Often hailed as the Nobel Prize of food, the World Food Prize has received as much attention this week for its ties to industrial agriculture and genetically modified (GM) crops as it has for honoring those who feed the world’s poor.
The prize has been a lightning rod for international criticism since June, when it announced as one of its laureates Robert Fraley, an executive at the biotech corporation Monsanto, which has been at the center of a number of controversies over GM crops.
Fraley shared the honor with Syngenta scientist Mary-Bell Chilton and Plant Genetic Systems co-founder Marc Van Montagu, fellow pioneers in the development of high-yield GM crops resistant to disease, pests and harsh climates.
I’m not into the tone of this article, but thought y’all would appreciate knowing about it.
[S]everal obstacles may prove to be insurmountable for the near - future commercialization of in vitro meat. The legacy of consumer wariness for foods produced through biotechnological intervention, as encapsulated by the prolific debate over genetically modified foods, coupled with the fetishization of the process of slaughter as a component of meat quality compounds the issue of meat production. Nevertheless, as will be discussed, if in vitro meat proves to be successful it may have tremendous promise that translates to several areas of contention for animal rights activism.
In Vitro Meat: A Vehicle for the Ethical Rescaling of the Factory Farming Industry and in Vivo Testing or an Intractable Enterprise? - Via
This is a sweet moment between mom and son. I think a lot of parents have this same conversation, when their child connects their food to viable creatures. An old friend of mine has 5(!) kids, and I was there when one of them discovered that the chicken on her plate was from a “real chicken.” O’ the horror that ensued… This kid’s mom is quite level-headed, but other parents, unfortunately, have a more forceful “eat your food!” response. Well worth your time, especially if you’ve hung out with kids and witnessed their incredible perceptions.
Could ethical concerns ultimately drive public acceptance of the new food technology? Cor van der Weele, Professor of Humanistic Philosophy at Wageningen University, is convinced that’s the case, with artificial meat at least. “People will see the moral benefits of cultured meats. Taking stem cells from a pig rather than killing millions of pigs in factories is already a more attractive idea to consumers.” She quotes studies of the viability of growing meat in sunlight-fuelled “bio-reactors” placed in desert areas: the reduction in resources is staggering. “It would require 1% of the land and just 2% of the water that traditional meat production does. And it would involve a 90% reduction in greenhouse gases,” she says.
Eating real meat in 2035 could be as morally questionable as eating foie gras – and about as expensive. As Dr Mark Post says: “A meat-eater with a bicycle is much more environmentally unfriendly than a vegetarian with a Hummer.”
norealamazingthing asked: Hi I just wanted to let you know that I find your blog very interesting and a wealth of information. The post on Vitro Meat left me a little alarmed because it made me think of the movie Soylent Green. So I looked into it. I'm not very tumblr savvy and I guess I can't give you a link to the website. But if you look up Steak of the art fatal flaws of Vitro meat on google you should be able to find the article I'm referring to. I look forward to hearing your opinion on it.
Her background matters because her article “Steak of the Art" speculates about the production problems of bringing printed meat to the market. She explains that the engineering processes are expensive, that the volume of genetic material needed is huge, and, inexplicably / incongruously swerves to discuss feeding cattle algae.
Her point is that lab-grown meat production could never be made efficient enough to compete with cattle meat. To support this, she points to the cost of the first batch of In Vitro meat, which was about $330,000 USD. Then she speculates that this is a lot of money. I would love to ask her her thoughts on how much she thinks running a 1,000 head ranch costs - not only in terms of owning and managing the property and animals proper, but the costs to the environment, governments, and human health as well.
She’s a smart scientist, but she has no business sense. Marketing a new product such as this would cost millions.
I don’t have a problem with lab-grown meat. I’m just not falling for the hype. I’m sure glad people are talking about it. And I would love love love to read the ethical arguments for and against eating this stuff.
As for market viability? I have experience with managing budgets, running businesses, and analyzing environmental policy: there’s no way that a bio-meat would or could displace beef. The backlash from the ag-lobby would astonish even the most hardened politician. Not to mention the hokey ‘nostalgia’ people have for cows, cattle ranching, cowboys, and farmers. Impossible to displace these powerful, established, and frankly fine forces.
It’ll just be a niche product - probably for the ultra-ethical and adventurous types. So, don’t fall for the hype!
I’d try it. Printed meat opens an interesting debate, testing environmentalists’ ethical arguments against eating beef. We know that on the whole raising cattle is environmentally terrible, painful for the animals, and expensive. Could distaste (eg, the “ew-ick” factor) for bio-beef turn into a viable solution? After all, it’s safe, tasty, equally nutritious, would save millions of acres of land, substantially lower carbon footprint, and raise water quality. It also nearly eliminates swine flu, Mad Cow, avian flu, tuberculosis, brucellosis, and other animal-to-human plagues. (I’d argue further that it would relieve ranchers the pain of losing a few head to wolves.)
