Monday, August 05, 2013
Publicity stunts work in science too. How else can one explain a decision to serve lab cultured meat in the form of a hamburger at a press conference? Scientists are trying to make a point about progress in using stem cells to grow muscle fibers. They see a future with reduced use of live animals and more employment of petri dishes. That might be true, but there is a long way to go before the stunt becomes a reality, and there are many steps to take to industrialize the process. There is nothing wrong with demonstrating the feasibility of something that most thought impossible just months ago. However, if the scientists are honest, they will discuss the economics of the process at the same time -- which now seem prohibitive. Farmers with cattle munching grass on the Great Plains have little to worry about yet.