Sabtu, 05 Februari 2011

Now you can grow meat, without the animal!

This is as intriguing as it is disturbing - scientists in the US and the Netherlands are independently researching methods to grow meat in labs.

Though the idea may conjure stomach-turning images of truly mad-science, there are actually some interesting prospects to this research. The scientists involved – such as Bernard Roelen of Utrecht University, Mark Post of Maastricht University, and Vladimir Mironov of the Medical University of South Carolina - argue that growing meat in a lab would require substantially less resources and land than growing meat the conventional way. As a result, lab-grown meat would be cheaper, and may help meet the ever increasing demand for food. There are also ethical ramifications since such meat would not involve the death of a real animal. PETA has even provided grants and created contests to encourage researchers to create non-meat “meats”.

However, there are also disturbing implications as the type of meat grown would not be limited to the animals normally grown for livestock. My favorite disturbing quote, courtesy of Mark Post of Maastricht University:

"In principle, we could harvest the meat progenitor cells from fresh human cadavers and grow meat from them… Once taken out of its disease and animalistic, cannibalistic context — you are not killing fellow citizens for it, they are already dead — there is no reason why not."

Post goes on to suggest that “marketing could overcome such hurdles” as the cannibalistic context.


Luckily, the progress on growing meat is slow – few institutions are willing to fund the research, especially in the US. What progress has been made is limited to thumbnail chunks akin to sausage. As a consumer – and a vegetarian at that – I am not sure what to make of this meatless “meat”. I find it in many ways disturbing, and yet there seem to be some practical benefits, including a researcher’s suggestion that “if we have interplanetary exploration, people will need to produce food in space and you can't take a cow with you.”

Yum! Space meat! Without the meat!

Here are the articles I read. Hope you enjoy!

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