Friday, September 6, 2013
Food: Science, Technology, and Human Rights
While the first lab-grown hamburger is getting taste tested in London, there is extensive discussion about the promise of cultured beef and its impact on feeding the growing world population and on mitigating climate change. This project, funded by Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google, takes stem cells from cow muscle and replicates them into the millions of cells, forming a lean meat patty without any fat. With 1.4 billion people that are obese, and close to a billion hungry, lab grown meat seems promising in its ability to feed the world with high quality protein. It uses forty-five percent less energy in production and causes just four percent of greenhouse gas emissions caused by conventionally farmed beef.
Article 25 in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” I disagree with food, or any other necessity, as an essential human right so far as resources are limited; however, that people are dying of malnutrition with excess food being wasted, is a human rights abuse. If production for lab grown meat can be scaled up and offered at a lower price, it is not unreasonable to believe that in the next couple decades the world population can be fed on a smaller ecological footprint. In fact, I think we do have some sort of moral obligation to pursue alternatives to conventionally farmed beef, especially since the benefits are reaped in the wealthy meat-eating countries while its detrimental environmental effects are largely felt in the poorest countries.