Archive for the ‘M is for Muscle Crops’ Category

Non-sentient Meat

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Photo via flickr by art makes me smile

Molecular biologist Bernard Roelen of Utrecht University is working on making pig embryonic stem cells into a slice of sausage.

Placed in a nutrient bath, the embryonic cells divide and grow, changing along the way. Some are just motionless blobs, but others pulse to an eerie rhythm, having spontaneously transformed into heart muscle despite Roelen’s desire to keep them in their undifferentiated state.

Unfortunately, Roelen’s cultures only survive a few months before they fail to reproduce because of genetic problems—their chromosomes become deformed or cells end up with too many copies.

In the future, meat-growers may forgo the dish and culture stem cells on an edible, three-dimensional scaffold, and, with the right chemical signal, they would transform into sumptuous fibers of skeletal muscle protein. Roelen’s colleagues at the Eindhoven University of Technology are even working on ways to “exercise” tissue through electrical stimulation to give them a more natural texture.

Molecular microbiologist Klaas Hellingwerf of the University of Amsterdam believes that a suitable substitute lies in a medium based on yeast or algae. He has done preliminary experiments to get genetically modified algae to produce a growth factor that will encourage Roelen’s stem cells to multiply.

via Scientific American

Biophysicist Lee Silver, from a conversation with Sputnik Observatory:

If it happens someday that we can pick muscles off of trees, that would actually be very good for the environment. It would greatly reduce the amount of land used to grow meat. And lots of people in the world have an instinctive desire to eat meat, so this would be a way of satisfying. [Would it be organic?] [he laughs] What’s organic? But I think the biotechnology in the future, whatever you value, and society has to determine what values can be incorporated into biotechnological innovations – so if a society says, “We value non-sentient meat and we are willing to put money into the research to develop this,” then that’s how they can use biotechnology. Society says, “We value creating plants that are less polluting and don’t use pesticides, and we know it’s going to be more expensive but that’s the value we put into it that society pays for,” then that’s how you use biotechnology.
—Lee Silver, Biophysicist, Sputnik Observatory

M is for Muscle Crops

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Shocking as it may sound, even the mainstream environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in the area of GMO. Although the benefits of organic farming are plentiful, the acknowledgment that land-based management will serve to preserve our wilderness while giving higher yield with less use of pesticides can’t be ignored. Joined is the fact that the horrors of factory farming can no longer be stomached. There’s mad cow disease, swine flu, e-coli, the global warming effect of animal methane waste, the allegations of slave labor, and the prison treatment of helpless animals unable to ruffle their feathers as our society moves forward obese-starving for nutrients. Linked to this pitiful scenario is corn. Although not apparent, corn is abundant and cheap and in everything we eat, with high fructose corn syrup being the essential ingredient to every value-added processed food and beverage in the market. In fact, since our diabetes epidemic continues to loom, studies are underway at institutions such as John Hopkins to stop this children-of-the-corn feedback loop and measure the actual percentage of HFCS in the human body. Now that agbiotech can harness the power of the sun and manipulate the biochemical processes of plants to grow super crops, we will not only be able to genetically engineer plants that could grow silicon plates turning sunlight into chemical fuels directly, but design crops that will never require pesticides at all. Likewise, with the advent of “cultured meat,” the molecular artistry of food may stop today’s unhealthy, unethical people-creature-planet times. Dubbed “carniculture,” the movement calls to stop farming animals and start growing meat, and is so enticing that even PETA is offering one million dollars to the first organization that can launch commercial quantities of in vitro meat by 2012. What’s next? The only possible scenario: Laughing robots skipping through gardens pulling muscle meat off trees.