Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, Hollywood actors, venture capitalists — they’re all pushing lab-grown meat as the solution to world hunger and environmental sustainability, but scientists last week told a panel of experts they have serious concerns about the product’s safety.
Lab-grown meat — also referred to as cell-cultured, cell-based, cultivated, lab-grown and in vitro meat — is produced by taking biopsied cells from a living animal and using them to grow meat in a laboratory.
According to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), at least 70 companies are working on cell-cultured meat, but so far Singapore is the only country where the product is sold.
The CFS last week assembled a panel of experts for a webinar to address the many questions surrounding lab-grown meat, especially its safety and how the products will be regulated.
Panelist Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior staff scientist with Consumer Reports, questioned the safety of lab-grown meat.
Hansen said plant-based meats such as the Impossible Burger use genetic engineering to create “soy-like hemoglobin.”
But the “inputs” used in cell-cultured meat lab are actually “recombinants” — manipulated DNA segments — which is more complicated and disconcerting, Hansen said.
According to Hansen, the piece of flesh biopsied from the animal is an undifferentiated stem cell. The products use bio-engineered proteins in a nutrient solution to induce the cells to differentiate into muscle for meat. This is done in bio-reactor vats similar to those used to make beer.
Read More: Lab-Grown Meat: Investors Love It, But Scientists Question Safety