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George Monbiot: Saving Our ‘Bacon’

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Farm-free food means an end to the exploitation of animals and most deforestation. It’s our best hope of stopping the Great Extermination. And, if it’s done right, it means cheap and abundant food for everyone.

GEORGE MONBIOT: ‘It sounds like a miracle, but no great technological leaps were required. In a commercial lab on the outskirts of Helsinki, I watched scientists turning water into food… We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. I know some people will be horrified by this prospect. I can see some drawbacks. But I believe it comes in the nick of time…

Food production is ripping the living world apart. Fishing and farming are, by a long way, the greatest cause of extinction and loss of the diversity and abundance of wildlife. Farming is a major cause of climate breakdown, the biggest cause of river pollution and a hefty source of air pollution. Across vast tracts of the world’s surface, it has replaced complex wild ecosystems with simplified human food chains. Industrial fishing is driving cascading ecological collapse in seas around the world. Eating is now a moral minefield, as almost everything we put in our mouths – from beef to avocados, cheese to chocolate, almonds to tortilla chips, salmon to peanut butter – has an insupportable environmental cost. But just as hope appeared to be evaporating, the new technologies I call “farm-free food” create astonishing possibilities to save both people and planet.

Farm-free food will allow us to hand back vast areas of land and sea to nature, permitting rewilding and carbon drawdown on a massive scale. It means an end to the exploitation of animals, an end to most deforestation, a massive reduction in the use of pesticides and fertiliser, the end of trawlers and longliners. It’s our best hope of stopping the Great Extermination. And, if it’s done right, it means cheap and abundant food for everyone. Research by the thinktank RethinkX suggests that proteins from precision fermentation will be around ten times cheaper than animal protein by 2035. The result, it says, will be the near-complete collapse of the livestock industry. The new food economy will “replace an extravagantly inefficient system that requires enormous quantities of inputs and produces huge amounts of waste with one that is precise, targeted, and tractable’SOURCE…

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