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TOI EDIT -Free Lunch Coming Lab grown meat could simultaneously resolve environmental and ethical issues

August 30, 2018 05:59 AM


Free Lunch Coming
Lab grown meat could simultaneously resolve environmental and ethical issues
Union minister Maneka Gandhi recently made a case for laboratory-grown meat to address environmental and ethical issues arising out of current meat consumption patterns. Lab meat is meat grown in laboratories from a handful of progenitor cells. The process takes away the need to rear livestock, thereby mitigating the environmental impact of the meat industry. Given that 15% of all greenhouse gases are released by livestock and 1kg of mutton needs around 8,000 litres of water, the growing demand for meat consumption, particularly in developing countries like India, is devastating for the environment. Add to this the matter of cruelty to animals being raised for meat and ethical issues around animal slaughter.

All of these can be resolved if lab meat takes off. Reportedly, such ‘clean’ meat will hit shelves in the US by this year end and several companies are in the race to perfect the product. Billionaires such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson have invested in these companies. True, given current processes lab meat is projected to be expensive. But technology is hard at work to bring costs down. And once it achieves economies of scale, lab meat should become affordable to all.

In India, where land and water are stressed resources, lab meat could be a sustainable alternative to traditional meat. Besides, it should do away with beef bans, anti-meat crusades and the violent politics around them. Since lab meat doesn’t involve slaughtering animals, there is no case for proscribing its consumption. Ultimately, it will come down to a taste test. Consumption patterns will only change if lab meat is found to be indistinguishable in taste from traditional meat. Therefore, proof of the meat will be in the eating. Lab meat has to be given a chance.

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