/ This could save us

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Flinticus 10 Jan 2020


I assume lab grown bacteria can be tweaked to produce fuels too, and polymers


It is this kind of R&D that governments etc. should be pouring money into.

hang_about 10 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

It's the lifecycle costs associated with this that make things so expensive. Keeping systems uncontaminated is expensive. Growth media, reaction vessels, energy costs, processing costs.

The key phrase is "Research by the thinktank RethinkX suggests that proteins from precision fermentation will be around 10 times cheaper than animal protein by 2035. That's 15 years away so they have little confidence in these figures really.

We certainly could do something about this if, collectively, we put our minds to it. Using polyhydroxyalkanoates as a source of bioproduced, biodegradeable plastics was trialled extensively with some rather exquisite genetic engineering of the bacteria making the product. However, after all the effort, it still worked out twice as expensive as using fossil hydrocarbon sources and was deemed uneconomic. It could easily be revived with appropriate government intervention (subsidy and regulation/taxation)

What I'm unconvinced about is the urge to grow lab meat/meat proteins. At the moment the growth media still need animal products (fetal calf serum). This could be done in plants but with a lot of genetic modification needed. At the end of it all, we'll end up with the world's most highly processed, genetically modified facsimile of a meat-like product. Much simpler just to grow and eat a vegetable protein source.

Flinticus 10 Jan 2020
In reply to hang_about:

Thanks for the knowledgeable response. Energy costs are frequently quoted as 'being too high' when it comes to renewables. That tends to ignore the environmental cost and also to under-estimate the reduction in such costs as technologies & scale improve / build.

I wouldn't say I have faith in science but I've seen what it can achieve when it puts it's mind to it. 

jkarran 10 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

> I assume lab grown bacteria can be tweaked to produce fuels too, and polymers

There's all sorts of work going on looking at micro (and less micro) organisms to reprocess waste and produce chemicals we currently dig for. Nature clearly has a toolkit of technical solutions, the thorny issue as I see it is the work rate, what we currently burn and cook up for plastic in a year took solar powered life tens-hundreds of thousands of years to produce.

I suspect much of this work on lab grown meat will be may by social trends away from meat consumption in the developed world before it can reach a profitable critical mass and it's hard to see it competing on cost with farming in the developing world. For example my partner has been vegi for a few years now and recently turned her nose up at a vegi burger (delicious mushroom& beetroot, I had to finish it) because it was far too good a meat imitation. A few years off meat and I suspect many of us will lose our taste for it.


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