NPR: Food, Science, and Politics
NPR Fresh Air recently had a great episode on how increasing food scarcity is leading to a new form of “geopolitical leverage” and how science is working to create meat in the laboratory in order to help alleviate this forthcoming situation.
Brown says the world’s rapidly expanding population has created elevated demand for grain, milk, cheese and eggs, but changes in climate and irrigation have made it increasingly difficult to increase production accordingly. Increased demand has also stripped the world of much of its excess crop surpluses. For example, Brown says, in 1965, when the Indian monsoon failed, the United States sent a fifth of its total wheat crop to India to avoid famine.
Listen ~~ Food: The Hidden Driver Of Global Politics ~~
In the second interview with science writer Michael Specter, author of Denialism, the science of creating meat in the laboratory is explored:
We have 7 billion people on the planet, and there will be 9 billion [people] by 2050,” he says. “Those people need food. They need protein — and they tend to eat better as they get wealthier. And better, unfortunately, means eating more like Americans — a lot of meat. And a lot of meat means a lot of water, a lot of grain, a lot of grass. And we don’t have that much room for any of it.
Currently tissue scientists are taking stem cells from pigs and putting them in nutrient broth-filled petri dishes, where they rapidly grow. The biggest slab of meat grown so far is about the size of a contact lens and contains millions of cells. The next step, Specter says, is trying to take these cells and turn them into muscle tissue, using biodegradable scaffolding platforms.
Listen ~~ Burgers From A Lab: The World Of In Vitro Meat ~~