Synthetic foods are a present and a happening phenomenon. In this article, you will learn about the technology behind the production of synthetic foods along with the impacts it can have on our society and environment. Are synthetic foods the silent conquerors of naturally grown items? You’ll get an answer to this at the end of this article.
What is the need for Synthetic Foods?
The current food production and technologies to increase production can only feed 8 billion people by 2050. But according to research reports, our world’s population will reach 9 billion and there might be a lack of food resources for about 1 billion people. This is the main reason why much research concentrates on the production of synthetic foods, which are an alternative to naturally grown food items.
The technology behind Synthetic Foods
Synthetic foods are not produced in the natural soil or natural meat obtained from animals; instead they are produced artificially in laboratory and industrial conditions. Instead of soil, a culture medium or growth medium that is made of chemicals is used to grow synthetic foods. This growth medium contains the essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats and salts in correct proportion to grow synthetic foods.
The major technologies that are behind the production of synthetic foods are cell culture, tissue culture, stem cell technology, fermentation and genetic modification.
The stem cell technology that is used to grow tissues is now used to produce synthetic meat. Animal stem cells and their pluripotent capacity is used to grow the cells. These tissues are engineered to taste like natural meat. In-vitro technologies and 3D printing techniques can be used to produce synthetic meat products.
Earlier, these biotechnological methods used to produce synthetic foods were used in medical treatment, to clean oil spills, to produce biofuels, and in various applications. The same biotechnological methods are used to produce synthetic foods.
Who was the first to develop Synthetic Foods?
NASA was the first organization that started its research on synthetic foods with the aim of producing food in space for its astronauts. They thought this might help the astronauts explore space for a longer time. NASA also worked on synthetic meat technology. This starting point was followed by other companies to produce synthetic foods.
Technologies that can be used to increase food production instead of synthetic foods
Already we are using a lot of technologies to increase food production such as Animal cloning, genetic modification to enhance beneficial characteristics in animals and plants, selective breeding, agroecology systems and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
There are many debates on using these technologies in food production as well. Environmentalists prefer naturally grown food items. The impact of GMO food items on health itself is not completely known. GMOs are also impacting the ecosystem where many insects and pests are becoming extinct.
Surely, synthetic foods are going to impact the environment in different ways. But when considering synthetic food, GMO foods are many ways better.
Synthetic food examples
Some of the major synthetic foods that are prevalent now are,
- Shrimp made of algae
- Impossible veggie meat burger
- Vegan cheese
- Plant-based meat alternatives
- Lab-grown meat
- Dairy and Cheese alternatives.
- Lab-grown ricotta and mozzarella.
Give it a try and taste them when they are available on the market. But nothing can replace the taste of the food that was grown naturally, which is free of synthetic chemicals.
Famous companies involved in R&D and Production of synthetic foods
Many companies located mostly in the USA and Europe are involved in the production of Synthetic foods.
Some major synthetic food companies are listed below.
- Beyond Meat
- Mosa Meat
- Upside Foods
- Perfect Day
- Motif Foodworks
- Ginkgo Bioworks
- BioMilq – Lab-grown breast milk
- Eat Just
- Perfect Day Food
- Nature’s Fynd
There are famous companies that are investing in the development of synthetic foods, such as Microsoft, Amazon, JBS, Nestle, Tyson Foods, Cargill, Maple Leaf Foods, etc. The encouragement given by these giant companies is the main reason for the development of the synthetic foods industry.
Future problems that can be faced in the production of synthetic foods
Synthetic food production has just started. Mostly, all are in the R&D stage. Commercial production has not started in full fledge. In the years to come, the synthetic food industry will face a lot of challenges.
According to Stephens et al., the following are the challenges faced in the production of synthetic foods,
- Cell sourcing
- Standardized Culture media
- Imitation of the in-vivo myogenesis environment
- Availability of animal-derived and synthetic materials
- Bioprocessing for commercial-scale production.
These challenges are faced in the production part. The major challenges will be from the society and healthcare side, which will protest to challenge ethics and safe usage of synthetic foods.
Synthetic foods are patented, and they cannot reach all sections of society. Primarily, food production can become costly and dependent on the big corporate companies if synthetic foods become a future phenomenon.
How many synthetic foods are the silent conqueror of Naturally grown items?
The farmers in villages now produce food and meat that are grown naturally. Think about when the synthetic food industry takes over. The production of synthetic food can affect farmers and other stakeholders. The opportunities and lives of normal farmers will be at risk.
There is much debate on the production of synthetic foods on a large scale and commercial level. Various research studies are going on to understand the impact of eating synthetic food, how it can affect our health, and the impacts it can cause on society at various levels.
If synthetic food influences the food industry, we cannot see the crops growing for us, many varieties of crops may become extinct. We cannot see the animals which produce milk and meat for us, they will also become extinct. Our total ecosystem and biological life balance will be in danger.
As the industries involved in the production of synthetic foods are big companies. So, when they try to make a business out of it, this is really going to impact many. The naturally grown items may even come to an end. But we humans can stop this by supporting and increasing the demand for naturally grown foods than preferring synthetic foods.
How to get involved in the research related to Synthetic Foods?
If you are interested in synthetic foods and like to work in this industry you need education related to it. Bio Tech Engineering, Genetics and Microbiology are some subjects you should specialize in, to work in the synthetic food industry.
Search for top microbiology college in India and also for subjects genetics and biotechnology. See the course structure and other details about it in various colleges. Pursue your higher education in it. Having a Doctoral degree in one of these subjects is an added advantage to work in this field.
Karpagam Academy of Higher Education is the best microbiology college in Coimbatore. They also provide bio tech engineering courses. You can pursue your higher education in this institute to gain more knowledge and world exposure.
Synthetic foods are a phenomenon now and are present. Let it be a part of the food cycle. But we should prefer to eat naturally grown food items rather than these synthetic foods. It’s more of a personal choice. But the synthetic food industry is going to prevail, and governments should regulate the production of synthetic food so that it does not impact naturally grown food items or the people who produce them.