Cow Milk Without the Cow Is Coming to Change Food Forever | WIRED
Geege Schuman stashed this in Biotechnology
New Food FutureReal Vegan Cheese isn’t alone in trying to apply synthetic biology to food production. Indeed, for-profit ventures are hotly pursuing the possibilities. A San Francisco startup called Muufri (“moo-free”) recently announced it had received $2 million to develop its own cow-less cow milk. And in Switzerland, a company called Evolva is using synthetic biology to make flavors traditionally derived from hard-to-find plants, such as vanilla and saffron.
Unlike typical artificial vanillin, which is made from wood pulp or petrochemicals, says Evolva CEO Neil Goldsmith, his company’s vanillin is chemically identical to the flavorful substance extracted from the vanilla bean but costs much less. “Really what we are doing is simply taking genes that already exist in the plant and putting them in something that already exists in the food chain,” Goldsmith says, referring to the yeast cells Evolva is hacking to make its vanillin. “And that’s really not a big deal.”
Still, plunging into the core of what makes life work forces us to re-examine assumptions about nature so ingrained that the English language hardly has the capacity to articulate them. Is cow’s milk without the cow really cow’s milk? If not, what do we call it? Is it a distinction without a difference? Or does our meddling in life’s alphabet make all the difference?Is human manipulation of DNA “unnatural”? To answer such a question, you have to ask whether technology itself is “natural.” Humans have been consciously intervening in the natural environment—and screwing it up—since the first stone hammers were hoisted. And we started altering the evolution of other species the first time we planted seeds in the ground. Most of the food we eat comes from humans manipulating nature to make it work for us.
It's also part of the debate of whether meat grown in a lab is vegan since no animals are harmed in the growing for muscle for consumption.
Want an OMG paragraph? Here it is:
The possibilities include not just vegan cow cheese, but, well, vegan human cheese. The same basic process for synthesizing cow’s milk applies to milk from any other mammal. You just need different genes. Cheese made from engineered human breast milk may not sound like a top seller at the deli counter. But the team says it can serve a practical purpose: Human milk cheese could offer an option to people who have allergies to non-human dairy products. (Chavez said the group has put its experiments with human milk on hold due to Food and Drug Administration concerns about possible autoimmune reactions.)
They also hope to engineer cheese based on the milk of the narwhal, the most outlandish mammal they could imagine. They hear the milk has the consistency of toothpaste.
Thank you for highlighting that because I missed it.
Is "milk of the narwhal" really a thing???
I'm still not sure what the benefits of muufri would be over soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc.
Taste? Nutrition? Price?
Conservation of resources?
I guess that's a variation on price. ;)
And health of our planet.