Holy cow! Tipperary farm leaders 'bemused' and 'sceptical' about lab developed real milk
Two Tipperary farm leaders have said that they are “bemused” and “sceptical” over reports that a growing number of high-tech startup companies are looking at replicating “real dairy milk” with a laboratory equivilent.
Reports in The Guardian newspaper at the weekend stated that, from Silicon Valley to Singapore, companies are rapidly joining the race to create the first imitiation cow’s milk based on artificially reproducing the proteins in curds (casein) and whey that is suiutable for mass market consumption.
However, Imelda Walsh, chair of North Tipp IFA, said that, as a farmer, parent and consumer, she was bemused by the recent report.
And the president of ICMSA, Tipperary Town farmer Pat McCormack, said that he was “deeply sceptical” of the motives of some of those involved in searching for synthetic alternatives to milk.
According to Ms Walsh there appeared to be a populism at the moment in relation to producing food in a lab.
“In my opinion this is an extremely dangerous journey that is being travelled,” she said.
Ms Walsh said that the irony of this was the fact that the desire was to produce this food to look and taste exactly the same as the natural product produced on the farm and their marketing campaign revolved around selling it as looking and tasting the same as the natural product being produced by farmers.
“The fresh wholesome dairy products which we buy from the supermarket come with the guarantee that this food is 100% natural and can be traced back from farm to your kitchen table,” she pointed out.
There was a real danger that, as consumers, we can be misled into believing that a lab produced product can provide the correct balanced diet, in particular, for young children and teenagers which may lead to health issues into the future, said the IFA leader.
“There is also a belief that this new idealism will also save the world from climate change,” she said.
Ms Walsh said that the model of farming in Ireland and across Europe had, and continued, to stand the test of time.
Farmers had been farming for thousands of years and adapted to the challenges along the way. Faced today with the environmental challenges farmers were standing up and engaging with the new measures required for climate action, she said.
“Farmers will not allow our sector to be scapegoated in that whole debate when our trees, hedgerows and grass based systems sequester the carbon produced on our farms, also the biogenetic methane has a short atmospheric lifespan,” said Ms Walsh.
She said that recently we had seen a situation with the Climate Action Bill in the Dail whereby an amendment had to be included in relation to carbon removals from agriculture.
“Our animals have amongst the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and, with our grass based system animals, are outdoors for almost nine months of the year eating luscious green grass and producing milk to provide all the wonderful fresh dairy products that we all enjoy,” she stated.
She said that she “most definitely” did not want, as a consumer, a product that was produced in a lab to imitate the natural safe wholesome one she can buy in the supermarket.
“It’s imperative that consumers are given the correct information in relation to the food that they are buying for their families and it’s time that the ‘big business interests that are promoting their own agenda are questioned and held to account by governments,” said Ms Walsh.
Meanwhile, Mr McCormack said that he disliked the way these companies hide their profit-seeking drive behind the fig-leaf of concern for the climate and a media-driven - and downright false - campaign to move people away from natural milk and meat.
“It would be amusing to read of scientists and biotech executives wondering how to replicate the natural taste of milk if it wasn’t so serious,” he said.
Mr McCormack said that if people wanted the natural taste of milk and the dietary goodness that came with that and that we’ve known about and relied on for millennia, then they should buy their local co-op’s milk.
“If they want to take a chance with some synthetic liquid, developed in a lab, that owes more to the periodic table than it does to a cow grazing in a field of Tipperary grass then they’re free to do that. I know which one my family will be choosing,” said Mr McCormack.
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