Wired has a profile of "Real Vegan Cheese", a product emerging from Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, California. The DIY/biotech lab is using genetically modified yeast cells to produce 11 proteins normally found in cow's milk, which can then be used to create synthetic cheese.
The genetic engineering approach to cheese has been enabled by the rapidly falling cost of DNA synthesis. It now costs less than $0.25 per base pair to obtain a custom DNA sequence which can be delivered by mail. Why make vegan cheese using yeast? Cheesemaking is an artisanal process with centuries of history and one of the earliest examples of human-directed microbiology. Existing plant-based vegan cheeses can't reproduce the casein proteins needed to achieve a passable cheese. However, Real Vegan Cheese will not use animal fat or lactose.
The process is not limited to bovine cheese:
When I visit the lab, I discover the cheese team includes a biologist, a bioethicist, a retired clinical psychologist, an accountant, and a former Apple marketer. "This to me is a natural extension of computer culture," says Maria Chavez, the ex-Apple employee and a leader of the vegan cheese project. "What is bigger to hack than our bodies and our environment? It's one of the last big frontiers. The possibilities are exciting."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.)
When I visit the lab, I discover the cheese team includes a biologist, a bioethicist, a retired clinical psychologist, an accountant, and a former Apple marketer. "This to me is a natural extension of computer culture," says Maria Chavez, the ex-Apple employee and a leader of the vegan cheese project. "What is bigger to hack than our bodies and our environment? It's one of the last big frontiers. The possibilities are exciting."
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.)
The team is also attempting to create a narwhal cheese, after achieving the stretch goal on Indiegogo. The recipe and experiments involved will be released as "open source"; the DNA sequence(s) will be submitted to iGEM's Registry of Standard Biological Parts.
Critics of synthetic foods worry about the use of GMOs and the lightly regulated nature of biotechnology labs and hackerspaces. The Real Vegan Cheese team notes that the cheese itself isn't a GMO, only the yeast is. Other recent forays into synthetic food include Muufri's synthetic milk, and Evolva's vanilla/vanillin and saffron substitutes.
The dirty hippies are more likely to have toe cheese than eat GMO anything, even if vegan.
Indeed, Richard Stallman considers his own toe cheese a delicacy. [youtube.com]
Which is pretty typical of free software users, and why you mentioned it.
Hey, but what about scientific environmentalists who have to tacitly acknowledge the harm caused by large scale animal farming, while still thinking animal products are delicious? What about us?
petri dish meat FTW
I predict that someday the most common meat will be lab grown human flesh.
I think lab grown meat will eventually be perfected. At first it will be made of normal farm-type animals of course.Many vegetarians and vegans will start eating this meat because it isn't killing animals to do so anymore.Now that one can refrain from killing animals without giving up meat this will become very popular as most people like animals.. they just also happen to be onmivores that crave meat.
As it becomes more popular manufacturing will be scaled up so that lab grown meat will just be more common in the supermarket and cheaper. Even if you don't care about killing animals.. why bother buying some specialized non-lab meat?
But.. there will still be a flaw. All that lab grown chicken and steak.. the original sample had to come from somewhere! Maybe they can do it using just a small biopsy without killing the animal? Even that is a little invasive and there is no way the animal could consent.
But.. there is one animal who COULD consent to offering a sample of muscle tissue. HUMANS!
So.. the ultimate destination of the "lab meat movement"... CANIBALISM!
Mmmmmm! Can't Wait!!!!
If you can create the DNA of the starter cell synthetically from a known sequence and insert it into a synthetic nucleus and cell, you can reduce the suffering of the animal kingdom to an ultimate minimum!
I for one welcome our lab grown penguin, lion, narwhal, and of course, human burgers. The ultimate burger: self-cannibalism with a side of you.
self-cannibalism -- OMG, how did I not think of that?!?!
Soylent News / Green / Steak is people!
As a vegetarian*, I too think that meat** is delicious.
* quasi-lacto-ovo-piscitarian* some meats, like becon, sausages, and mom's gravy. I don't miss most meats, personally.
