Technical ReportPDF Available

Abstract

The aim of the Epinet case study was to explore and interact with the epistemic communities / networks that have been developing, implementing, supporting and promoting IVM technologies. The study team consisted of expertise in sociotechnical evaluations, systems and uncertainty analysis, ethics and media studies. The team identified early on a small set of policy considerations around the issues of public funding and the social shaping of IVM. The question of whether or not IVM research should be publicly funded has had to be viewed in relation to how IVM technologies are represented, understood, shaped and reshaped and, accordingly, what sort of IVM activities should be funded.
EPINET
Funded under FP7-SiS-2011-1.1.1-4
Grant Agreement 288971
Deliverable D8.3 (delivery date, month 36)
Case Study on In-Vitro Meat
WP5 Policy Report, March/April 2015
Summary of findings and policy considerations
Rapporteur: Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir k.gunnarsdottir@lancaster.ac.uk
Partners: 1
University of Bergen, Norway Kjetil Rommetveit; Roger Strand
Lancaster University, England Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir; Neil Stephens; Brian Wynne
University of Sussex, England Aristea Fotopoulou; Kate O'Riordan
Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain Mario Giampietro; Zora Kovacic; Louis Lemkow Zetterling;
Marina Di Masso Tarditti
1 This policy report is based in Epinet's WP5 case study on in-vitro meat. T he partners have shared their notes
and reflections on three years of research in order to produce a shared summary of key findings along with
policy recommendations. As the rapporteur, I extend my gratitude for excellent scholarship, brilliant insights and
good working spirit.
Aims and Objectives
The in-vitro meat (IVM) research field remains small with perhaps 50 or so scientists active
globally. These scientists are in the Netherlands, the US, the UK, Sweden, Israel and Norway,
with some interest expressed in Denmark and by a group of bioreactor engineers in Portugal.
The main groups involved in supporting this innovation domain are: New Harvest, a US based
pro-IVM campaign group that raises funds through donations for small scale research work,
discusses IVM in the media and organises conference panels; the In-Vitro Meat Consortium,
established by Dutch and Norwegian scientists in 2008 as a networking device with presence at
conferences, although, now with limited activity; the US animal rights group People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The most high profile laboratories are those of Mark
Post at Maastricht University and the New York based private company Modern Meadow, both
of which have become relatively financially secure research sites over the last three years.
The aim of the Epinet case study was to explore and interact with these epistemic
communities / networks that have been developing, implementing, supporting and promoting
IVM technologies. The study team consisted of expertise in sociotechnical evaluations,
systems and uncertainty analysis, ethics and media studies. The team identified early on a small
set of policy considerations around the issues of public funding and the social shaping of
IVM. The question of whether or not IVM research should be publicly funded has had to be
viewed in relation to how IVM technologies are represented, understood, shaped and reshaped
and, accordingly, what sort of IVM activities should be funded. When the case study
commenced in 2012, government policy makers had only twice chosen to fund IVM laboratory
work, i.e., a section of the Dutch government interested in environmental issues and protein
(2005-2009; 2010-2014), and NASA (~2000). In addition to that, the European Science
Foundation (ESF) funded a two day blue skies conference in Gothenburg, Sept. 2011. Other
funders include PETA, New Harvest, and private donators.
The policy considerations presented here have served throughout the case study as a common
point of reference in dialogue across the network of IVM research and evaluation. As it stands,
basic research into IVM is focussed upon cell-culturing techniques, but if the technology is to
flourish it will have to scale-up and recreate the laboratory work of cell-culturing on an
industrial mass scale. While a scaling of that nature is not yet a foreseeable future, the case
study was developed to reflect upon the early stage technology-readiness of what remains an
emergent science in search of funding, in search of users, in search of identity.
1
Research questions that shaped the course of the case study:
Who is involved in IVM, why and how did they become active?
How do they interact as an epistemic network?
What role do politically engaged activist groups play in shaping the emergent biotechnology?
