Synthetic meat is certainly one of the latest innovations in food technology that has certainly gained a lot of attention. Basically, what this involves is culturing animal cells in the laboratory and supplying nutrients until they grow into large enough pieces that they can be used as food. So far, the technology has been used to produce “beef,” “duck,” and even “chicken.”
While the current state of the science involved in these endeavors produces meat costing tens of thousands of dollars for a single portion, the innovative scientists involved in these efforts clearly have their eyes on the notion of launching a highly sustainable and profitable industry. Further, this type of “food” production will clearly leverage the notions of being both environmentally friendly and a more ethical alternative to the commercial methods of raising and slaughtering animals.
From a regulatory perspective, it is unclear what governmental institution would be challenged with oversight as it relates to these products. Things like food additives as well as products derived from human cells are in the province of the FDA while the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees animal and plant food products.
But regardless of what agency ultimately is charged with writing the rules for this new area of food technology, there is reason for concern. We’ve got to take a step back and recognize that the foods we consume are far more complex than their metrics of caloric content, percentage saturated fat, vitamin content, and so on. The foods that we consume actually influence the expression of our DNA – a process called epigenetics. And so far, much like with currently available GMO foods, no one seems to be looking at how these new lab-made meats will affect the expression of our DNA – our very life code.
So it will be interesting to see how this plays out. No doubt, if this technology continues to advance it will become enormously profitable. But we must always embrace the dictum of “Above all, do no harm,” when our actions and recommendations can affect human health.