Biotechnology May Boost Food Security

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy

Overview: President Joe Biden has signed an executive order supporting the use of biotechnology and biomanufacturing to enable sustainable food production.  

Location: United States

Population: 335.4 million

Food policy category: Food security, sustainable agriculture

Program goals: To use biotechnology and biomanufacturing to reduce climate change, improve food security and sustainability, secure supply chains, and boost the American economy. 

How it works: Biden’s executive order calls on those in his administration to invest in scientific research and development as well as biosafety and biosecurity, and to ensure that biotechnology and biomanufacturing are used ethically and responsibly. These practices are intended to create innovative solutions to improve health, climate change, energy use, food security, agriculture, supply chain resilience, and national security. 

Biotechnology can be used to create cultivated meat, which is real animal meat produced by cultivating animal stem cells. The cells are grown in bioreactors at high volumes and fed basic nutrients to differentiate them into the skeletal muscle, fat, and connective tissue that comprise meat. The whole process takes from two to eight weeks to complete, depending on the type of meat being produced. 

Progress to date: Progress has not yet been documented, because the order was just signed on September 12th. 

Why it is important: The order states, “Biotechnology harnesses the power of biology to create new services and products, which provide opportunities to grow the United States economy and workforce and improve the quality of our lives and the environment.” Biotechnology and biomanufacturing can be used to improve food security by allowing meat manufacturers to produce larger quantities of meat using only a few animal cells rather than raising millions of animals for livestock. With biotechnology, meat can be produced more efficiently and without risk of fecal contamination or mistreatment of animals. Not only will the process reduce the number of animals needed to produce food for the world, but the reduction in traditional meat and dairy production will also decrease greenhouse gas emissions and their negative effects on the environment. 

Program/Policy initiated: The executive order was signed on September 12, 2022. 

Point of contact: N/A

Similar practices: China recently released a five-year agricultural plan that also includes cultivated meats as a solution to food security. 

Evaluation: The executive order outlines timelines for various agencies to report on budgets, research findings, and other measures taken to achieve its goals. 

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