Lab-Grown Meat, Bugs, and Plants: World Economic Forum’s Solution to the Global Food Shortage

Lab-Grown Meat, Bugs, and Plants: World Economic Forum’s Solution to the Global Food Shortage
A sign of the World Economic Forum is seen at the Congress Centre during the WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18, 2023. (Fabrice CoffriniI/AFP via Getty Images)
Climate change and the Earth’s burgeoning population are endangering the nutritional security of many populations, stated the World Economic Forum (WEF) in an article released on Jan. 17. The organization remains optimistic, however, offering dietary solutions like plant-based meat alternatives, insects, and “meat cultivated directly from animal cells.”
Global food systems accounted for 34 percent of greenhouse gas emission in 2015, according to the science journal Nature Food. Coupling this with the growing number of humans on the planet, which has surpassed eight billion, the WEF stressed that “we urgently need sustainable technologies and methods to improve our current food systems and use of land for agriculture.”

The organization warned that we have reached the limits of our “planetary boundaries” and that the heart of the problem lies within our “dietary preferences for livestock-based food.” Biotechnology—a broad category ranging from DNA modification to livestock vaccines—may hold the solution.

The WEF’s admonitions to move away from meat consumption have been met with stern opposition among many in the United States.

“The globalists are at it again,” Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.) wrote in a tweet on Jan. 19. “Pushing their plans for shifting the world toward a vegan diet as they dream of ending meat production.”

“If WEF wants to learn how to feed more people more efficiently,“ Flood added, ”they should visit Nebraska where it happens so that the people who do the work can show them how it’s done.”

In addition to plants, the WEF is looking to biotechnology as a potential solution.

Humans have manipulated nature to their benefits throughout history, argued the WEF, breeding certain plants and animals to select for desirable characteristics. Advancements like genome editing are simply the latest iteration of this process.
One company featured in the article, BIOMILQ, has developed “the first lab-grown infant milk derived from mammary cells.” According to the company’s website, mammary cells are placed in “a microenvironment that recreates conditions similar to in the breast,” within which cells arrange themselves into a structure allowing for milk creation.
BIOMILQ is women-owned and assures the milk is “cultivated under safe conditions.”

Lab-Grown Meat

Roslin Tech is another biotech startup mentioned by the WEF and is working to grow edible meat out of a lab. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, the company has developed a technology to “reprogram” animal cells into pluripotent stem cells—that is, cells that are able to regenerate and can “give rise to all cells of the tissues of the body.”
After receiving $13.6 million in series A funding last November, the startup claims to be in production and currently distributing its product in North America, Europe, and Asia, though not to retail consumers. Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson have both invested in various lab-grown meat companies.
Once extremely expensive, this alternative to producing meat has become significantly cheaper. For example, the first cultured beef burger in 2013 cost more than $210,000 to produce. It has since dropped to just less than $10 as of 2019.

We may see these products hit the market soon.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, recently approved the first cell-cultured food product, specifically lab-created chicken. Approved in November 2022, the FDA determined that the food is safe through a series of tests regarding shelf-life, nutritional value, and gene-altering methods.

Addressing concerns about potential unforeseen genetic effects down the road, the agency said the risks are “acceptably low and well-understood” and that severe side effects have yet to emerge in the last 20 years of genome-editing research.

The WEF praised the FDA decision for “paving the way to a new environmentally friendly diet.” In contrast, the organization criticized the European Union (EU) approach for being too cautious.

“Despite growing public interest and emerging companies in this field, the lengthy pre-market authorization process has led to a situation where no companies have applied for cultivated meat products approval in Europe,” said the WEF.

A spokesperson for the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) dismissed these claims, saying cultivated meat companies can apply through their novel food program—which has seen substantial interest from other businesses. The ESFA, however, has not received a single application for cultivated meat products at the time of writing.

The EU limits the quantity of genetically modified foods that can be imported and cultivated domestically. Many American-made agricultural products are forbidden in the EU due to the additives used in them.


Another livestock alternative offered by the WEF is one that the organization is famous for pushing: insects.
In an article released last February, titled “Five Reasons Why Eating Insects Could Reduce Climate Change,” the organization made the argument that bugs should be adopted as a replacement to traditional animal proteins due to their more moderate ecological footprint. The article also touted the high protein content of certain bugs—specifically caterpillars—which a study revealed exceeded that of cattle.

Quoting Amrou Awaysheh, professor of operations and supply-chain management at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, the WEF argued that the denser protein concentration found in caterpillars may be needed to sustain the world’s growing population.

“By 2050, the earth will have nearly 10 billion people. The demand for protein will exceed our ability to procure it.”

Some environmentalists have criticized the WEF for proposing extravagant solutions to climate change, while many of its elite attendees refuse to curb their own carbon emissions.

“Europe is experiencing the warmest January days ever recorded, and communities around the world are grappling with extreme weather events supercharged by the climate crisis,” Greenpeace campaigner Klara Maria Schenk said in a statement on Jan. 13. “Meanwhile, the rich and powerful flock to Davos in ultra-polluting, socially inequitable private jets to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors.”

“Researchers found that all private jet flights to and from airports serving Davos during the World Economic Forum 2022 caused a total of 9,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the emissions of about 350,000 average cars in a week.”