The National Development and Reform Commission recently issued the "14th Five-Year Plan for Bioeconomic Development", which mentioned "the development of synthetic biology technology, and the exploration and development of new foods such as 'artificial protein'". As soon as the news came out, many netizens were curious: Can "artificial protein" food be eaten? Tasty? When can I eat it?
Protein is known as "the foundation of life". Where there is life, there is protein. It is the most important nutrient in human food. The existing artificial protein food is mainly divided into three categories according to its protein source: vegetable protein food, microbial protein food, and animal cell cultured meat. The first category is developed using plant proteins such as soybeans, peas, and wheat as raw materials to make meat, eggs, milk and other products. The second type uses yeast and other microorganisms to ferment and synthesize protein, and the efficiency is thousands of times that of traditional aquaculture. The third type uses stem cell technology to obtain cell cultured meat by using cell culture of animals such as cattle and chickens.
"Can you eat" involves food safety
The food safety risks in the production of traditional meat products mainly include the spread of epidemic diseases and the excessive use of antibiotics in the process of animal breeding. The above three types of artificial protein foods do not require the cultivation of complete live animals, which avoids these risks from the production method. Of course, other risks also need to be vigilant. For example, plant meat is often over-processed, the taste is not enough to make up the sauce, and the salt content is high, which is not good for cardiovascular health. But in general, as long as it is produced in accordance with relevant food standards, the safety of "artificial meat" is controllable.
"Is it delicious" is related to nutritional flavor
At present, the "artificial meat" that can be bought in supermarkets is mainly "plant meat". Some people ask, isn't this a traditional food? Indeed, the Chinese have a long history of using soy products to make vegetarian chicken and goose. However, compared with animal meat, plant meat lacks nutrients such as vitamin B12, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron, and zinc. Plant meat products produced by modern industrialization will add key quality-improving substances produced by synthetic biology technology, such as hemoglobin, glutamine transaminase, vitamins, etc., and will also change the globular structure of plant protein through physical processing. The brushed protein of the meat fiber gives plant meat the texture, chewiness and aroma of animal meat. Microbial fermented protein and animal cell cultured meat have more advantages in nutrition. For example, yeast protein contains all essential amino acids and is a full-value protein, which can meet the nutritional needs of the human body.
"When can you eat" depends on the cost of production
The research and development of "artificial protein" new food is mainly for the consideration of sustainable development. The use of plant, microorganism and animal cell culture to mass-produce high-quality protein in factories can significantly reduce land resource dependence and carbon emissions, and reduce the pressure on environmental resources brought about by traditional aquaculture. In theory, high output and low resource consumption mean low production costs, and artificial protein foods should be of high quality and low price in order to be widely accepted by the public. However, the prices of the three types of artificial protein foods in the world are currently more expensive than those of traditional similar foods, of which cell cultured meat is the most expensive. This shows that there is still a lot of room for R&D and improvement in the production technology of artificial protein food.
my country's synthetic biology research is mainly concentrated in the field of medicine and chemical production. The basic and applied research of synthetic biology in the food field started relatively late, but some gratifying results have also been achieved. Last year, the Chinese scientific research team realized one-step industrial biosynthesis from carbon monoxide to protein for the first time in the world, and has formed a production capacity of 10,000 tons.
In conclusion, we expect China to develop a large-scale, low-cost, sustainable, and high-quality protein production method. It is necessary not only to ensure the safety of national food in quantity, but also to improve the function and nutrition in terms of quality, so that artificial protein food is safe, nutritious, delicious and cheap, so as to meet the needs of the people for a better life.