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GM and lab grown meat for the agricultural future?

Making predictions is commonplace and in government and business circles it is given the name “futurology.” In some senses this makes sense for it allows planning to take places. However, the further into the future researchers look then the less certain the predictions become. The latest area to be subject to futurology is agriculture, with two new reports coming out.

The first report comes from the U.K. and it is titled “The UK and the World in 2050.” The report makes a number of predictions, covering different topics. With agriculture it states “Agriculture will be very much more environmentally friendly by 2050; this will be true throughout the world, but especially so in the UK.” Here three interesting predictions are made:

The first prediction is about a greater reliance upon genetically modified crops that are self-fertilizing, pest and drought resistant. Resistance may also extend to crops that can grow in salt conditions (saline resistant) and crops that can better tolerate extremes of cold and heat. Such modified plants will be designed to ensure better yields, compared with the unmodified crop plants found today.

A second prediction extends to genetic modification creating plants that produce more edible food than equivalent plants can produce today. The aim is to design plants and trees that can grow much faster, perhaps up to five times more quickly.

The third prediction is about laboratory-grown meat, derived from cell culture. This process is designed to bring about the end of factory farming and the intensive rearing of animals.

The second report is at the United Nations level, and comes from the first International Conference on Steps to Sustainable Livestock, which took place during January 2016. This report focused on the dangers facing humanity and the risks to food security.

The concerns were: direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; the widespread erosion and degradation of soils; the localized environmental pollution from concentrated output of fecal waste; and the human health threats posed by widespread farm antibiotic abuse.

So, two sets of predictions. The first report is seemingly positive, using science (albeit genetic engineering) to solve problems; the second, more concerned about a range of problems that humanity might find very difficult to address.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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