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Stellan Welin

Stellan Welin...

Stellan welin, porträttProfessor at IMH (Department of Medical and Health Sciences), bioethicist, and one of the organizers of a European research conference in August on ‘in vitro meat’.

ESF Exploratory Workshop: In vitro meat: Possibilities and Realities for An Alternative Future Meat Source has been initiated by Chalmers and begins on 31 August.

You are one of the principal researchers. What is your role?

“Obviously my role relates to the ethical issues. How can you get people to accept meat grown in bioreactors? There are many who will perceive it as ‘unnatural’.”

It sounds pretty unnatural; are there ethical concerns?

“Actually, there are few ethical problems associated with the cultivation of animal muscle cells compared to those problems that industrial farming causes. From an animal welfare aspect, it is positive as well and it will create significant environmental benefits lending itself to future large-scale cultivation of in vitro meat for consumption.

“Rather, the problem stems from the fact that the researchers find themselves entwined in discussions on the cultivation of stem cells. So far the most stem cells available are derived from humans and mice. Meat for consumption should be of a different kind. In addition, the debate for and against genetic modification is on-going.”
“And it will be exciting when issues of meat production have been brought to a concrete political level. Presently, Swedish political parties retain slightly varying stances.

You have invited thirty researchers to a four-day workshop. What's on the program?

“The current research on in vitro meat is on a small scale, fragmented and sparsely funded. Researchers from different disciplines need to meet in order to sum up the situation and discuss the various ways forward. The major issues concern; the technology related to cultivation, various ideas on how to obtain stem cells and how to obtain nutrients from plants to then trigger cells to grow. Rapid growth and profitability is a prerequisite for large-scale cultivation.

Footnote: The concept of in vitro meat gained momentum during the 90s, in conjunction with the emergence of tissue engineering research (tissue culture) for medical purposes. Meat production places great demands geographically and time wise and generates large amounts of greenhouse gases.

The need for meat grows faster than the world’s population grows, so the better the financial situation a country has the more meat people tend to eat. Up to this point, no-one has managed to produce meat for public consumption, however recent reports indicate that it may happen in the near future.

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Last updated: 2015-11-26