And I'm a hardcore vegan who eats meat occasionally. But I'm a vegan, believe me.
For thousands of years the adaption between human consumers and food in nature has been happening by the means of extinction. Now people want to alter that balance and see which groups which will be essentially poisoned by this kind of products because they change the balance yet again?So no one died yet. They only get cancer? The truth is they don't know! and it's very hard to get to the bottom with effects of molecules in the body because there are millions of chemical reaction chains to which the human knowledge in general are on par with idiots messing with nukes.
And if computer industry handling of bugs and errors. Or for that part pharmacy and chemical industry is anything to look at. Then you will know that it will all be swept under the carpet unless it hurts profits. And not FDA is a joke.
If the end product contains the very same molecular components that can be found in any milk or cheese, or vanilla, or saffron, what's the difference? People have eaten those things for centuries or millennia.
The keyword here is "that can be found".
The biochemist in me feels obligated to point out that neither your body nor a laboratory can determine if that lysine came from a cow or a yeast. It is atom-for-atom identical.
However from a nutritional standpoint... we're still not 100% in our knowledge of what nutrients we should have, and even those we must have. Frex, it's just starting to be recognised that dogs *do* need taurine in their diets; deficiency symptoms in dogs have generally gone unrecognised, as they are not nearly as severe as for taurine deficiency in cats. (If you're curious -- two symptoms I've noticed are abnormal body tension in puppies, and severe itching in adults. Diets with lamb or milk as the only animal protein will cause taurine deficiency.)
So when we make 'cheese' (one hates to dignify something that's legally and ethically NOT cheese with the name) the vegan way... what are we leaving out that's not yet recognised as a necessary nutrient? How is the balance sub-optimal? Frex, barring supplementation, I'd guess that vegan-cheese is short on calcium compared to real cheese.
The problem is that findings is dependent on physical lab precision and capability. And there might not be any lab that can find out the right chemical structures and not knowing that they can't find it either. The limit of human knowledge and capability in other words.
I went to university in biochemistry. We were at the stage of being able to ID chemical structures accurately over 40 years ago. So that's really not the problem, even tho I realise it intuitively seems to be -- since we can't actually see 'em with our eyes. Well, we can now with an electron microscope, but outside of that, yeah, I see why it feels like groping in the dark, because it's all 'secondhand' evidence, like if you put X and Y into the reagent, you figure out what happens by how much Z is produced. But that doesn't mean it's invalid; it's just means it's math. Lab precision at this point approaches ridiculously accurate (parts per trillion can be detected). *Manufacturing* precision is a different matter (did you know that about half of all batches of some low-dose drugs are discarded due to manufacturing imprecision?)
The limit of human knowledge here isn't the structure of various molecules; it's what's in cheese that's missing in vegan-cheese and will cause a deficiency in those who consume it long-term, but isn't yet widely considered a necessary nutrient. (Remember how long it took for B-12 to be recognised as the critical factor missing in vegan diets; some vegans still deny that it's needed, despite the evidence of retarded, dead, and entirely-absent children.)
An example of that: feeding a dog a diet exclusively of raw meat, free of digested plant matter, eventually causes zinc deficiency (but it takes around 7 years to manifest, and then oddly: their toenails fall off.) Probably a biochemist would have spotted this, given a chemical breakdown of the diet, but a nutritionist did not, because it was thought that the all-raw-meat diet provided enough zinc. Growing chemically-identical raw meat in a petri dish wouldn't change that.
What was the question? :)
Anyway, don't mistake individual knowledge for total knowledge. Chemistry is overall one of the better-understood fields (certainly miles above climate science).
If one can identify chemical composition with precision. Then one could compare on a molecular composition of real cheese with GMO yeast produced cheese and complement any missing molecules.
I'll see a problem with all synthetic production using mixing rather than produced by actual cells GMO or not. Because the synthetic will have no real on a molecular level regulation of production. And errors will occur as a percentage. Those parts may cause some real problems.
If biochemistry were mastered. We would have artificial hearts and lungs that works long term already.
I would never trust a vegan product to be nutritionally equivalent, even if our understanding of biochemistry was perfect.
