Opposition to precision fermentation is form of denialism, Monbiot claims 

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In a provocative Twitter thread the Guardian columnist and environment activist George Monbiot has compared opposition to precision fermentation – a form of synthetic biology – to the early hostility to wind turbines. 

He writes: “Just as opposition to wind turbines was strongly associated with climate denial, opposition to new food sources is strongly associated with denial of the impacts of the current food system. Earth systems cannot sustain the current food system. It is driving us towards catastrophe. Precision fermentation is one of the approaches that offers a way out: greatly reducing land, water and fertiliser demand”. 

“to dismiss a new technology because, like almost all technologies, it can be captured, is irrational”

While Monbiot acknowledges the “genuine danger” that precision fermentation and other novel forms of genetic engineering “could succumb to the corporate capture and concentration that dominate the current system”, he says that “to dismiss a new technology because, like almost all technologies, it can be captured, is irrational”. Instead of fighting against a technology, he argues, the political fight should be refocused to “demand justice everywhere, to lock in just transitions and environmental restoration”. 


  1. First it’s wishful thinking to NOT think this type of tech food will be anything other than corporate capture based as it is on IP and the need for massive upfront investment to « roll out » into the market place. Second the precision fermentation he promotes is in his own words based on one of a million microbes from which a new infinitely flexible range of fake meats can be derived. We are increasingly learning about the significance of a diverse natural diet in terms of gut health as well as the incredible importance of the microbiome with some research linking soil microbes to our own internal macrobiotic communities. I don’t see how an ersatz one microbe based food can in any way substitute for the diversity we seem to require. Next, food itself is a complex interplay of nutritional attributes – this single lab grown patented ingredient can’t match real food. Monbiot seems to have a cult-like following because not one of the comments was critical or even questioning. Monbiot has already been taken down by food system experts for his rants against organic and regenerative systems so why did no one have a shadow of a doubt here!? I think especially in the UK we bow down far too easily in front of high tech white saviour type solutions – it’s a kind of false intellectual superiority that, like Monbiot himself, refuses to do the incredibly hard graft of really getting to the truth of the matter. Which brings me to my final point. It’s actually a dangerous diversion to heap almost all the blame of climate change on farming because, guess what, it’s totally wrong. Under 25% of global emission are caused by farming, of which I believe approximately half is down to deforestation. That deforestation is caused by the intensive livestock industry by and large. Given 40% of human emissions can be absorbed by natural sinks the obvious solution is to absolutely halt deforestation, and start rowing back on recent deforestation, but the whole world from Kent to Kuala Lumpar doesn’t have to re wild. Part of the solution of course IS to reduce meat (and dairy) consumption but I don’t know why we need to promote the 20 ingredient-many-of-which patented Beyond Burger owned-by-big-capital as against the humble veggie burger that was around 40/50 years ago, let alone go down a new tech rabbit hole that might or might not be dangerous nutritionally. Then we need to seriously address food waste, which accounts for approximately 1/3rd of what is produced (UN figures). These two immediate solutions could drop agricultural sector emissions in the here and now quite significantly even with the current food system – which IS in need of big reform both for food poverty/social and other ecological reasons – and allow the world to focus on the key climate emergency which is to switch off from fossil fuels.

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