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Helene Pavlov, M.D. Headshot

Manufactured Meat: What Do You Think?

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You have likely heard about the $325,000 hamburger, financed by Sergei Brin of Google. Good thing or bad? Needed or not? Having just recently watched Soilent Green, the movie, again, it is not surprising that scientists are exploring how to manufacture meat from stem cells.

I am not exactly sure where I stand; clearly, this is controversial. There are so many aspects to consider. First, what is the safety and nutritional value of this manufactured meat product? Will the product affect our individual DNA? As I have stated in prior blogs, label reading when food shopping is critical. While fat, calories, salt and sugar content are clearly stated, packaged food is still packaged food, and even "organic" food is sometimes not as healthy as the name implies. So, what are we talking about here? Is this considered real meat? Would this hamburger be labeled "organically-manufactured meat"? Would that very statement be an oxymoron? Would there be a "GMO" label, as mandated for foods with ingredients made from crops whose DNA has been altered in a laboratory?

Would this change the vegetarian/vegan community behavior? Would they be interested in altering their position on eating "meat" if the "meat" product was created in an effort to help improve the treatment of animals, and the possible elimination of raising animals in order to be slaughtered to feed the human race?

This topic is fascinating and opens up so many objective and subjective concerns and ethical questions.

The meat industry, according to a United Nations report, produces "more global-warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation." We pay attention to the exhaust from our cars with regard to the potential demise of our environment; however, there is little attention paid to other industrial powerhouses that contribute to global warming. New approaches to environmental concerns and humane treatment of animals, healthier livestock, elimination of starvation, etc. will require innovation. Maybe this experiment is the potential path toward that goal.

The research and thought that went into this study is fascinating for any researcher or scientist. Using science along with recently discussed genome and stem cell technologies to help address environmentalism, the treatment of animals, world hunger, etc. is admirable. Scientist-turned-chef Professor Mark Post, who produced the burger from 20,000 tiny strips of meat grown from cow stem cells, is certainly innovative.

Alteration of our food supply is ongoing. An article in the NYT Sunday Review by Amy Harmon, reviewed Golden Rice: Rice endowed with a gene from corn and another from a bacterium. This rice was created in an attempt to make a major food resource able to produce betacarotine and a source of vitamin A. While opinions on the subject may differ, the goal of this creation is simple: to improve the grains' nutritional value for populations in need.

Whether you see this new scientific trend as "mad science" or innovation is simply a matter of opinion.

Clearly, we are just in the beginning of a revolution on how and what we eat and manufacture. The future of our children, their lifestyle and health, and the health of the earth and its' inhabitants as we know it, is in transition. We can only hope it is a transition for the better.

What do you think? Comment below.

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