good starting point. But from there we've got to go. Think, much bigger. And some of the suggestions we make include, make sure you understand climate change. We call it climate change, literally, you understand the cause, the symptoms, we're seeing, why, why it's happening, so that you can articulate that. 

And you know what are the impacts of climate change, but bottom line. Be informed so that you can make good decisions. Wherever that decision, like placing whether it's directing a message to a policymaker or shopping, but being adequately informed so that you can make good common sense, and well informed. Climate change decisions. I'll take one more. There are experts out there in the world that think one of the most important things we can do is simply talk about it. 

In the US, two thirds of the population rarely talk about climate change, yet it's this enormous issue that we face. But the idea is to make it more of a social norm for the law to be free to talk about it, make it part of their daily dialogue, etc. And again, some very smart people think this is the place we should all start with. And there are ways to do it, and ways not to do it. And we can from time to time go into the details of how to best approach this topic. But there is a lot of literature out there and information in the popular press on how to go ahead at this dialogue. At this point, I'm sure Danielle has some great ideas on what we can all do as well. 

Danielle E.: But, again, another way that people can have an impact within their own life. That's, that's pretty simple to do, is to consider a more plant based diet. So, cutting back on meat and treating it a bit more of a luxury as opposed to a staple. When it comes to their daily eating habits. 


Also, learning more about their personal carbon footprint and think about ways that they could reduce it, you know there's a lot of things that we do in our daily lives that can easily be easily be adjusted in a way that reduces a carbon footprint, whether it's choosing more natural based clothing or deciding to bike or walk some as opposed to driving. 

I'm considering alternative forms of transportation, such as taking a train or bus instead of driving or flying. And then also just getting involved at the local level, you know, get involved with a community group, and really push back on some of the policies that are being decided on by policymakers and voting for people that will work hard to make sure that environmentally friendly practices and policies are put in place.

Mike H.: And if I could add one thing. Maybe it is close to an exact quote right up Thornburg. The US climate change leader. Weighs all of a little over 100 pounds. And she basically says, “You're never too small to make a difference.”

Lavitor M.: Can we tackle climate change? Is there hope?

We already have a lot of the technologies and the solutions necessary to ensure that you know we don't reach that tipping point of over two degrees Celsius. In terms of average global warming. It's just that we're kind of, we get in our own way, and where are you because of the, I think the politics around some of the solutions, and that's been a huge barrier, as well as some of the, you know the the lack of understanding or the lack of climate change literacy from the public, that maybe has been less than supportive of some of those policies as well. Mike?

Mike H.: Climate change is going to happen. It's already happening. And Mark trajectory. We're just trying to at this point. To soften the impact it has on us. And there are some scientists, and I do agree with them. That could actually stabilize this whole system in the next 20 to 30 years to stabilize it. And that's a good place, but it's not going to get any worse. And that's a massive shift away from fossil fuels. Social movements such that we're all talking about climate change, we're all in this together. We join forces, etc. And we can make a difference by doing it, sort of, in Unity. That's a huge challenge, but that can make a difference. 

“Is there hope”?

Let me backup just a little bit. And it goes back to, Can we all do something, so it's also a real personal side to all of this. I think many of us have children, maybe even grandchildren. And I guess at some point all I want them to know is that their dad tried, rather than sat there in front of the television and did nothing. So it's our hope. If you give a personal my personal opinion, you're kind of useless. You know, you can be doing something, and I think those of us who sometimes fall into despair. The way to get on the bed is to do something, and to act. So again, I think. Joining forces, we can mitigate the ultimate impact climate change hands on us. It's here, it's going to get worse before we stabilize the system side, I can see hope but it's, there's a rough road ahead.


Lavitor M.: So, what would your last message to our audience be today?

Danielle E.: My take home message would be that, you know, hopefully people recognize that technology and policies alone won't solve the problem of climate change that we need people to get involved in.


Mike H.: I've said this before, but all of us have the capacity to do great things. Much better than Roberts putting it that way, we all have enough, we all have the capacity to do something and we can actually do great things if we really try. 

I think this is the time to look deep into each of us into our hearts and souls and ask the question “what can I do?”. 

And that goes back to, it's time to find your greater purpose. And if you want something that can give you a purpose it's trying to tackle climate change.

So I'll leave it with that, find your greater purpose. 

And, 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, Mike and Danielle. Thank you all. I hope you’ve enjoyed this.

We’ll see you again in Part III of this episode. Thank you

About this welcome opening:

Date: 09/14/2021


Dr. Michal P. Hoffmann, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, and Dr. Danielle L. Eiseman, Author, Lecturer, Climate Change Research Scientist. 


Lavítor Matzembacker, COO at ProteinX Foundation.

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.

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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.