IEET > Interns > HealthLongevity > Edward Miller > Innovation
Open Source In-Vitro Meat
Edward Miller   Mar 31, 2008   Embrace Unity  

The massive amount of meat production is currently wreaking havoc on the environment, and too often the animals are treated inhumanely.

Yet, it is simply not practical that we will all become vegans any time soon. Certain animal products are very nutritious, and humans crave it too much. The only sustainable and ethical way to fill that desire is in-vitro meat and similar technologies.

Unfortunately, innovation in the field has been slow. Furthermore, what little innovation there has been is currently patented. Patents often stifle innovation and provide unnecessary government-guaranteed monopolies for certain individuals.

Interestingly, the great Arthur C Clarke, who recently passed away, had once written about the possibility for geostationary satellites to be used as telecommunications devices. His work was declared as prior art to successfully defeat a patent regarding telecomm satellites.

I remember reading his book 3001: The Final Odyssey and it spoke of meat substitutes, and predates some of the patents by a few years. However, I am sure there are other works that are much older that could invalidate some of the patents. It is a fairly obvious idea, and there is absolutely no reason why patents should hinder innovation in this area.


Edward Miller, a former intern of the IEET, is the Chief Information Officer of the Network for Open Scientific Innovation. He is a passionate advocate of Open Source development models. His blog, EmbraceUnity, deals with democracy, humanism, and sustainable development.


In vitro meat is also discussed in Haldane’s Possible Worlds and Other Essays (1927), Winston Churchill’s Fifty Years Hence (1932), and Pohl/Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants (1953).
There are two in vitro meat patents that I’m aware of and I don’t think they are slowing progress. I think research is limited more by the funding horizons of investors.
The main barrier to cost-effective in vitro meat—the lack of cheap culture media—seems amenable to open source solutions and wouldn’t seem to be hindered by existing IP.
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