Medicine & Biotechnology
GGC-Food • Biotech • Medicine • Digital Biology
Professor Mark Post first got involved in a Dutch government-funded programme investigating “in vitro meat” in 2008, when he was a professor of tissue engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology. The programme had been initiated by Wilem van Eelen, an 86-year-old entrepreneur who held a long-time fascination for the possibility of culturing meat.When the director of the programme fell ill, about mid-way through the programme, Post took over supervision of the PhD students. Motivated by the potentially high societal impact, he continued research even after the funding had ended in 2010.
Renewed funding by a private partner enabled the realisation of a project to create a processed meat product using muscle cells from a cow.Professor Post received his medical degree from the University of Utrecht in 1982 and trained for a PhD in Pulmonary Pharmacology, graduating from the University of Utrecht in 1989.He joined the KNAW Interuniversity Cardiology Institute of the Netherlands before being appointed full-time Assistant Professor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA in 1996. Five years later, he moved with his lab to Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH, and was appointed Associate Professor of Medicine and of Physiology.
In July 2002, Dr. Post returned to the Netherlands as a Professor of Vascular Physiology at Maastricht University and Professor of Angiogenesis in Tissue Engineering at the Technical University Eindhoven. Since January 2004 he has been Chair of Physiology at Maastricht University.
Food is emotion and greatly influenced by culture, either regional, national, continental or religious. These differences become apparent when talking and thinking about novel foods and novel technologies in food. It is also obvious that our attitude towards food and diets are changing over time. One inevitable trend is that we are increasingly cognizant of and sensitive to the impact of our food choices on farm-animals. As we become more ‘decadent’, our tolerance towards using animals for human purposes will decrease linearly. Examples are the shifting political positions on live transport of animals, caged eggs but also in the increasing acceptance of vegetarianism and veganism as authentic choices by consumers. Although these changes are likely not disruptive (take decades), they do affect the need for changing types of food and their production methods.
Feeding the world is extremely complex and ever evolving through the rise of new technologies, changing economics, changing climate and changing human behavior. In addition, there is a wide variety between regions in the world in how agriculture is practiced and valued. Some over-arching large trends however seem to be inevitable. Urbanisation will continue resulting in a increasing disconnect between people and systems producing and those consuming food. It is also expected that the increase in efficiency in how land is being used, will result in repurposing of land for for instance nature conservation, recreation or a combination. Farming is a playfield for novel technologies such as drones, robots, satellite imaging, big data, AI and gene editing. These technologies will change the lives of farmers (most would argue the change is for the better) and will necessarily lead to a new perception of farming. Some of these changes might be disruptive and will lead to the creation of public opinions that may drive future choices. A good example of the latter is the GMO discussion.
Proteins are a valued part of our diet, yet their production is resource intense and especially animal proteins have a large environmental impact. New technologies collectively referred to as cellular agriculture aim to provide the same products, e.g. meat, through alternative methods with a much higher efficiency and smaller footprint. By their perceived disruptive nature and because food is emotion rather than reason, cellular agriculture technologies reveal the tension between rational benefits of innovation and emotional resistance against the prospects of future innovative realities. These aspects are discussed using cultured meat as an example.