How do IVM protagonists establish a shared imaginary of its future large-scale application, its use and
its users?
How is this imaginary materialised and what actions, both in terms of product design and discursive
promotion, are undertaken that expand the epistemic network?
How do the scientists, positioned as insiders or outsiders of mainstream biomedical tissue engineering,
frame their work and capacity in the area?
How do imagined future regulatory hurdles shape IVM work?
Policy considerations and recommendations
Our central policy considerations are presented here as discussion points, directed at scientific
and innovation policy advisory bodies to the European Sceince Foundation (ESF), DG-
Research and other relevant EC Directorates and national research funds in matters of
agriculture and food policy, biotechnology, food security the environment and sustainable
industries.
(1) How is IVM conceived of and the research contextualised? Supporting pathways
from laboratory cell-culturing into food development.
Explanation/findings: We observe inconsistencies in the definition of IVM as an
innovation object, and in the framing of its place and purpose in the world. It is
unclear what this particular innovation is for. If it is a solution to something, then it is
unclear what exactly the problem is. We observe arguments that seemingly justify the
eventual IVM innovation, that it will target environmental problems linked to meat
production and over consumption. However, these arguments find their way into
contradictory narratives when they are presented, for example, in conjunction with ideas
about new niche markets and in related developments that are likely to reinforce not
solve current problems linked to overproduction. In other words, the low priority given to
the IVM research field by public funding organisations and in innovation policy
development is explained, in part at least, by 'unconvincing' sociotechnical imaginaries
presented by the IVM research community and its supporters. Policy-makers will need to
know what IVM is and the problems it is targeting before they can talk about developing
an innovation policy.
Recommendation : An innovation policy regarding IVM research and development towards
food production, needs to reach clarity on the 'problem/solution' definitions and framing of
IVM and of IVM research elements.
(2) How does IVM research attract attention and what kind of attention does it get?
Explanation/findings: We observe that the IVM network has underestimated the
importance of the fact that meat is not just 'animal muscle tissue' but an entity that
attracts attention for a whole range of reasons other than possible ecological, ethical
and industrial advantages. For example, we observed through focus group research that
IVM is largely perceived as artificial and the artificiality of food products is typically
seen in a negative light. This reaction indicates to us unease with IVM as a product or an
ingredient in products that will be found in the marketplace in the future. However, as
regards the media attention IVM has received, we observe mixed narratives of curiosity,
awe and rejection, and also that so-called 'promotional publics' can be invoked by a big
media event such as the cultured burger launch in 2013.2 The outcome of this media
event suggests to us a way to think productively about the mix of public engagement with
PR and advertising as integral to the making of technoscience (here IVM), while the
dominant tendency is perhaps to dismiss PR and advertising as superficial and cynical,
biased and irresponsible.
Policy consideration (general for innovation policy): To what extent should policy-makers
take on board PR and marketing – occurring 'upstream' in research and innovation as
constructive elements of public engagement and deliberation?
2 Kate O’Riordan, Aristea Fotopoulou and Neil Stephens (under review). 'The first bite: imaginaries of food,
publics and the laboratory grown burger.' Public Understanding of Science.
2
(3) The social acceptance hurdles in transforming IVM technologies into food
development, possibly large-scale industrial production
Explanation/findings: We observe that the IVM network has underestimated the wide
range of cultural and social meanings attached to meat, its production and consumption,
leaving it an open question: What 'is' IVM? For example, they have been unprepared
for the so-called 'yuck' factor and how to make sense of it. They have not been prepared
for its persistence despite the work done to move beyond it, or to expect persistent social
rejection on the basis of the artificiality of IVM, although, this is in accordance with past
experiences of artificial foods innovations. It is also of some concern how an impressive
technical ability finds itself here in search of purpose, of social support, acceptance and
justification. In that respect, IVM is like a toy in want of a convincing social argument. It
remains a rather vague idea of a product, however, a product looking for a market which
risks being open to all arguments (good or bad) in favour of IVM developments, i.e., if it
is enough to justify monetary investment. Policy-makers will need to know if they are
looking at developing innovation policy or marketing strategies. Although the two are
now inextricably linked in the H2020 programme, the latter (developing marketing
strategies) may be at odds with the social and common-good logic we expect from
innovation policy.
