Feeding 10 billion… If you can’t beat them, regulate them


By food futurist, Tony Hunter


How do we feed 10 billion people in 2050 sustainably, healthily and equitably? Apparently, some politicians believe that banning new technologies like cultivated meat is the answer. At the insane end of the spectrum last year Italy banned the production and importation of cultivated meat with breaches attracting fines of up to US$65,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Singapore, who were the first country to approve cultivated meat sales back in December 2020. In the middle “civil war” countries we have the USA. Until recently products from Upside Foods and Eat Just were on sale at restaurants in Washington and San Francisco and apparently will go on sale again in the US later in 2024. Despite this we have states like Arizona joining the list of US states trying to slow cultivated meat through legislation. Florida is also considering a new bill that would ban the production, sale and distribution of cultivated meat in the state.

Currently it looks like we’ll have a three-speed cultivated meat world. Those like Singapore and Israel who embrace the technologies wholeheartedly; those that have an internal civil war like the US; and those that reject the technology on misinformed and/or ideological grounds like Italy.

It certainly appears to be a case of those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. Remember the battle over digital music? Who owns that space? Not Sony music but Swedish company Spotify as well as Apple, Tencent and Amazon. Their attempts to stop the adoption of new digital music technology ended abysmally for the incumbents.

One has to wonder why the incumbents are even worried about cultivated meat and other new technologies? With up to 1.9 billion people on the way and growing middle classes this means that we’ll need 50 to 70% more food by 2050. Our existing global food system can’t scale to meet these requirements within planetary boundaries.

But new technologies can’t scale fast enough to replace existing plant and animal agriculture. The pie is getting bigger by the minute and there’s room for all technologies for the foreseeable future. We’re going to need them all if we’re to feed the growing population of 2050 and beyond sustainably, equitably and healthily.

Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.