Growing meat in a lab to solve the global food crisis?!

Thanks to a scientist in South Carolina, we may soon have something more disturbing to worry about than the recent deregulation of genetically modified alfalfa and the genetically modified fruits and veggies that are increasingly common in the average American’s diet.

drumroll please

Meat that has been created in a laboratory!

Vladimir Mironov — a scientist working for the past 10 years on bioengineering “cultured” meat — thinks meat made in a lab could solve the future world food crisis that’s resulting from diminished land to grow meat the “old-fashioned way.”

Or. Hmmm. I have an idea that could help solve the food crisis. Let’s just stop eating so much meat! Or we could start eating bugs, which are apparently “good to eat and better for the environment.” Um, yeah. Let’s just stick to eating less meat.

Nicolas Genovese — a visiting scholar in cancer cell biology working under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals three-year grant to run Dr. Mironov’s meat-growing lab — said, “There’s a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab. They don’t like to associate technology with food. But there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner.” Genovese references yogurt as well as wine and beer production.

I’m not sure how one can compare yogurt, which is bacterial fermentation of milk — not to mention something I can make in my own kitchen — with bioengineered meat currently created in a lab.

On one hand, we have milk and cultured yeast, which can easily be made into yogurt in your crock pot in your own home — something I’ve done on several occasions. On the other hand, we have meat that comes from a once living, breathing animal. Yet instead of getting it from an animal, we’re talking about creating it in a “carnery.” If Mironov gets his way, he envisions “football field-sized buildings filled with large bioreactors, or bioreactors the size of a coffee machine in grocery stores, to manufacture what he calls ‘charlem’ — ‘Charleston engineered meat.'”

How are these AT ALL the same?

There’s so much that concerns me about all of this, but especially Mironov’s statement, “Genetically modified food is already normal practice and nobody dies.”

Nobody dies. Is that all that matters — that nobody dies? And who’s to say GM food isn’t killing us slowly? How long have we been guinea pigs eating GM foods? Are there any long-term health studies? Considering it has only been available in the United States since the 1990s, I would venture to guess no, though please correct me if I’m wrong.

Linda Johnson — a naturopathic doctor in New Mexico — speaks to the possible issues of consuming GMO food. She points out:

90% of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. This corn seed is specially made by Monsanto and engineered to ward off root worm by producing its own pesticide, which you then consume.

So you say you don’t eat corn? If you eat animals that eat corn and they managed to force this food on them, you are eating GM food. Specific animal studies showed that when rats were fed this corn, they developed many reactions that included anemia, increased blood sugar levels, kidney inflammation, blood pressure issues, increased white blood cells and more.

It’s very likely these health problems are affecting humans as well. Since the FDA doesn’t think GM food need to be examined for humans to eat safely, it’s been on the market for a long time.

Johnson adds, “European countries feel there is something wrong with this manipulation of food and they don’t allow it in their countries.
… It is not known what the long-term ramifications of eating food daily that has been genetically modified. What are the damaging effects of a newborn ingesting nothing but formula made with GM ingredients? No one knows.”

So why do we allow it here in the United States?

What are your thoughts about lab meat? Would you eat it? Would you feed it to your kids? Do you think it’s the answer to the global food crisis? Are there positives to this I’m missing? Enlighten me, please.

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Photo credit: Yo My Got

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20 thoughts on “Growing meat in a lab to solve the global food crisis?!”

  1. Well, as a vegetarian I can kind of get behind the idea of a cruelty free meat for people who just can’t get their heads around the idea of giving up meat, and in fact the president of PETA (crazy as she is) has long offered a reward for someone to do so. I avoid GMO foods as much as possible though so I wouldn’t touch this either.

  2. Yeah, lab created meat is ridiculous. It’s like, saying “hey, all this sugar I’m consuming is making me fat/diabetic/sick/whatever… I know! I’ll eat fake sugar instead!” Why is our answer to the problem of over consumption to create something fake to continue to over consume? Making lab meat doesn’t address the real problem.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with eating meat in and of itself but all the meat we produce needs to be pastured and pastured only in an ecosystem that support it (like Texas where I live… we have grass land ecosystems which are healthiest with ruminants). And of course animals should only be grazed in numbers that the pastures can support.