Recommendation: An innovation policy regarding IVM research and development towards
food production, needs to reach clarity on the reasons for why IVM products are socially
and culturally contentious, and on the extent to which marketing logics are allowed to
dictate the justifications to move forward.
(4) The implementation hurdles in transforming IVM technologies into food
development, possibly large-scale industrial production
Explanation/findings: We observe that the IVM network has underestimated the
structural and systemic challenges that would have to be met if IVM were to be scaled up
to industrial level. In particular, the network has not appreciated the enormous challenge
it would pose to attempt an integration of mass-scale IVM production into the existing
agri-food system. In spite of some appealing arguments about reduced energy
consumption, land use and climate gas emissions, IVM still risks being perceived as
impracticable and unappealing from the point of view of production and marketing.
However, should IVM products be allowed in principle, a host of policy and regulatory
issues will need thorough consideration: Industrial, labour and market regulations
(production planning, land use, employment issues, IPR issues, competition, etc.);
Production oversight (hygiene standards, nutrition standards, donor categories,
wellbeing of cell donors, etc.); Consumer protection (categorising, labelling, product
safety, warnings/endorsements, etc.). With all that taken together, the question still
remains if we want IVM products in the world.
Policy consideration (general for innovation policy): Which technology assessment
methodologies can come together to adequately clarify what is at stake in deeply uncertain
early stage technologies and to identify how to constructively move them forward?
With respect to IVM specifically: We recommend bringing together a range of technology
assessment methodologies who, in coming together, can map and adequately characterise the
challenges of integrating IVM into the agri-food system.
3
Article
Animal agriculture in the US and Canada is a colonial geography borne of imported ontologies of property, life, land, and food shaped by and reproducing agricultural power. This article primarily examines the ontologization of in-vitro meat (IVM) and, to a lesser degree, plant-based synthetic meat relative to our current food ontologies. IVM is positioned as the pragmatic solution to food-driven climate catastrophe in that it will supposedly allow consumers to eat meat without the ethical, environmental, safety, or health concerns associated with agriculturally produced meat. I show that arguments for and against new meat technologies pivot on ontological claims about its realness. Those in favour claim that ‘real meat’ is nothing more than a specific chemical composition that can be divorced from the animal body and current production methods. Those against IVM claim that it cannot be separated from meat as the fetishization of meat renders these technologies intelligible in the first place, and that current production methods rely on ‘livestock’ and the slaughterhouse. IVM then represents a modified form of agricultural power in which the point of application moves from the animal body to the animal cell, and synthetic meat is an articulable invention due to the material and symbolic place of animal flesh in colonial orderings of life. The regulation of these new meat technologies will likely continue to ontologize farmed animals as meat, thereby continuing dominant relationships between agricultural power and food law. I conclude by considering whether new meat technologies ought to be ontologized as food.
Article
Full-text available
Tissue engineering is a set of biomedical technologies, including stem cell science, which seek to grow biological tissue for a diversity of applications. In this paper, we explore two emergent tissue engineering technologies that seek to cause a step change in the upscaling capacity of cell growth: cultured blood and cultured meat. Cultured blood technology seeks to replace blood transfusion with a safe and affordable bioengineered replacement. Cultured meat technology seeks to replace livestock-based food production with meat produced in a bioreactor. Importantly, cultured meat technology straddles the industrial contexts of biomedicine and agri-food. In this paper, we articulate (i) the shared and divergent promissory trajectories of the two technologies and (ii) the anticipated market, consumer, and regulatory contexts of each. Our analysis concludes by discussing how the sectoral ontologies of biomedicine and agri-food impact the performative capacity of each technology’s promissory trajectory.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.