Will You Eat the Lab-Grown Meat? FDA Prepping for 'Cell Culture' Approval


Your friends at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not approved laboratory-grown chicken.

Wink, wink.

They’ve just engaged in a “pre-market consultation for a human food made from cultured animal cells,” according to a mid-November FDA news release.

That consultation “is not an approval process. Instead, it means…we have no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion.”

No further questions? About laboratory-produced meat?

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There are plenty of questions by scientists and food safety advocates, according to The Defender of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Defense.

And the FDA said they’ve not approved the meat?

CBS thinks they have, or at least they ran a headline saying “FDA Approves Lab-Grown Meat for the First Time.”

And CBS quoted the chief lab meat meister, Uma Valeti, who heads Upside Foods that developed the product. He interpreted the FDA action as paving the way for the new food: “This is a watershed moment in the history of food.

Will you eat the lab-grown meat?

“U.S. consumers will soon have the chance to eat delicious meat that’s grown directly from animal cells,” Valeti said.

Not so fast, according to Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the Center for Food Safety, implying the FDA seemed too quick to bring the product to market.

“This week’s announcement by the FDA that it was reviewing a cell-cultured chicken ‘meat’ is the first indication that these products might come to market in the U.S.,” Hanson said in a CFS website statement.

Note he puts “meat” in quotation marks. He does the same with “chicken,” too. And he’s concerned about cancer cells embedded in the product.

The FDA review of the lab food product “is a start,” according to Hanson, “But grossly inadequate.

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“In this ‘pre-market consultation,’ neither the company nor the FDA presented the actual data from tests looking at the effects of raising these cells in fetal bovine serum and enzymes from the intestines and pancreas of animals.

“Likewise, while the company notes that it uses genetic engineering to keep the cells growing, it fails to share which genes are being used.

“This is vital information that consumers and policymakers need to know to make informed decisions in the best interests of public health,” Hanson said. “We should make certain that genes linked to cancer are not being used.”

Upside Foods apparently used Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, a form of gene-editing, to develop its product, according to The Defender.

While CRISPR technology is seen as a means to eradicate world hunger, there are questions, according to Claire Robinson, editor of GMWatch. The organization said it tries to stand against corporate pressures and propaganda efforts toward genetically modified food.

Gene editing, Robinson said in an interview with The Defender, can have unintended consequences harmful to humans.

Also, gene editing can result in damaged DNA, as Dr. Michael Antoniou, involved in molecular genetics at King’s College, London, told The Defender.

A 2020 article in the Journal of Genetics and Genomics showed CRISPR techniques caused undesirable mutations in Rice.

The article shows “a grave oversight,” Antoniou said. “Because we know that gene editing is not precise … the evidence is there to show that you will always have unintended DNA damage in addition to what you want … a whole spectrum of unintended DNA damage that accumulates at the multiple steps of the gene editing process.

“If you don’t take this into account, as is happening at the moment,” he said, “You will launch a product that could have marked changes in its biochemistry and therefore composition.

“And included in that chain-altered composition could be the unintended production of toxins and allergens,” that could end up in food, according to Antoniou.

And the FDA has no questions?

Could it be there are other forces in play? We’re already seeing environmental extremists ready to starve people to save the planet.

And Upside Food’s lab product is being touted as a great environmental accomplishment, according to its website.

After all, it provides a means to get rid of all those noisy, stinky chickens and you don’t have to worry about them being slaughtered and you can save the planet.

But lab-based food production is energy-intensive, experts Hanson and Robison told The Defender. And there are substantial waste products in the process, Hanson said, that will impact local sewage systems.

So, despite the FDA’s nod in their direction, lab-produced foods are not without its issues.

At least Upside Foods is not advocating eating bugs. Yet.

One other thing to consider.

Investment in Upside Food has included Cargill, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Tyson Foods.

Other investors include unconventional restaurateur Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk; Whole Foods, owned by Jeff Bezos and Amazon, and its CEO John Mackey, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.

It’s an interesting investment lineup. And a highly unconventional product.

But the FDA doesn’t currently have any questions.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.