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Lab-grown burger, anyone?

Dr Mark Post, Professor of Physiology at Maastricht University, known as the scientist behind the Google-funded, world’s first lab-grown burger, speaks to B Surendar

| | Mar 7, 2014 | 10:15 am
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mar2014-interview02Dr Mark Post, Professor of Physiology at Maastricht University, is known as the scientist behind the Google-funded, world’s first lab-grown burger – an innovative approach to creating genuine meat from animal stem cells (designated muscle stem cells) rather than vegetable substitutes. B Surendar of Climate Control Middle East caught up with him during the inaugural Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, held from the 3rd to the 5th of February at ADNEC, in Abu Dhabi, where Dr Post was a plenary-session speaker. Excerpts from the interview …

We are intrigued by a lab-developed burger. Do tell us more, especially from a food safety point of view.

It is a sterile way of making a burger. We started with a very small sample. There are no parasites, and so when the product comes out of production, it is sterile.

So would that guarantee minimal presence or complete elimination of harmful micro-organisms?

It all depends on how you end the process. If the packaging is done under sterile conditions, then yes. Don’t forget, it will be the same tissue, so the enzymatic degradation would be the same.

Scientifically, would it be possible to increase the resistance to temperature-abuse?

In my view, that would be tampering with Nature. With our approach, you don’t need pastures and large swathes of lands. And you can reduce the supply chain by growing the meat closer to the consumer.

What about scalability? How soon do you envisage a ramp-up in production?

I see scalability happening 4-5 years from now.

And the cost-effectiveness of producing the burger? The meat?

Cost-effectiveness will take a little longer – seven years, maybe. And you also have to get regulatory approval.

How do you anticipate the consumer to react? Do you have a feel for the consumer mindset?

I am pretty optimistic that our method will face less resistance than what we have seen for GM food. The fear associated with GM is ecological. People eat GM either directly or indirectly and are not too worried about it. The bigger problem with GM is ecological catastrophe. That is not the issue with us, because cells cannot survive outside labs, while seeds can.

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