Weather and climate change hit home this summer and over the past two years as nearly half of the United States experienced extreme weather, including heat waves, floods, wildfires, and drought. Yet despite the preponderance of the evidence that climate change is upon us, the Federal government has been slow to enact legislation that would curb carbon emissions and pollution that contributes to the growing crisis.

Now President Biden has signed an executive order on "Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy." Essentially it creates a directive that resources should be spent on bolstering the development of sustainable food production.

The purpose: To coordinate a wholistic approach to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing that will produce innovative solutions in the following areas:

  • health
  • climate change
  • energy
  • food security
  • agriculture
  • supply chain resilience
  • national & economic security

What is Biotechnology?

“Biotechnology harnesses the power of biology to create new services and products, which provide opportunities to grow the United States economy and workforce and improve the quality of our lives and the environment,” the executive order states. “Although the power of these technologies is most vivid at the moment in the context of human health, biotechnology and biomanufacturing can also be used to achieve our climate and energy goals, improve food security and sustainability, secure our supply chains, and grow the economy across all of America.”

This executive order will help accelerate cellular agriculture efforts, with the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing animal agriculture's strain on the environment. By promoting cell-based agriculture and cultivated meat production, the U.S. government will curb the negative effects of meat and dairy production, especially within the beef industry.

"We need to develop genetic engineering technologies and techniques to be able to write circuitry for cells and predictably program biology in the same way in which we write software and program computers," the order states. "Unlock the power of biological data, including through computing tools and artificial intelligence; and advance the science of scale‑up production while reducing the obstacles for commercialization so that innovative technologies and products can reach markets faster."

Each year, one cow will belch over 220 pounds of methane directly into the atmosphere, according to UC Davis, and these total emissions constitute 40 percent of total global methane emissions. Methane holds 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide. To combat this, cellular agriculture presents a solution: The innovative food technology will allow meat manufacturers to produce large quantities using only a few animal cells.

This initiative will allocate funds to the biotechnology and biomanufacturing industries within the U.S. Working closely with the federal government, the "bioeconomy" will optimize labor-intensive, environmentally damaging, and costly agricultural practices.

"The Secretary of Agriculture [Tom Vilsak], in consultation with the heads of appropriate agencies as determined by the Secretary, shall submit a report assessing how to use biotechnology and biomanufacturing for food and agriculture innovation, including by improving sustainability and land conservation; increasing food quality and nutrition; increasing and protecting agricultural yields; protecting against plant and animal pests and diseases, and cultivating alternative food sources," the executive order reads.

The Food Industry is Fueling the Climate Crisis

This year, 85 percent of the world's population is experiencing the effects of climate change, according to Mercator Research Institute researchers. The United Nations released a statement that stated while the climate crisis is dire, there's still time to slow down climate change, but governments and citizens must reduce carbon dependency, remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and eat plant-based.

UN researchers claimed that the world must slash methane emissions by 33 percent by 2030. One clear solution is by eating more plant-based and reducing the world's reliance on meat and dairy consumption. One study found that eating plant-based could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 61 percent.

Despite only producing 18 percent of the world’s calories, meat and dairy production uses 83 percent of global farmland. Most recently, the UN announced that the COP27 climate change conference will host a full plant-based event with the help of ProVeg International. Raphael Podselver, the head of UN advocacy at ProVeg International, claimed that "Inaction on food systems at this stage is no longer an option."

Funding for Cultivated Meat Production

Before this executive order, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) invested in the cell-based meat industry last October. The government granted $10 million to Tufts University to help open the National Insitute for Cellular Agriculture. The researcher facility is the first federally-funded cultivated protein research facility.

However, several brands in the private sector have opened facilities to produce massive amounts of cultivated meat, pending regulatory approval. UPSIDE Foods started building its EPIC facility to begin producing its cultivated meat products when it receive commercial approval. The company predicts the facility will have the potential to produce 400,000 pounds of cell-based meat per year.

This April, UPSIDE received a record-breaking $400 million funding package, propelling its valuation to above $1 billion. With the increased funding, cultivated beef production is expected to reduce air pollution by 93 percent and reduce the greater climate impact by 92 percent as compared to animal agriculture.

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