Today, livestock production requires 8% of global water resources, 33% of the planet's ice-free land and is the cause of 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Besides being resource intensive, livestock production is also the origin of many epidemic diseases and widespread antibiotic resistance.
Today, Earth's 7 billion people are served by a global herd of 60 billion livestock. By 2050, the Earth's human population is expected to reach 9 billion, served by 100 billion livestock. How will we maintain these projected populations under environmental limitations? One solution is to create animal products through cell culture, or biofabrication, rather than animal husbandry.
In June 2013, the first pieces of cell cultured leather were debuted in the UK at TEDGlobal. In August 2013 the first ever cell cultured hamburger was publically tasted in the UK. Cultured meat (and leather) is being heralded as a sustainable solution that can ensure long-term security of supply, reduced environmental impacts, improved safety and public health and improved conditions for existing livestock. We still have a long way to go but the debut of these products represents the crucial first steps in finding a sustainable alternative to livestock production.
Isha Datar, Director of New Harvest - the non-profit driving the development of cultured meat for the past decade - shares the story of cultured meat and leather; the science, the efforts worldwide, and the implications for our future.
Director, New Harvest
Isha is the Director of New Harvest, the non-profit organization advancing alternatives to conventionally produced meat. Most famously, New Harvest has been a driving force for cultured meat development for the past decade. It is considered a hub and network for all researchers, advocates, and businesspeople involved in cultured meat's development.
Isha has a BSc. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Alberta and a Masters in Biotechnology from the University of Toronto. In 2010, she published a review paper on the many advances in medical tissue engineering that could be applied to cultured meat. In 2012, she spoke at TEDxToronto about cultured meat and eating sustainably through changing one’s meat intake. Isha is a meat-eater.
Isha’s work has contributed to the development of Canada’s first in vitro meat lab at the University of Alberta, with her research being featured in several articles in Canada and abroad.
Meanwhile, her advocacy for the responsible use of science to contribute to food security has led to multiple speaking engagements on in vitro meat and agrobiotechnology patent reform. Isha is a major supporter of allowing science to come out of the lab and into the broader public discourse.
Isha hopes to make New Harvest 1) a community that is transparent and accessible 2) an organization that is truly advancing world-changing science.