Abucolic thought on winter days, raising and growing your own food, and such a satisfying thoughts in the late summer when you snap a tomato from the vine, or dig up a hill of potatoes. And we are growing food like never before, in greenhouses, and in the laboratory – In vitro, which comes from Latin meaning under glass. It started somewhere between the year 14 and 37, with the Roman Emperor Tiberius who was able to have a ‘cucumber like’ veggie daily. It would seem likely that China could have been doing the same thing around the same time.

Growing under glass really took off in the mid-15th century and has been growing ever since. Now in the age of In vitro protein production we are able to grow meat at a much faster rate, meaning it gets to the market faster, and costs drop. Take for instance the domesticated, AquAdvantage salmon, through the selection of desired properties, growers have been able to enhance the growth rate, to a point where it grows more than twice as fast as a wild Atlantic salmon.

There is also experimentation by Dutch researchers to grow beef muscle tissue in the lab. It’s still early days, but it is easy to envision future beef farms with no domesticated beef anywhere in, or near it. Inside the beef farms of the future there will be vats of twitching growing muscle, set up on a regular cycle, from seeding, to market, to grill. Ditto for chicken, ditto for pork, essentially ditto for your meat of choice.

Are Humans Really Interfering?

Animate and inanimate objects have been modifying the world forever. Think comet, and disappearing dinosaurs. Wild emmer wheat is a modified result of hybridization between two types of wild grasses, and is a precursor to durum wheat, think pasta. Although durum wheat was a mutant created by chance, that modification happened back when humans were running from Sabre-toothed cats, and long before we became farmers – genetic modification was thankfully active. Is it just a matter of perspective of how we alter our environment and the food we eat?

We enhanced the process of wheat breeding in the nineteenth century when new ‘mutant’ forms were created through the selection of seed from a single plants which were observed to have preferred properties, essentially the same as what happens today, except that rather than wind being a factor, active human volition brings about the result. By removing chance from the equation, we gain mastery and control over our environment.

And why not grow our meat in a vat? If you ask a child where eggs come from, or bacon, they’re as likely to refer you to the local grocery store as to a chicken or a pig. If we loose touch with ‘nature’ by not killing the domesticated pigs, cows and chickens which we’ve bred for their desired properties over the previous millennia, then so what? Better for the beasts, no? How many of us in the developed world thatch our own roof today, or grow our own food, or make our own cheese, butter, or oil?

Humans have been altering the profile of our food through selective breeding of mutations – to the point that the ‘original’ of most everything we eat today is ‘Frankenstein’ food – including cows, chickens, pigs.