Since veganism is by design a recipe for human extinction, my suspicious little voice reminds me that if more people can be suckered into a vegan diet, that's more people who won't reproduce.
It's usually people that is largely beneficial to society that won't reproduce (enough) while others seems to have nothing better to do. Don't think veganism is very reproductively prohibitive.
Well, it is for vegans, and that's one group of ...misguided... folks we don't need more of.
But, yeah, overall the reproductive pyramid seems upsidedown, til you remember that natural selection doesn't bother to listen to our ideas.
Forgot to mention, I suspect some confusion over "natural" vs "made in a lab" comes from misunderstanding of 'handedness' (since bioforms make mostly L or D, while a lab-made equivalent can be equal parts L and D):
Guess what? Us having nukes is literally just idiots messing with nukes. We're an imperfect species. And overpopulation is threatening the long term stability of modern agricultural practices, which were needed because traditional agricultural practices couldn't sustain the population we had 30 years ago.
These thousands of years of co-evolution can't take the place of actually considering the ramifications of our actions. And the FDA is the best food safety service in the history of humanity.
The good news? Every fuckup is a lesson, and we're learning faster than ever.
The problem is that our civilization can now do mistakes that screws up the whole planet for many generations or ends it all, dead stop. Learning faster is good. What's needed is to learn fast enough to not get caught up in any fatal mistake and some mistakes can only be made once. Evolution cannot really adapt to that. And decision making, profits and ramifications are separated in such way that it takes too long time for the feedback loop to take proper effect. The personality type in decision making positions are most often not the type you want to make long term decisions either.
FDA is better than the situation in 18th-century London. But it's not the best food safety service in the history of humanity
Actually, modern agricultural production continues to increase its productivity; per a chart I saw recently, faster than the population rate. We no longer have a food shortage problem, tho some parts of the world have a food distribution problem.
Actually, modern agricultural production continues to increase its productivity;
This is true, but deceptive. The thing that's happening is that more of the world is converting to modern practices from traditional. This makes up the majority of the progress. Sure, science hasn't stopped and increasing yields fractionally more year over year is also happening, but not so fast as to beat out theoretical population growths.
Here's a service that offers as low as $0.23 per base pair: http://www.genscript.com/gene_synthesis.html [genscript.com]
Eventually we might measure the cost in kilobase pairs per cent: http://www.3ders.org/articles/20130324-synthesizing-dna-times-cheaper-with-a-dna-laser-printer.html [3ders.org]
That first number is at the same time, very very very cheap(when you imagine how expensive custom chemistry is normally) and very very expensive(when you realize how many base pairs are in even a simple gene.
The second one is just plain cheap.
So how many base pair changes is needed to make any useful changes? And how many retries does it take to learn which base pairs to modify and how?
The Real Vegan Cheese team notes that the cheese itself isn't a GMO, only the yeast is.
People who are against GMOs aren't exactly rational about it to begin with, so don't expect the above reasoning to hold much sway with them. And I'm pretty sure there is a pretty large overlap between vegans and anti-GMO types. This stuff isn't going to have a very large market demand.
They asked for $15k on Indiegogo and received $37,369, and almost none of the backers will actually get to try the cheese. If DNA synthesis costs decline enough, anybody could try to make their own using the free research which has been done for them, with a similar cost to say, homebrewing beer as a hobby.
Anything that forces even a handful of hippy/anti-GMO/reactionaries to rethink the nature of food and their GMO stance is a good thing.
How exactly would they separate the yeast from the cheese? Even if they kill all the yeast, presumably their GMO cellular corpses will still be in the cheese.
The same way you get it out of wine, with a filter.
And we are here dealing with a perfect process? or "oops"..
I think the one's used for beer and wine are a bit oops but on the other hand there's filters small enough to filter salt. The yeast are much larger than the proteins, which I imagine are the largest things you need to let through.
Isn't it harder to filter particles out of a solid object, as opposed to a liquid?
Cheese is made from a liquid (milk) and you can be sure this product starts out as a liquid because yeast don't function without water.
