Editor’s Note: I am excited to share the first installment of Robert Grillo’s series Food + Choice = Change! Robert is the founder of Free From Harm and a food activist dedicated to building an online community around the importance of our food choices – Becky
Recently over at Free From Harm, we reported on the end of a major 13-year animal cloning project by New Zealand-based AgReasearch. The post drew so much interest that we decided to delve deeper into the subject. What we found was that the decline of cloning is probably no accident nor is it probably due to any major animal welfare concerns. Its high failure rate and extraordinary expense surely are important factors. But beyond this, it could just be that the the emerging technology of growing meat tissue in a lab is making efforts like cloning obsolete.
It seems like a biotech scientist’s dream to discover a technology that solves almost all of the the major problems that animal agriculture now faces: greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, factory farms and slaughterhouses, and loss of biodiversity. But that dream has now become a reality. According to one of the leading researchers spearheading the technology, biologist Vladimir Mironov, “The growth of “cultured” or in-vitro meat may be a vital step towards solving the global food crisis and fighting hunger in the future.” He points to the fact that we are already running out of agricultural land in certain parts of the world.
Mironov’s quest began some ten years ago when he won a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for cardiovascular tissue engineering. After that grant expired, Mirinov found new sources of funding, including a three-year grant from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). But Mirinov and his colleagues in Charleston, South Carolina are not alone. PETA is apparently offering a one million dollar prize for anyone who can grow a commercially available synthetic meat for market by June 2012.
Europe appears to be leading the research. In fact, in August Mirinov and other scientists will attend a European Science Foundation workshop on in-vitro meat in Goteborg, Sweden. According to a statement from ESF:
The concept of invitro meat — also known as cultured meat or laboratory grown meat — is not new, yet not until the 1990’s and the emergence of the tissue engineering field, did invitro meat become a conceivable reality. Today, the challenge still remains to grow meat in bioreactors, and in large scale, in order to provide a potentially safer, more environmentally sustainable meat source to satisfy the increasing world demand for meat. In order to succeed, public acceptance and debate are necessary.
Mirinov claims that it is just a matter of time and money before cultured meat products will be available in supermarkets. And even his recent suspension from MUSC will not deter him. Venture capitalists will embrace it and provide the funding necessary to bring it to market. Government regulators will confirm that it is safe to eat. And the consumer will come to accept it. He points out that we are already mass consuming cultured products like yoghurt, brewed beer and distilled wine. Therefore, the prospect of consuming cultured meat is not a foreign concept.
Read more stories like this one at Free From Harm
Robert Grillo founded Free from Harm in 2009 to build an online community around the importance of our food choices. He has been in business for himself for the last sixteen years as a marketing and creative professional. His interest in food was cultivated at a young age by “foodie” parents and then transformed much later in life through documentaries and undercover investigations into the food industry.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by sonicwalker