From Test Tube Roast to Soylent Green


It has been some time since I posted. I’ve been busy with my second book, edits of my first book (alas, there surely are some gremlins involved), and preparing some short stories for BookTrack. Please check out The Reserve under sci fi short stories there. It’s a quick read, less than 1200 words. You need to load Google Chrome to view BookTrack.
Scientific pragmatic thought has transformed the world. The human population today is greater in number and health and well being, probably by several magnitudes, than what would be without science. At what time in history did the humans have it better?
Yet there are those who firmly believe society must exercise political control over science, lest it run amuck. Just think how political pressure saved us from China Syndrome disasters by suppressing nuclear power. Of course, that political pressure also fueled global warming and dependency on Middle Eastern fossil fuels.
Science and its technological manifestations are not foolproof, but they do advance and refine, step by step, until they are as commonplace as penicillin, air conditioning, tractors and modern agriculture that make feeding this giant world population possible, lasers that heal eyes, laparoscopic surgery, on and on. Are there setbacks and negative consequences? Yes, but science cannot be stopped nor can this world’s population continue to exist without the advancement of science and its spinoff technologies.
That in mind, I read this article awhile back. It seems science has made a beefsteak, at least hamburger by cloning, not cloning the whole cow, just its rump roast, and “raising” that tissue in a “test tube” environment. It took a bundle of money, millions, to make one hamburger, but of course, costs will go down as the process moves to a commercial model. Will it replace cows in pastures?

Cows aboard the galactic ark. Actually in a pasture in Oklahoma.

Cows aboard the galactic ark. Actually in a pasture in Oklahoma.

That ultimately will be decided by costs, and costs vary with the application. For instance, on a space ark it probably would be more economical to maintain cultures of various living cells rather than dedicate a large portion of the craft to a cow pasture, and another portion to a fish farm, etc.
Rest assured, that as the time approaches for a space ark to be built, moralists, who have a higher understanding and a broader galactic perspective than scientists, will lobby to alter the design. The farmer’s may demand that the cow pasture be integrated into the ship along with the wheat and corn fields. The fishermen will follow suit and demand ponds, lakes, and streams and even a mini-ocean to be included. Well-meaning Congressmen will fall in line and write legislation that requires every space ark to have these amenities, if you call a pasture full of patties an amenity. Maybe even forests will be demanded, rather than cultures of plastic generating microbes.
In another scenario, here on Earth, we might become so efficient at producing these food products in labs that the human population would grow until the Earth is one giant city. There would be a lab for steak, another for roast, and others for fish of various kinds. Chicken would be produced in proportion to the preferred consumption: 10 wings, 50 breasts, 2 legs, and no backs.
Technology would march forward and less expensive foods would be developed for those who can’t afford steak, or just want to pay less. A cheap substitute might be algae steak with real sirloin flavoring: “Tastes Just Like Steak at Half the Price.” For decades, the environmentalists have been pushing it as a low impact alternative to real food.
Back at the space ark, now 10,000 light years from Earth, all the pastures and lakes have been replaced by food labs for lobster, shrimp, fish of many kinds, beef of many cuts, chicken in the proportions of 10-50-2-0, the farmers and fishermen have been trained as food lab technicians, and the politician were shoved out the air-lock.
Now a disaster happens: lack of light, PH goes to 4, invasive viruses or germs–whatever. All the food cultures die. The only culture left is people.
Would the ethical response be to create a food source from each person for that person? If so, those with vitamin and other deficiencies would get worse and worse. Or would random selection of cell donors through a draft be the moral solution?
How would you feel if everyone you met said you smell like steak?
The travelers probably would be anxious to stop at a nearby planet and harvest whatever cultures they could.
Do you think the aliens feel that way?

2 thoughts on “From Test Tube Roast to Soylent Green

  1. After a five day stint babysitting my three and four-year-old grandsons, my poor bedeviled brain can’t begin to catalogue the ramifications. However, I can say with certainty that I’m not ready to pay millions for a burger (not even thousands) so the price will have to come down drastically, and as for smelling like steak, hey, it might just be the perfect perfume to attract men.

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