On agriculture day at COP27, George Monbiot, the leader of the Reboot Food campaign, spoke about the future of the agricultural industry. He said that everyone should be addressing the cow in the room — not the elephant.
But how are we going to address the cows? Well, Monbiot wants to use a special process called precision fermentation. It sounds quite futuristic, but there are actually a lot of up-and-coming precision fermentation companies that are already working towards a sustainable future.
What is precision fermentation?
Precision fermentation is the process of using genetically engineered microorganisms that are fermented in order to create biologically identical animal proteins, according to RePlanet.
This process isn’t anything new, even though it might sound like it. A Reboot Food press release stated: “Precision fermentation is already used to produce 99 percent of global insulin supply and 90 percent of global rennet. Today PF milk proteins and PF egg whites have already reached the U.S. grocery market.”
RePlanet's Reboot Food campaign aims to replace animal farming with protein from microorganisms and rewild 75 percent of farmland in order to meet climate goals.
In a YouTube video that premiered on Nov. 16, George Monbiot explained why we should be farming microbes. He said that we can get all of the protein and fat we need, using only a tiny fraction of the land, water, and energy footprint of other types of farming — and we can do this by brewing bacteria.
Monbiot acknowledges that the idea sounds horrific, but he encourages viewers to think of the situation the other way around. If we had always gotten our protein from bacteria, we would probably view the process of getting it from animals as horrific as well.
From that point on, he explains the inhumane process of animal farming and how it not only results in the death of 75 billion animals a year, it destroys the environment too.
Precision fermentation and cellular agriculture: Are they the same?
According to the Good Food Institute, cellular agriculture is the production of real animal proteins using the precision fermentation process. This means that both terms encompass the same idea — both aim to create biologically identical animal proteins without harming animals.
Precision fermentation companies are gaining popularity.
Upside Foods is one precision fermentation company that’s been in the headlines recently. On Nov. 17, it became the first FDA-approved brand of lab-grown meat. The company was able to make its chicken without hurting any animals — which is a huge win for activists everywhere.
Remilk is another popular company that’s creating real dairy using food technology.
Their website states:
“Fermentation has been used for generations to make various beverages and food such as beer and bread, and is all about using the power of nature (and yeast) to create delicious and sustainable food. We are now harnessing the same power of fermentation used to produce alcohol and sourdough, to produce the foundations of our food system: Proteins.”
Harnessing the power of fermentation to make proteins without harming animals or the environment sounds like a pretty good plan.