Monday, September 12, 2011

Test Tube Meat

To some, eating a burger that was actually manufactured in a lab may sound like a chilling nightmare from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, but to others, the discovery that in vitro meat may be coming soon to our supermarkets is a cause for celebration. Having recently traveled to laboratories in the Netherlands and North Carolina to observe the progress of tissue scientists in their titanic endeavor, science writer Michael Specter eagerly argues in favor of test-tube meat. Scientists retrieve stem cells from pigs and place them in petri dishes of nutrient-rich broth, and these cells rapidly divide and grow to become meat cells.

Specter explains that animal welfare is a huge part of the motivation for growing meat in labs. "Billions of cows, chickens and pigs would no longer spend their lives force-fed grain and antibiotics or cooped up in factory farms." In vitro meat would also benefit the planet immensely by reducing the amount of global livestock needed, which, "according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. And as the population grows, more resources will be needed to sustain the agricultural industry."

With promising studies such as test tube meat, Thomas Malthus may finally stop churning in his grave.

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