Mad scientist looking for crazy rich person to pursue long-term in vitro experimentation. Open relationship can include greens. Must love meat.
That’s what Dr. Vladimir Mironov’s ad might look like if there were an online singles site specifically for people proposing to save the world. A year ago, Via Meadia reported on Dr. Mironov’s attempt to grow animal protein – meat – in the lab rather than on the hoof, and on the fundamental changes this would introduce to both the food supply and the global warming debates. Not only does Dr. Mironov believe that tissue-engineered meat can be produced more economically and effectively than conventional meat, but cattle-rearing, according to a UN report, is also responsible for more of the world’s CO2 emission than transportation.
Alas, there is no dating site for people proposing to save the world (or if there is, please tell us!), but there is PETA’s million-dollar challenge to make lab meat in commercial quantities, which the Guardian reported on this week. The incentive for PETA, an animal rights group, is of course to reduce the slaughter of cows, chicken, pigs, and other things mouthwatering. But this is also an example of possible collaboration between animal and environmental activists. We said then:
You would think that smart greens genuinely interested in saving the planet would be all over Dr. Mironov’s work like white on rice. You would think that the vast and well organized enviro-agricultural lobbies like the ones that brought us ethanol and the enviro-industrial lobbies like the ones bringing us bad electric cars and expensively subsidized alternative energy sources would be pumping billions or at least hundreds of millions into a relatively simple scientific concept that, if successful, would make the world cleaner while dramatically raising the living standards of much of the world’s population by making a high protein diet more accessible and sustainable. But you would be wrong. Nobody seems very interested in the prospect of saving the planet by cutting cows out of the food chain. Very little money has gone into this field and very few scientists are working on it.
PETA’s prize challenge, which ends on June 30 of this year, is certainly a commendable step in the right direction, but the paltry sum attached to it, along with the poor sponsorship of tissue-engineering generally, confirms Via Meadia’s analysis: the financial backing of scientific research toward a non-live meat market, given the multiplicity and scale of foreseeable benefits, is, compared to that of the cimate-changeologists, completely inverted. As one scientist lamented in the Guardian-piece, “There is very little funding. What it needs is a crazy rich person.”
If environmental activists want to be part of a serious effort to curb global warming, they would do much better to join forces with faux-meat researchers than to wage quixotic battles for chimerical global carbon treaties.
Unlike current green strategies, this one might actually work.