I don't think there's much of a point filtering yeast out of milk, and once it has become cheese, it's decidedly NOT liquid. Even the softest cheeses, like mozzarella, are solid and I can't imagine a physical filter capable of removing the yeast from the curds.
I'm not talking about filtering a solid cheese, I don't know why you keep saying that.
Why would you not filter the milk? It's cheap and not difficult and would make some vegans happy.
We're currently talking about vegan cheese made with GMO yeast, whether the fact that being GMO would dissuade vegans, and whether that yeast can be removed from the cheese.
I have no idea where you got the idea that we are talking about milk, posting in a thread about vegan cheese, on an article about vegan cheese.
In fact, being vegan cheese, milk doesn't enter into the picture at all.
The yeast make casein which is what turns a liquid into cheese in the presence of heat and acid.
I'm not making this up. I make both cheese and alcohol, one of them I did for a living. You're just imagining magic cheese.
Being rational, you know every effect of GMO ? you'll see the body is made up of 10s of millions of chemical reactions to work. And the ecosystem is made up of a lot more. When you know every effect and side effect, then there's perhaps enough background information to make a rational decision.
+1. Every piece of food we eat (especially vegetables and fruits) have been GMOd for thousands of years.
I used to be pro GMO, but am disappointed in what they are actually used for-- increasing the quantity of herbicides sprayed on fields mainly. With an even more worrying side-effect of reducing genetic diversity to the point where most of our staple crops are clones of a single cultivar-- I foresee famine when the inevitable disease hits this new extreme mono cropping. I also am concerned about genes jumping to other related plants and destroying natural genetic diversity (e.g., Roundup Ready canola genes are found in wild rape).
If you think any of the above is irrational, please explain.
As far as vegan cheese, the point of this stuff will not be that any vegan will give a lick about it-- most probably won't. It will be very popular if it can be produced at lower cost than traditional cheese. Purveyors of food-like substances like Mc Donalds and Kraft will be huge buyers. And, folks will eat it knowingly or not because it is cheap.
Its most practical application is as a vat-grown source of protein for long space voyages (think early missions to Mars, Venus, or the belt). It might also help if you're trying to reduce methane emmissions from cows. Wouldn't do me much good though, since I'm intolerant of not just lactose, but also other milk/cheese proteins like casein.
You have to draw the line somewhere. Microorganisms don't have brains or "will" or "sentience" or "sapience". They are basically chemical machines with an input and an output. This genetic engineering is simply changing the output.
Bacteria in the human body outnumber human cells 10 to 1. You are practically a slave to your gut.
Also, are you really enslaving the yeasts? It's more like a transaction. You set the optimum temperature, you pay them sugar, they give you alcohol, casein, biofuels, etc. I don't see them complaining about working conditions.
You have to draw the line somewhere.
Of course, but where is that line? I mean, Carrot Juice is Murder [youtube.com], right?
I eat almost entirely vegetarian, but I know full well that there are idiots who take it way too far.
There are plenty of lines. There's the abortion debate based on drawing the line at conception, X weeks, birth, etc. There's the lab-grown meat debate which could become a big deal if a cost effective zero-suffering alternative to slaughter is produced. It's the no-suffering and environmentalism benefits of veganism without giving up meat. Part of the debate on GMO ethics might not relate to suffering or safety, but the ethics of say making pigs that glow in the dark just because you can do it.
It is all arbitrary. Choosing to be vegan or vegetarian, even if for ethical reasons, requires an arbitrary drawing of limits at what matters and what doesn't that is no more rational than choosing a favorite color. This has been debated by philosophers for a very long time. Like anything else in that field, if it has been debated for a long time without a robustly cogent thesis, then there likely isn't one at all.
But choosing to eat meat ALSO requires drawing an arbitrary limit - otherwise you'd be a cannibal. The line is just in a different place for vegetarians or vegans.
Yeast are not part of the animal kingdom (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal).Usually vegans draw the line at the presence of a central nervous system.
I've never found people to be very logically consistent. People make choices based on many things and rationalize afterwards.Many vegans try to do the least harm. There is also plenty of animal death (mainly rodents) when crops are being harvested.
