Monday, May 29, 2006

Lab grown meat will be our moral savior! Yum!

I'd known about this before, but when Andrew Sullivan talks about it I can trackback to his post and shamelessly steal a minute fraction of his readership to increase the pathetic traffic to my site! It's worked for me before. Isn't the Internet wonderful? Of course, once I put trackbacks on my own site (after I return from vacation) he can always do the same to me. And who knows? Maybe I've given him a reader or two.
Anyway, Lab grown meat. The idea is this: instead of raising animals in awful conditions, why not just grow the meat tissue in vats, disconnected from any living animal? This slate article Andrew links to has more. (Read the "Remarks from the Fray" at the bottom, especially the one about eating celebrity flesh!) Certainly, this would be more humane. It would probably also be more efficient, once the process was industrialized, since all the energy and ingredients could go towards making meat instead of building useless stuff like bones, brains, eyeballs, guts, skin, fur, etc. I bet it would be much better for the environment, too: animal waste is a huge source of pollution, and would be eliminated by a shift to growing it. (Of course, the growing process would probably have its own waste products to deal with.) And I bet they could make sure the NewMeat cholesterol content was low, that it didn't contain antibiotics, that it was nutrient rich, etc. So it would probably be better for you, too.
Of course, people are afraid of such innovations. Even just genetically modifying certain crops to increase their vitamin content to combat blindness in the developing world seems to generate a wave of "Frankenfood" vigilantism.  (The coiner of the term  "Frankenfood" must have read their George Lakoff.) It's understandable from a human nature perspective: We're rightly suspicious of messing with anything so fundamental as what we eat, especially via processes that are as intimidating as genetic engineering. And yes, the legal, business, and intellectual property practices of those who create genetically modified foods have often rightly come under fire. But it seems foolish to throw away the potential benefits of an entire technology just because Monsanto is exploiting people. This is one area in which I think a lot of my fellow lefties are on the wrong side. Regulate it, test it, make sure it benefits people, but please, don't get out the torches and pitchforks.
I, for one, am all in favor. More humane, better for the environment, cheaper, guilt-free meat? If I ever make a contribution to society as cool as that, I will be very proud of my time here on earth. Someone give the folks working on this a big, fat research grant.


Blogger grishnash said...

What's the big deal? KFC has been doing this for years, right?

12:52 AM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

Ah, a classic, pre-Internet urban legend. Not that the Internet didn't exist when I first heard this one, but I don't think it was the primary means of urban legend transmission.

2:12 AM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Anthony said...

I'd take this from another angle - the fact that regulatory oversight tends to be wholly inadequate to deal with state-of-the-art food and drug technology.

Sure, we can test the stuff, but the limits of testing the stuff is also dependent on the current state of testing technology - which may not be up to scratch.

More insidiously, a governmental organisation like the FDA is constantly pressured to be "less obstructionist", especially when the product has great puported benefits (feed the world!) for few purported costs (it's just like meat, right?).

The moral hazard game isn't one that's played only by obstructionists - it's also played by lobbyists and they do it very well.

3:54 AM, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Sarah said...

How is this different from Quorn?

7:25 AM, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

Quorn isn't actual meat tissue. This stuff would be!

8:34 AM, May 31, 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Internal Monologue home