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← The next global agricultural revolution

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Showing Revision 7 created 05/22/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. In 2019, humanity received a warning:
  2. 30 of the world's leading scientists
    released the results
  3. of a massive three-year study
    into global agriculture
  4. and declared that meat production
    is destroying our planet
  5. and jeopardizing global health.
  6. One of the study's authors explained
  7. that "humanity now poses a threat
    to the stability of the planet ...
  8. [This requires] nothing less than
    a new global agricultural revolution."
  9. As somebody who's spent
    the last two decades

  10. advocating a shift away
    from industrial meat production,
  11. I wanted to believe that this clarion call
    was going to make a difference.
  12. The thing is, I've seen this sort of thing
    again and again and again for decades.
  13. Here's 2018 from the journal "Nature,"
  14. 2017 from "Bioscience Journal,"
  15. 2016 from the National
    Academy of Sciences.
  16. The main point of these studies
    tends to be climate change.

  17. But antibiotic resistance
    represents just as big of a threat.
  18. We are feeding massive doses
    of antibiotics to farm animals.
  19. These antibiotics are then
    mutating into superbugs
  20. that threaten to render
    antibiotics obsolete
  21. within all of our lifetimes.
  22. You want a scare?
  23. Google: "the end of working antibiotics."
  24. I'm going to get one thing out of the way:

  25. I am not here to tell anybody what to eat.
  26. Individual action is great,
  27. but antibiotic resistance
    and climate change --
  28. they require more.
  29. Besides, convincing the world
    to eat less meat hasn't worked.
  30. For 50 years, environmentalists,
    global health experts and animal activists
  31. have been begging the public
    to eat less meat.
  32. And yet, per capita meat consumption
  33. is as high as it's been
    in recorded history.
  34. The average North American last year
    ate more than 200 pounds of meat.
  35. And I didn't eat any.
  36. (Laughter)

  37. Which means somebody out there
    ate 400 pounds of meat.

  38. (Laughter)

  39. On our current trajectory,

  40. we're going to need to be producing
    70 to 100 percent more meat by 2050.
  41. This requires a global solution.
  42. What we need to do is we need to produce
    the meat that people love,
  43. but we need to produce it
    in a whole new way.
  44. I've got a couple of ideas.
  45. Idea number one:
    let's grow meat from plants.

  46. Instead of growing plants,
    feeding them to animals,
  47. and all of that inefficiency,
  48. let's grow those plants,
    let's biomimic meat with them,
  49. let's make plant-based meat.
  50. Idea number two: for actual animal meat,
  51. let's grow it directly from cells.
  52. Instead of growing live animals,
    let's grow the cells directly.
  53. It takes six weeks to grow
    a chicken to slaughter weight.
  54. Grow the cells directly,
    you can get that same growth
  55. in six days.
  56. This is what that looks like at scale.
  57. It's your friendly
    neighborhood meat brewery.
  58. (Laughter)

  59. I want to make two points about this.

  60. The first one is, we believe we can do it.
  61. In recent years, some companies
    have been producing meat from plants
  62. that consumers cannot distinguish
    from actual animal meat,
  63. and there are now dozens of companies
    growing actual animal meat
  64. directly from cells.
  65. This plant-based and cell-based meat
  66. gives consumers everything
    that they love about meat --
  67. the taste, the texture and so on --
  68. but with no need for antibiotics
  69. and with a fraction of the adverse
    impact on the climate.
  70. And because these two technologies
    are so much more efficient,
  71. at production scale
  72. these products will be cheaper.
  73. But one quick point about that --

  74. it's not going to be easy.
  75. These plant-based companies have spent
    small fortunes on their burgers,
  76. and cell-based meat has not yet
    been commercialized at all.
  77. So we're going to need all hands on deck
  78. to make these the global meat industry.
  79. For starters, we need
    the present meat industry.

  80. We don't want to disrupt
    the meat industry,
  81. we want to transform it.
  82. We need their economies of scale,
  83. their global supply chain,
    their marketing expertise
  84. and their massive consumer base.
  85. We also need governments.

  86. Governments spend tens of billions
    of dollars every single year
  87. on research and development
  88. focused on global health
    and the environment.
  89. They should be putting some of that money
    into optimizing and perfecting
  90. the production of plant-based
    and cell-based meat.
  91. Look, tens of thousands of people
    died from antibiotic-resistant superbugs

  92. in North America just last year.
  93. By 2050, that number is going to be
    10 million per year globally.
  94. And climate change represents
    an existential threat
  95. to huge portions of our global family,
  96. including some of the poorest people
    on the face of the planet.
  97. Climate change, antibiotic resistance --
    these are global emergencies.

  98. Meat production is exacerbating
    these emergencies on a global scale.
  99. But we are not going
    to decrease meat consumption
  100. unless we give consumers alternatives
  101. that cost the same or less
    and that taste the same or better.
  102. We have the solution.

  103. Let's make meat from plants.
    Let's grow it directly from cells.
  104. It's past time that we mobilize
    the resources that are necessary
  105. to create the next global
    agricultural revolution.
  106. Thank you.

  107. (Applause)