Many vegans try to do the least harm. There is also plenty of animal death (mainly rodents) when crops are being harvested.
Interestingly, that way, taken to logical conclusion, leads to eating insects, not plants.
I've never found people to be very logically consistent. People make choices based on many things and rationalize afterwards.
Why don't you eat dog meat?
It probably has little to do with logical consistancy...
0) Other people1) availability of a good source of healthy and safe dog meat at reasonable prices (it's likely dog is going to be more expensive than pig given that dogs tend to eat more meat and gain weight more slowly than pigs or chicken).
FWIW I've eaten fried silkworms, bamboo worms in Thailand and quite liked them.
Seems like dog meat can be quite tasty. So sure, why not - given that I eat pigs too and pigs can be about as intelligent and aware as dogs.
http://www.sfweekly.com/sanfrancisco/fresh-eats-what-do-dogs-and-cats-taste-like/Content?oid=2182391 [sfweekly.com]http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/what-dog-meat-taste-like-1789852 [mirror.co.uk]
p.s. I've heard rumours that dogs might be able to smell that you've eaten dog meat.
Speaking of insects, there is a huge source of low-fat protein that is virtually untapped in "Western" culture. People in Europe or North America who routinely eat escargot, crab or lobster, react with horror when presented with say fried ant or grasshopper, or sauteed cricket. How about grilled scorpion, or boiled grubs. I've tasted all of these in Mexico and Central America and South Asia where they are part of the local cuisine.Don't know if insects are considered vegetarian or carnivorous, probably not vegan. But still way down on the food chain, and way less costly (in both land and environmental uses) to produce than beef, lamb or pork.
Not all vegans are vegans out of animal rights arguments. Some are vegans because the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry bothers them. Others are vegan because of the China study, which found that regular consumption of animal products may be a factor in the diseases associated with affluence. I myself try to limit my animal product intake out of health concerns and to do my part for environmental stewardship, but I do not believe animals have the rights that some vegans ascribe to them (as I worship in the Orthodox Church, which requires use of bee products for candles and eggs for painting icons, and where slaughtering a lamb annually is a venerable tradition).
With regard to the SN submission, nutritional yeast already serves satisfyingly for many vegans as a cheese substitute in pastas and oven-baked dishes. Perhaps more choice is welcome, but I'm not sure if the uptake will be large enough for this new yeast product to make business sense.
Vegans are against enslaving animals to create consumable human products
i believe it's actually just animals with complex nervous systems. to my knowledge the central issue is the "enslavement and slaughter of emotional beings" which isn't completely without merit. seeing as how microorganisms do not have the capacity to feel, there is no conflict of interest.
Well there is always the combine harvester to keep the numbers up.
Plants are also alive, but vegans eat them.
The line is drawn at the ability to "suffer" (which would imply some-kind-of conscience).
Yeast is even more primitive than plants, so it probably can't suffer. Or at least as-far-as-we-can-know. Also, we do need to eat something to live. Causing least-sufferening-possible sounds like a good deal for people who care. Vegans clearly realize that probably causing absolutely-no-suffering isn't practical or even at all possible.
What about the level 5 vegans [urbandictionary.com] that don't eat anything with a shadow.?
I bet they taste like sadness.
I'm a level 6 vegan. I don't eat anything with a reflection.
Tonight we're having vampire "veil" with millennium mammary mozzarella sauce.
You could give the happy cows of California [youtube.com] a sad.
Some people with Milk Casein allergies eat Vegan "Cheese" because they can't eat regular cheese at all. (Lactose Free isn't good enough, since it's a allergy to milk protein not the lactose.)
The Vegan label is really helpful to people with milk protein allergies, not just those who decide to follow a particular diet.
Although I like the possibility of making cheese from other kinds of milk, I hope they label their "Vegan Milk Cheese" as containing synthetic milk protein, so that people with allergies don't see the Vegan label and think it's safe to eat. That mistake could be deadly.