Bio-beef would resolve countless issues, but the ick factor seems to overwhelm the arguments for it. Thus, testing the boundaries and worth of environmental ethics…
Vat-Meat Approaching the Mainstream: Peter Thiel Seeds Modern Meadow
Billionaire investor Peter Thiel’s philanthropic foundation plans to announce today a six-figure grant for bioprinted meat, part of an ambitious plan to bring to the world’s dinner tables a set of technologies originally developed for creating medical-grade tissues.
The recipient of the Thiel Foundation’s grant, a Columbia, Mo.-based startup named Modern Meadow, is pitching bioprinted meat as a more environmentally-friendly way to satisfy a natural human craving for animal protein. Co-founder Andras Forgacs has sharply criticized the overall cost of traditional livestock practices, saying “if you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck.”
Federal law allows the Agriculture Department to buy meat and poultry products to help farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters.
The announcement came as Obama criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for blocking a farm bill that could help farmers cope with the drought. Obama touted his efforts to help farmers as he began a three-day tour of the battleground state he won in 2008.
“That will help ranchers who are going through tough times right now,” Obama said.
Obama said the government would boost its purchases of meat now, while prices are low, and freeze much of it for later use.
The USDA plans to buy up to $100 million of additional pork products, $50 million of chicken, $10 million of lamb and $10 million of catfish. The Defense Department, a large purchaser of beef, pork and lamb, was expected to look for ways to encourage its vendors to speed up purchases of meat.
“The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA nutrition programs,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
The USDA has spent about $37 million on pork products so far this year. If it spends an additional $100 million, that would be more than twice what the agency spent on pork in 2011.
Obama has pledged a wide-ranging response to the drought. His administration is giving farmers and ranchers access to low-interest emergency loans, opening more federal land for grazing and distributing $30 million to get water to livestock.
Good reporting on government handouts to private businesses via CBS.
A vegetarian lays out the economic realities and environmental impacts of “sustainable” agriculture.
For all the strengths of these alternatives, however, they’re ultimately a poor substitute for industrial production. Although these smaller systems appear to be environmentally sustainable, considerable evidence suggests otherwise.
Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.
The issue is scale - we can’t have 100 million small farms for each household, and industrial agriculture is the only reasonable, viable, and therefore sustainable answer to human food needs. (Pretty please, before you send me angry msgs, I kindly ask you to read FAO’s “Ethical Issues in Food" and UM’s "Ethical Issues in Farming"(PDF). At least skim them, and think in terms of "scale." Arguments for ethical treatment of ag animals are great. But the case for ethical treatment is not strong enough to eliminate the need for industrial scale farming).
“Farming the Unconscious" proposes an alternative way of growing chickens for food: embedding them into a matrix. Free from cruelty, the chickens are unconscious, and free of pain and disease. They are well fed, healthy, and stress free because they are kept out of cages (and not awake) thus responding to ethical arguments against factory farming.
As long as their brain stem is intact, the homeostatic functions of the chicken will continue to operate. By removing the cerebral cortex of the chicken, its sensory perceptions are removed.
It can be produced in a denser condition while remaining alive, and oblivious.The feet will also be removed so the body of the chicken can be packed together in a dense volume.
Food, water and air are delivered via an arterial network and excreta is removed in the same manner. Around 1000 chickens will be packed into each ‘leaf’, which forms part of a moving, productive system.
The model shows that the chickens take up less space than traditional factory farming. The chickens are “plugged in” to the system, there by eliminating the need for clean up of waste.
The model in the exhibition showed the system in which a chicken would be grown at The Centre for Unconscious Farming. Feed lines provide sustenance, excreata lines remove waste, electrodes stimulate muscle growth.
The proposal is by architecture student, André Ford, who looked at eliminated not only the problem of intense agricultural farming techniques, but also looked at eliminating cruelty:
One of the students of the course, André Ford, looked at the intensification of the broiler chicken industry. Each year, the UK raises and kills 800 million chickens or ‘broilers’ for their meat. Broiler rearing might be unethical and unsustainable but it is now the most intensified and automated type of livestock production.
Broiler chickens spend their 6-7week lives in windowless sheds, each containing around 40,000 birds. They are selectively bred to grow faster than they would naturally which often causes skeletal problems and lameness.
Many die because their hearts and lungs cannot keep up with their rapid growth. Information about the atrocious conditions in which they are raised can be found online.