A group of campaigners known as Reboot Food has published a manifesto calling for open-source precision fermentation technology to be used widely to transform the food system away from reliance on animal agriculture and free up land for nature restoration. Precision fermentation technology, which is already used to produce insulin and rennet as well as some new food products, could in theory produce all of the world’s protein on an area of land smaller than Greater London, says the manifesto.
The manifesto makes four key points:
- Put healthy, whole and varied plant-based foods at the centre of diets
- Replace animal sourced products with identical versions produced by precision fermentation wherever possible
- Use as little land and ocean as possible, by using high-yield farming and paying farmers to rewild land, to make as much space for nature as possible
- Use open source technology to ensure a just transition where the benefits of new technologies are shared with all
It also sets out ten steps for governments, including investing 2.5% of GDP over ten years to support the transition to precision fermentation, ending subsidies for animal agriculture, limiting patents on food innovation to ten years, and banning the advertising of animal-based foods with a high land and carbon footprint.
The campaign is being run by the European environmental organisation RePlanet. The launch webinar on 16 November 2022 featured Gunhild Stordalen, George Monbiot, Hanna Tuomisto and Sylwia Spurek. A recording will be posted on the RePlanet YouTube channel shortly.
Note that although the campaign has said “We’d rather eat microbes than animals”, precision fermentation products are often (but not always) based on specific proteins, fats or other molecules produced by microbes, rather than on the microbes themselves.
Reactions and media coverage include:
- The Guardian: Replace animal farms with micro-organism tanks, say campaigners
- Green Queen: George Monbiot, Climate Activists Urge COP27 to Rewild and Embrace Alternative Protein
- Sentient Media: End Animal Farming and Scale Up Protein Breweries, New Report Says
- Rob Percival of the Soil Association said on Twitter: "The Reboot Food campaign is a confused mish-mash of ideas. Their vision of biotech-enabled radical land sparing is akin to the rewilding movement getting hooked on GMO-steroids."
- ffinlo Costain of the Farm Gate podcast said on Twitter: “Dangerous, anti-nature, misinformation filled with half truths, mis-direction & evasion. Farming, in balance with nature, is the best tool to restore biodiversity & climate. Let's put our energy into transforming farming, not creating new problems & making high tech corps rich.”
- Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists, said on Twitter: “This is brilliant - @GeorgeMonbiot on factory farming and the the future of protein.”
- Climate scientist Peter Kalmus said on Twitter: “I have so many questions. How will this scale? How will it taste? But still a very thought-provoking two minutes from @GeorgeMonbiot , and I say that as someone quite wary of tech-solutions. Animal agriculture is ~15% of the climate crisis and needs to end.”
Read more on the campaign website here. The manifesto can be downloaded here (PDF link, 2 pages) and a full report by Reboot Food can be found here (PDF link, 32 pages). See also the TABLE explainer What is ecomodernism?