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The Positive Impact of 3d Printing on Our Health and the Environment

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In a couple of decades, 100 billion land animals will be needed to provide meat, dairy, eggs and leather goods for the world’s population. Continuing this livestock could take an enormous, possibly unsustainable toll on our planet.

Also, a conducted study shows that in 2025 there will be 11 million people who will suffer from diabetes. Even worse, another study states that the people who will suffer from diabetes in 2025 will be double, 22 million people (Boyle, et al., 2001). Today, there are approximately 315 million people around the world who suffer from diabetes. A lot of people think that diabetes is caused by eating sugar, this is a deception. Diabetes is actually caused by eating a typical meat and animal product based diet.

The two problems stated above are both able to be solved with one simple change, a change in our diet. The meat and animal products in our diet are almost indispensable, but maybe there is a different way, or maybe there will be a different way.

3D printing is a revolutionary developing technology that helps to arise whole new approaches for designing and manufacturing. Especially for implications in the geopolitical, economic, social, demographic, environmental, and security sectors (Campbell, Williams, Ivanova, & Garrett, 2011). 3D food printing is currently limited by cost, time, and amount of production on a large scale (Lin, 2015), but soon 3D printers will be faster, cheaper and more accessible to the normal population and households.

In the future, 3D printers will be able to print nearly any type of imaginable food product, including food that we eat a lot, like fruit, pasta, chocolate, and even chewing gum. Also, food that cannot be found in nature, like edible growth. And we will be able to print personalized nutritional foods (Tran, 2016).

When looking at what the amount of research that is done, and still is being done, about the 3D printing technology, and when we look at what is already possible with 3D food printing, I believe that 3D printing will have a major positive impact on both our health and the environment, by eliminating a big part of the agricultural sector worldwide.

Focusing on the choices of society concerning food, there are several trends happening. People are getting more aware of the choices they make, they believe that food can bring benefits to their health, as well as to the environment. To show their awareness, people are starting to have more attention for healthy food products and sustainable food products.

In the past two decades, growing environmental awareness, animal welfare, and worker safety are seen as trends in the human society, this has led people to question modern agricultural practices. This has been reflected in an increasing demand for organic and sustainable products, which is perceived as less damaging to the environment than conventionally grown foods (Saba & Messina, 2003). The concern of the consumers for the environment appeared in the late 60’s. This was the cause of a general distrust in the society, the industry, and in modern technology. These concerned consumers can be defined as persons who know that the production, distribution, use, and disposal of products lead to external costs, and who evaluates such external costs negatively. These persons are trying to minimize this negative effect by changing their own behaviors towards food consumption (Grunert & Juhl, 1995). One of the changes in behavior is buying and consuming sustainable food products. In the process of creating sustainable and organic products, the use of chemicals and pesticides is avoided. These substances are perceived to be environmentally harmful. Unfortunately, the price of sustainable and organic products is known to be relatively high in comparison to normal food products. This causes that the purchasing and consumption of organic products are for a lot of people, not an option. Through the emission of Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide, the agriculture sector accounts for approximately one-fifth of the annual increase of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, which leads to global warming (Grasty, 1999).

3D printing can help solve this environmental problem by eliminating a big part of the agricultural sector (Tran, 2016). This will be done by printing foods instead of using the land to grow the foods. Instead of growing different varieties of food, the agriculture sector will put its focus now on producing different ingredients. This change in the sector will ensure that the human footprint on our planet will be limited in a very big way, and so will reduce the climate change (Tran, 2016).

On the other hand, this change will also have a downside. If the agricultural practices will change completely or will be completely replaced, it will cause a dramatic impact on our ecosystems (Tran, 2016).

Nutrition is the most significant life-long environmental impact on our health (Kussmann & Fay, 2008). More and more people are understanding the importance of their health and are giving more of their attention to their diet. There are also a lot of people who have the need for a special, personalized nutrition diet. This can be caused by dietary needs, allergies or even personal taste preferences. The wrong nutrition is one of the biggest causes when talking about unattained genetic potential, reduces physical and cognitive risk performance, and increased risk of several diseases (Milner, 2002). Diabetes, artistes, heart diseases, dementia, obesity, and cancer are together worldwide 70% of all death causes. These diseases are all lifestyle related, and thus every single one of them is preventable. When talking about these diseases, animal products all have a leading role. Diabetes expert and researcher Dr. Wear Bernard states that diabetes is caused by a diet that builds up the amount of fat in the blood, pointing at a typical meat and animal product based diet. Also, Harvard conducted a research where they looked at 9 studies, finding out that only 1 porting of processed meat a day increases the chance of diabetes with 51%. Adding up to that, a research based on 800 studies from 10 different countries shows that there is a direct link between the consumption of processed meat and cancer (Andersen & Kuhn, 2016).

Personalized nutrition can ensure that the needs and preferences of an individual’s health status and body type requirement will be met. With our traditional food supply chain, personalized nutrition comes with extra costs. This is because foods with controlled ingredient formulation are much more challenging to produce.

This is where 3D food printing can come in handy. There are already several organizations that are working on 3D printed personalized nutritional food. The first personalized nutrition is likely to begin as a more simple structure, like bars that will include our required daily nutrients and vitamins (Tran, 2016). If there will be long-term investments in research to personalized food, there is an opportunity that in the future it will be able to provide each individual person with exactly the right nutrition they need (Tran, 2016). Even a further development will be that we will all have a 3D printer in our house, which will be able to receive information about us and use these data to print foods accordingly (Lin, 2015). When 3D printing is, eventually, developed in a way that we can print anything, the production of meat and animal products can be eliminated. This will cause that people will not eat, or reduce eating, an animal-based diet, and thus is it plausible that the chance of cancer, diabetes and heart diseased will radically decrease.

Concluding, I can say that the agricultural sector is a big player in the negative climate change and also in our health. Both of these negative implications can be reduced by changing the population’s diet. If people are reducing their meat and animal consumption, both our health and the environment will change positively.

With the developments happening in the 3D printing industry, 3D food printing can help us achieve the goal to live a healthy and sustainable living. This is, of course, a preferred future scenario for those who actually want to live this way. Only for those who are not informed about these matters, it will be unlikely that they will stand aside from meat and animal food products. With the right information, and the right way of distributing this information it can be likely for everyone to chose sustainable and healthy, by choosing the 3D printed food.

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