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article imageOp-Ed: ‘Clean meat’, grown in labs, gets regulatory OK

By Paul Wallis     Nov 18, 2018 in Science
Washington - The virtual super nova of interest in clean meat has arrived at the regulatory stage. The FDA and USDA are to jointly regulate lab grown meat, in a major new development. Clean meat is heading for the shelves with big money backing.
A press release from the Good Food Institute was sent to me by the Institute, with some very interesting news. Clean meat will be under the same laws as “normal” meat. The clean meat will be appropriately labelled, and according to a statement by the USDA, the USDA and FDA will oversee different parts of the manufacturing process, but that’s about all that will happen.
That bit of news is likely to be the catalyst for all-out development, and there's a lot of new money pouring in to clean meat and other "agrifoods". We’re past the “Um…Er…” stage with regulations. Lab-grown meat is avoiding the predicted obstacle course and likely to hit the supermarkets quickly, with huge investments and a lot more information arriving daily as well.
Reinventing food for the future
The huge change in agriculture that clean meat will bring has a lot of upsides, and no downsides:
1. Clean meat is grown like yoghurt. It’s a pretty straightforward process, no stresses on the animals, no hordes of antibiotics, hormones, etc. required. If you’re thinking that means clean meat is really clean, and lacks the “entertainment value” of guessing if there are risks, bingo.
2. Demand for protein with an anticipated 11 billion people by 2100 means that current livestock production is non-viable. The logistics, pollution, costs, and sheer scale of land use are totally unsustainable. Clean meat solves the demand issue and the practical issues and can be applied to a vast range of high protein products.
3. Clean meat can also save endangered marine species like tuna, just at the point when the ocean food chain is visibly (and inexcusably) collapsing.
4. Clean meat clears up the extremely grim ethical situation regarding the killing and treatment of animals. Endless controversies, and some truly hideous situations with animals raised in utterly appalling conditions, can be finally put to rest.
5. Clean meat is part of a vast range of new, economical food initiatives, notably not including the dubious at best, inadequately tested and supervised, annoyingly evasive, antiquated, pre-CRISPR GMO framework. Any CRISPR alternative to GMOs can consider itself welcome without reservations, unlike GMOs. (CRISPR is precision genetic engineering, not to be confused with the notorious Frankenfoods type of genetic modification, which idiotically alienated a lot of people with its hard sell/no info/ No Questions To Be Asked methods.)
What do farmers think? You’d be surprised, maybe.
You might expect some resistance from the livestock industry, but that didn’t happen. The American livestock sector wanted “fake meat” oversighted by the USDA, and that’s exactly what happened, with added FDA involvement. Successful farmers are also good business people, by definition, and the average livestock business has more degrees than a thermometer. So they’ll be pretty happy with this outcome. As a matter of fact, they were pushing for standards for scientifically produced meats, regardless of method of production, so this is a bit of a vindication of their position.
…And an existing market. What more could you want?
Interestingly, a survey of American consumers shows that 66% of Americans were open minded about clean meat when the idea was explained to them. Rather less impressively, only 25% of the survey had heard of clean meat. Obviously there’s a bit of public information required, and the message has to get out there ASAP, but the market should take care of that in the next few years.
The lack of market resistance isn’t too surprising. Given the bizarre state of processed foods, another processed food type isn’t too scary. As long as it’s actual food, not quasi-fictional food with attached lawyers like the old-style GMOs, apparently it’s considered OK. If it’s also obviously safer than “whatever” in a can, nobody’s likely to be bitching much.
So… Get out your eating irons, and look forward. Real food is coming back!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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