Patt Morrison for February 23, 2012

Is genetically-engineered and lab-grown food the wave of the future?

Laboratories Analyse Meat And Sausage Samples

Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Employees of the investigation office of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate examine a sample of meat in a laboratory on November 30, 2005 in Koblenz, Germany.

People around the world love meat and fish, whether a sliver of salmon or a juicy hamburger. Fish, though, is pricey, and demand for meat is set to increase as the standard of living grows in various regions such as Asia and Africa. Yet what if your food comes from a genetically engineered fish or a burger grown in a lab?

The food of the future involves the manipulation of food sources, and many are unhappy about it. The United States Food and Drug Administration, amid opposition by consumer advocates and environmental groups, has been waiting on whether to approve what would be the nation’s first genetically engineered fish for human consumption. The salmon, created by Massachusetts bio-tech firm AquaBounty Technologies, grows twice the normal rate of an Atlantic salmon and is engineered to produce a growth hormone. At a conference Sunday, Dutch scientists unveiled the first inklings of lab-grown meat, made out of cow stem cells, towards creating the world’s first “test-tube” hamburger expected to debut this fall. The Maastricht University project, funded by an anonymous investor, used bovine stem cells to produce thin strips of muscle tissue, which will be combined with blood and artificially grown fat.

Project researchers consider the lab-grown meat more efficient than producing meat the old-fashioned away. Opponents say artificially created and engineered foods haven’t been properly tested for human safety and should also be labeled. Genetically engineered soy beans, corn, papaya and squash are sold throughout the U.S. without FDA labeling of their genetic status.

WEIGH IN:

Do you support the genetic engineering or manipulation of food such as fish, beef and pork, and does it make a difference when the food is animal versus plant-based? Should there be mandatory FDA labeling of these foods? Does a lab-grown hamburger, which could decrease the need for factory-farmed animals worldwide, ever sound appetizing?

Guests:

Gregory Stock, founding director of the program on Medicine, Technology and Society at the UCLA School of Medicine and associate director of policy think tank the Center for Life Science Policy Studies at UC Berkeley.

Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, the policy advocacy arm of Consumer Reports magazine


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