  3. I really don’t understand the fuss about genetically modified food. ALL food we eat has been genetically modified. ALL of it. All seeds we plant started out in a wild form-and they are nothing like what we use now. Wild strawberries are tiny. Wild almonds are poisonous. Wild wheat is itty bitty. We’ve been genetically modifying food since we started farming.

    I do understand the fuss when the seeds are sterile so farmers are dependent on the manufacturer because that can cause food insecurity.

    I also understand the worries of the loss of crop rotation in favor of dumping the fields with fertilizer.

    However, Genetically modified foods have been a boon to society. Yellow rice has reduced blindness in Asia, and modified sweet potatoes are used in Uganda to provide more nutrients than the old ones to poor subsistence farmers. Genetically modified wheat is the only reason we can grow wheat in Canada-one of the largest producers of wheat in the world. Without that Canadian wheat there would massive starvation as the crops in Russia, China, and Australia have recently been having severe problems with their weather.

    I think this is a fabulous idea, methane from cows causes a lot of global warming, and meat is a great source of protein that we in the western world could use less of but that the rest of the world would benefit from. Lets not get tunnel vision about technology, but instead use it wisely to benefit everyone.

  4. Perhaps if more people would just THINK for a moment about the process of eating meat – what it took to get that hamburger on your plate – and just stopped. Eating. Meat. THAT would solve the global food crisis. Cruelty to animals aside, the amount of resources – land, water, petrolium it takes to bring cattle up to slaughter, we’d be able to harvest so many MORE veggies & grains on that land.

    I’m not completely against gen mod foods; maybe I don’t know enough, but I do think in limited ways, there is some good to come from it – i.e. being able to grow things where previously they weren’t able to be grown (of course, I guess you could argue that going against what naturally grows somewhere could greatly affect that ecosystem. Yet, people are living in places where they alter the landscape in order to comfortably live… so food follows the people).

    But genmod meat? Unnecessary. There are so many alternatives for protein, why turn to a completely unnatural source?

  5. The whole GM food debate is insane to begin with as really, is there a debate? No one knows how these products affect humans long and short term. The “growing of meat” however is very serious. And of course, we cannot test it as it is patented.

    The Beef and cattle industry should be screaming about this! This takes away their livelihoods! I am not a beef eater, but I do believe in resolution, and “live and let live” as long as no harm is done. But this is one HUGE industry that can back up the whole science experiment with a great deal of protest and government influence. While we may be vegan, it is time to put down our “shields and armor” and stand together.

    @Kimberly: Wrong, wrong, wrong. GM alteration in a lab is a new process, and has not gone on forever. It has no similarity to how Nature does this what so ever. Get educated.

    There is no GM wheat in Canada. None. Zero. again, get educated please.

    Yellow rice has to have value added to it because the modifications took most of the original value out. Plus, you have to eat the equivalent of 5 pounds a day to get the daily allotment of Vit A. What ever happened to common sense? Why not feed people real food? Green stuff? Why can’t they eat good food too?

    GM’s harm to humans comes in forms beyond health. Loss of food sovereignty, corporate control of all food supplies and seeds, plus government manipulation and the loss of natural environment is probably a worse offense than the health issues.

    Anyone that has no issues with GM are either paid by them or have no desire to do the homework and learn about it.

    Knowledge is way ahead of wisdom.

    April Reeves, Director, GE Free BC

  6. Ew, just ew.

    In some places people are starving and here people literally die from eating too much. You’d think we’d be able to balance those out so that everyone gets just what they need.

  7. anything they do, i think the organic meats or vegetables are still the best foods that we should eat. it will more better if they try to find out the way to improve the organic veggies plant system.

  8. No, I wouldn’t eat it.

    Pesticides and chemical fertilizers have also been touted as answers to the global food crisis, and a good case could be made for that. But I still avoid them as much as I can. Every choice we make has consequences, and the fact that some of those consequences are positive does not convince me that the choice itself is positive. We need to look at it in a much more holistic, long-term way.

  9. So, I haven’t heard anyone elses’ feasbile ideas for solving a global food crisis, except to eat bugs?

    What about proof of something working? Area we all so consumed by “natural” that we can’t bring ourselves to utilize science in order to get what we need to keep people alive and well. Perhaps we should live in the countries where people are starving for a while, and perhaps anything would be better than watching people starve to death. Cheap food. I’m not saying this might not have its follies, but why is exploring the option completely out because we in priveldged North America can’t stomach the idea.

