walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Must Love Meat

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.

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  • Atlanta Lawyer

    Calling Ted Turner, calling Ted Turner . . .

  • Ray Yang

    Expecting Big Agriculture to embrace lab grown meat is like expecting Swiss watchmakers in 1940 toembrace digital electronics: it makes all their expensive infrastructure worthless

  • Soul

    As my young nephews would say, KeWl! It will be interesting to see how this turns out. Figure our current production meats aren’t all that different from being synthetic. Animals are fed grains they are not able to handle or meant to eat, and pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive long enough for the slaughter house. I guess too that combination, grains and antibiotics, helps fatten animals up quickly. The modern practice has many upset, calling it cruel and inhumane, from what I read and tend to agree.

    I’ll probably personally stick with nutritionally rich grass fed meats, but realize due to it’s high price that option isn’t for all. And if done right, lab produced meats could potentially be a better option currently offered to the masses.

  • Kris

    “saving the planet by cutting cows out of the food chain.”

    “Moo,” I say. “Moo!”

  • gavin

    the trick with livestock is you do not have to be rich to get wealthy.you have a self contained reproducing meat or milk machine that can walk itself to market.

  • Ken Marks

    The green movement views humanity as a virus, a plague on the earth. So they will not support anything that allows the “plague” to continue to thrive. That’s why they oppose all new large scale energy sources, even solar, when it is proposed. (See Mohave Desert proposed Solar Plant). Therefore it is not surprising that they are not jumping for joy at the possibility of producing animal protein in great quantities. If this could happen, the plague would have a source of food. Environmentalists would like to see the world’s population shrink dramatically. I have seen the number 85% in some places.

  • http://thepencilofnature.net Lorenz Gude

    I can’t say as I look forward to a faux steak, and having grown up an a farm I don’t experience cows as having rights but as fellow beings. With artificial meat even the factory cows, which I agree don’t have good working conditions like the ones I grew up with, will never have any existence at all. At the end of the day I’m with Krishna – I love the world full of cows and gopis. And I love the smell of methane in the morning.

  • Mark in Texas

    If the motive of animal rights activists and greens were to increase happiness and wellbeing while reducing cruelty, they would probably be more enthusiastic about artificial meat.

    On the other hand, if their primary motivation is to force other people to do things that those people don’t want to do, the greens and PETA folk would behave pretty much like they are behaving right now.

  • raf

    The incentive for PETA, an animal rights group, is of course to reduce the slaughter of cows, chicken, pigs…

    PETA is not so much pro-animal as anti-meat. If animals are no longer useful as food, who will continue to feed and breed them? If artificial meat were to become suddenly successful, the following slaughter would be enormous. A (more likely) gradual replacement will just reduce the population of (formerly food) animals by attrition. For example, look what happened to the horse population when their usefulness was supplanted by internal combustion vehicles. Evolutionarily speaking, becoming a human food animal has been spectacularly successful for the genomes of cows, pigs, sheep, etc. This may not be an existence that appeals to the romantic nature of some PETA donors, but neither is “nature,” truth be told.

    [Sigh] I suppose it is necessary for me to add that I grew up on a farm and personally find factory farming offensive. I just refuse to be romantic about it.

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