Saving the World with (Vegan) Science
Climate change is the most pressing issues ever faced by humans. While many people are aware of the need for renewable energy, electric vehicles and more efficient homes and manufacturing, fewer people are aware that animal agriculture is a major issue which must be addressed. In fact animal agriculture is one of the highest impact human activities, producing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage on par with worldwide transportation and industrial manufacturing. Rather than convincing people to give up animal products, some groups (academic, industrial and biohackers) are using science to produce near-identical, or in some cases identical, replacements for these products. Replacing animal products will greatly reduce the environmental impact of our diets, without making people give up the food they desire. I will discuss various approaches including plant protein databases used for engineering realistic animal product replacement, production of proteins in genetically modified microorganisms, and culturing of animal cells without the growing of a whole animal. The science behind these approaches, potential impact, and progress by various players in these fields will be presented. Finally I give a progress update on the Real Vegan Cheese project, which is run out of biohacker spaces in the SF bay area and aims to produce real cheese from engineered yeast.