Here at Via Meadia we’ve long been awaiting the days when people can lay into a shamburger cooked entirely from fake meat. That day finally arrived last week when scientists cooked the world’s first entirely synthetic burger. While the taste left something to be desired, and the price was a somewhat steep $330,000, the burger already has some high-profile fans, including the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin. Here’s the Economist extolling the virtues of the new technology:
Meanwhile, as poor countries grow richer, so does their appetite for flesh. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation forecasts global demand for meat to increase by three-quarters over the next 40 years. This is unsustainable. In contrast, growing meat in factories—or, one day, in your home—is estimated to use up to 45% less energy, 99% less land and 96% less water than farming, as well as to spew out 78-96% fewer greenhouse gases. [...]
And, contrary to doom-mongers’ warnings about the perils of “Frankenburgers”, lab-grown meat should be safer than the farm-grown sort. It is, for instance, less vulnerable to animal-borne diseases which decimate livestock and can, as in the case of bird-flu, jump to humans. Nor is it genetically modified in any way—the breakthrough burger was cultured from the shoulders of a Blanc Bleu Belge and a Blonde d’Aquitaine—which should make it kosher to opponents of GMOs in places like Europe.
This is exactly right. Despite the opposition of many worried about the rise of GMOs and “frankenfoods,” ideas like this, which could help feed millions of people while reducing our impact on the environment, are exactly the sort of smart green developments we need to see more of.
Billions of people can leave better, richer lives even as humanity learns to coexist ever more fruitfully and sustainably with the world that nurtures us. That is the extraordinary promise of the 21st century, the most challenging and exciting time in the history of our kind.