The same goes with other "Vegan" products. Right now, I can be fairly certain that anything labelled Vegan is safe for my son (with milk and egg allergies) to eat, Vegan margarine is safe for example (vs other margarine that usually contains Whey Powder). If they decide to use this synthetic milk protein in other products, while allowing them to keep the "Vegan" label, the usefulness of the Vegan label as a allergy indicator could disappear completely.
People with milk protein alergies have a hard enough time finding substitutes for things like cheese, margarine, and ice-cream. It's crazy how many things they put whey powder in (even sorbet, wtf!).
I really hope any products using this are required to indicate they contain Synthetic Milk in some obvious location, because otherwise someone is going to have a severe reaction to a food they thought was safe.
When I read this I immediately had similar thoughts. If we see a world where foods are built from unconventional proteins, they'd better tell you exactly which proteins, or everyone with allergies which aren't on warning labels (i.e. any allergy other than milk, eggs, soy, nuts, or peanuts) is going to be at a high risk of death.
There is now, on the selves of most food stores in the US, a cheese made from soy milk. This is considered "vegan" and is also used by people allergic to milk.
I am aware of the cheese alternatives currently available. Some use Soy, others use vegetable oil, all of them are labelled "Vegan".
People with Milk Protein allergies use that Vegan label to tell if a particular type of "cheese" they're buying is safe for them to eat.
The point is, if this company is allowed to use the "Vegan" label on cheese made with this synthetic milk, someone with allergies is going to buy it and assume it's safe, when it's not. (The small variety of "Vegan Cheese" available makes that inevitable.)
In that case, someone is probably going to die from eating something they thought was safe.
That's why I hope they're required to label their cheese as "Synthetic Milk Cheese", or similar. They need to require that any product containing this Indicates clearly that the product contains synthetic milk protein.
If they don't then the value of the "Vegan" label as a food safety indicator for people with allergies becomes Nil. Which would make finding safe foods even harder than it already is.
So they are putting a little bit of animal DNA into those microbes right? I guess all you REAL vegans still won't be able to eat good cheese because those microbes were in some small part derrived from animals.
I'll shed you a tear as I eat my cheseburger!
If you take the casein expressing gene from the genetically-engineered yeast and put it into a plant, is the plant now a fungus?
Hmm ... what if they sequenced that gene, created an identical DNA sequence from scratch, and then inserted that? Then only the information comes from the animal; but if you don't allow information from animals, then you cannot eat any prepared food since into the recipe went information from the cook's brain.
It's all code now. As long as you can get a sample, sequence, and store, synthesis is possible.
Where did you get the original gene to sequence?
From a blood sample. If taking a blood sample is unethical, you have to stop all modern medicine, because, oh horror, it takes blood samples of humans.
And the blood sample you've taken the gene sequence from isn't in the food, so the food is not "contaminated" with animal products.
First, let me say I LOVE beef, cheese, leather, etc. I'm a murdering animal eater, through and through.
But I'd really rather not be. Beef is so inefficient it is destroying the planet. Milk is little better. Yeast are incredibly efficient by comparison. If someone could incubate me a burger with a slice of melted vegan cheese on top, and the taste was close enough to be delicious, I'd go vegan in a heartbeat. It'd also probably be a fair bit cheaper, once the tech is perfected.
And as for all the GMO-phobes that are freaking out here: We eat yeast already, and we eat milk already, and we eat the DNA of both of these creatures. We even eat them together (e.g. Blue Cheese). There is almost 0 risk from eating this, and a much greater risk of eating the real deal (diseased animals, environmental damage, climate change, the list goes on and on).
So bring on the frankenmeat and vegan cheese. If it tastes good and costs less, people will very quickly get over their irrational fears. Don't believe me? Well cell phones cause brain cancer, and vaccines cause autism, and oh, wait, we're over that stuff because eventually people come around to facts, especially when there are real, concrete benefits from doing so. This will be much the same: A few vocal folks will scream Armageddon, but the rest of us will savor the delicious, yeasty goodness and move on with our lives.
The human cheese reminded me of this Borat sketch [youtube.com].
Real Virgin Cheese: Coming From a Yeast to You