  10. @birthsister

    Actually, I suggested that we all stop eating meat altogether as the amount of land required to raise a pound of beef yields far greater amounts of grain/vegetables/beans. The transition to a global vegetarian diet is a viable solution.

    It isn’t about being “consumed by natural” it’s about sensibly using what we have. And right now, we use far too much land & resources to produce & transport cows meant for slaughter. Meat is an unnecessary part of the human diet. It isn’t about being “natural” or “priviledged”, its about being sustainable & making the best use of the limited resources we have available to us.

  11. @kellynaturally

    Exactly. The answer is to stop eating meat. It is not necessary in our diet and it is certainly not sustainable or natural. And clearly not humane.

  12. @ kellynaturally,

    I guess I missed your suggestion in reading the comments. While I get what you’re saying, and understand we don’t necessarily require meat for our complete sustenance here in North America, i wonder about the feasibility of convincing the world. I just can’t see a movement so big that would or could convince others to stop eating meat entirely?

    While maybe with evolution humans are aware enough to know that it is not sustainable and we need and should seek alternatives, what about people outside of N.A. who cannot obtain/purchase all the different supplements or foods that will help sustain them.

    Or heck, even those people on an extremely low budget who can’t afford anything but the crap that monthly assistance affords so they can feed their families.

    I like your idea, heck I’d try it – But I live in NA and would say I’m well enough off to try it. Reteaching the world how to eat and get the sustenance they require in order to survive seems insurmountable when most of the world is starving or hungry.

    *Does creating meat monsters in labs seem to be a reasonable alternative, probably not, but you never know what could spring from this. It’s my understanding scientists have been working on this for over 20 years.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know where most of the meat in the world is consumed? Is it North America?

    @Christina in Ohio
    I still don’t know what’s not natural? Is it not natural for us to eat meat? Aren’t humans omnivores?

  13. I am definitely against eating GM meat, as I am with eating all GM foodstuffs, but I do not agree with your conclusion that the answer is to eat less meat.

    After extensive research, I’ve learned that vegetarianism and especially veganism are very detrimental to health and the environment, despite common perception. Unfortunately, we, as a society have been brainwashed by the same forces that are genetically modifying our food (corporations, big agrobusiness and soya producers, among others)to think that meat is unhealthy. Yes, factory farmed meat is unhealthy. But I don’t eat factory farmed meat. I eat grass fed beef, eat eggs from pastured free range chickens, make homemade yogurt from organic whole milk, etc.

    Civilizations survived on animal products starting over a million years ago, and they were not factory rasied, obviously. Our bodies are designed to digest and get nutrients from animal products in a more efficient way than consuming non-animal meat substitutes(like the agricultural by-product soy protein isolate found in tofu).

    I know it sounds crazy, and that I am a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not! Really, I used to be vegetarian and feel like I’ve “seen the light”. A book that explains all this in a very well-researched way is The Vegetarian Myth, by Lierre Kieth. Review here:

    If you’re intrigued by this, give it a chance. We really can do a lot more to stave off hunger and degradation of our land by raising pastured animals and eating all parts of them. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; it’s already been done! 🙂 By the way, I’m more healthy than I’ve ever been now, after increasing consumption of animal products.

  14. April: you’re missing the point. Humans have been genetically modifying food since we began farming. YOU need to educate YOURSELF, because “Nature” is not responsible for the vast changes to the foods we eat. WE did it through selective breeding. Don’t be fooled into believing that because selective breeding is old technology that that makes it inherently safer. In point of fact it’s even less safe, because at the time we had no way of looking at the genes of our crops or assessing potential side effects beforehand. While we don’t have all the answers, we still have access to more information and can therefore make better decisions today. But if nothing else, remember that ALL FOOD IS GMO – the only difference is the mechanism of mutation. Object to copyrighted gene sequences if you like, object to introducing new foods without enough longitudinal testing – just stop lying to yourself and saying that the foods you currently eat are “natural”. They aren’t!

  15. All I can say is Ewww. I totally can’t believe meat is being created for consumption in a lab! Though it should come at no suprise I guess given where this country is headed. We have vowed to eat local and avoid GM food at all cost. It’s totally wrong what our government is doing to our food and allowing no promoting GM foods. We take a stand by not purchasing therefore not voting. Thanks for this post found it most interesting and bothersome.

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