Science and Technology

GMO: Will you eat a chicken feather?

That the current farming methods can not bear the burden of Earth’s exploding population is indisputable. The only reason why the world has not been caught in the Malthusian trap is due mainly to man’s innovation in food production.

The Malthusian Trap is the theory that, as population growth is ahead of agricultural growth, there must be a stage at which the food supply is inadequate for feeding the population.”

From searching for food in the wild, man moved into subsistence farming, commercial farming and green revolution farming. Now we are talking about genetic and stem cell farming.

There are many concerns about these emerging forms of farming. But what options does the world have in the face of unsustainable farming methods that are encroaching on planetary boundaries and resulting in disturbing climate change outcomes?

“A report published on October 10, 2018 in the journal Nature argues that a sustainable food system that doesn’t ravage the environment is going to require dramatic reforms, including a radical change in dietary habits.The authors concluded that the current methods of producing, distributing and consuming food aren’t environmentally sustainable and that damage to the planet could make it less hospitable for human existence.”

However, the debates over these issues in Nigeria smack of paranoia, lack of knowledge and reckless pronouncements. In the first place, we lack the technical capacity to meaningfully unpack all the issues at stake. For decades, we have been eating imported food that we do not know how they are produced or what their “shelf lives” are.

Do we have the technology to do the required rigorous testing of imported food? Even if we have, do we actually do it. There is so much that gets into the country without any form of certification. What then, is the basis of all the screaming going on about genetically modified crops and food. Is it merely because somebody somewhere in the world is screaming about it. Therefore, we have to scream as well. Perhaps, just to show that we are current with trending global issues. Have we sufficiently addressed the local problem with food production let alone that of food security?

Everything in science started of as someone’s fantasy that later became a reality. Some of today’s realities would have been considered fiction or dangerous  centuries ago. But here we are cruising along  with science and  technology in various fields as never envisaged many years ago. Man is the most progressive creature on planet Earth. Therefore we need to calm down and learn the basics of science before we begin discussing very complex things that are obviously beyond our understanding.

In any case, lets go back to the question. Will you eat a chicken feather? Let me rephrase. Will you eat a chicken made from chicken feather. Sound like a nonsensical question. But it is real. Chicken nuggets can now be made from chicken feathers. In other words, you can eat your chicken and still have it. Something you can’t do with your cake.

(chicken nuggets)

The technology is simple, in explanation that is. You remove a feather from a live chicken and extract cells from it. You then feed the cells with some plant based food in a controlled environment. The cells grow into nuggets that you can then fry and eat. Products from this technology are on their way into the food market.

Before now, we had similar technology for producing meat based on stem cells extracted from live cows. One extraction can make beef worth many cows, according to the scientists promoting the technology. There is also exclusively plant based meat which feels and tastes like cow meat. Products from that technology are already in the market. The only controversy about them is  that cattle rearers argue that those products should be called any other name but not meat.

There are also “egg” or egg-like products from plants sources entering the food chain. The technology to disrupt both plant and non plant food market has overtaken us. The question is not whether or not we will consume something that is not from “nature” as we know it. It is a question of how soon these technologies will go main stream and make us forget how things used to be done until the next disrupter comes along.

For now, eat what you want and what you don’t want to eat, don’t eat. My grandmother felt that frozen fish were not healthy. And she never ate them until she passed. The point is, there would always be alternatives. So, let us not bring down the roof over GMOs. Those in charge of taking care of these issues should do what is expected of them and provide verifiable facts that will help anyone to make informed choices.

 

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Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Newspackng.
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