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Pictet: how to create the financial bubble on new foods

Agriculture? A scourge to humanity. Alternatives? Eat bacteria

One of the world's largest investors relies on a journalist's provocative arguments to defend funding for laboratory food.

“People argue that intensive agriculture is the problem, but the truth is that the problem is not the adjective associated with 'agriculture', but agriculture itself. It is a difficult and uncomfortable truth to acknowledge, but agriculture is far more harmful to the planet than any other industry”. Word of some scientist or some authoritative international body? No, the author of this disconcerting and provocative statement is an English journalist, essayist and environmental activist, George Monbiot. Of himself he says he regretted going to university because "that culture didn't suit me and when I tried to make it mine my arms fell off, sometimes in a state of drunken stupor. I liked the holidays better: I worked on farms and as a water-keeper on the Kennet River.I've spent much of the last two years planning my escape.There was only one job I wanted, and it still didn't exist: making investigative environmental programs for the BBC". In short, a Mario Tozzi in English sauce, without the academic qualifications of the Italian activist.

Why do we mention this gentleman? We are dealing with it because its provocations surprisingly offered the starting point for a study by the Swiss Pictet, one of the most important and authoritative financial managers in the world, with a history of 213 years, and 637 billion euro of assets managed on behalf of major pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and financial institutions worldwide.

The article released by Pictet, edited by Mayssa Al Midani, Senior Investment Asset Manager of Pictet Fund– Nutrition by Pictet Asset Management, is titled exactly like one of Monbiot's books, "Feeding the world without devouring the planet".

Struck by a conference given by the journalist, the Pictet manager recalls that "the global food industry is undergoing a rapid transformation. The supply problems experienced after the pandemic and with the outbreak of war along the production chains have highlighted not only the precariousness of an 'attackable' and unsafe supply network, but also the environmental and health costs associated with the intensive production and consumption of meat".

And this is where Monbiot enters the scene, with his maximalist vision: "Modern agriculture, explains the environmental activist and Guardian columnist, has inflicted an "agricultural dispersion" on the natural world, becoming one of the main causes of deforestation, loss of biodiversity, pollution and the climate crisis. Every hectare we occupy for our purposes, is a hectare we take away from natural ecosystems. Although it is essential to provide food for the world's population (sic), agriculture and land use have a footprint very high environmental level due to greenhouse gas emissions and the exploitation of water and soil".

Obviously Monbiot specifies "that the greatest share of responsibility is due to the dairy and meat industries. We could all feed on pasture-raised meat if we had 12 planets available and no space destined for wild ecosystems. Pasture-raised meat is by far the main reason for this sprawl.”

Pictet Asset Management takes care of remedying such a breakdown, which "searches for and selects companies capable of tackling the environmental and social problems associated with current food systems, integrating technology into production processes and committing itself to the creation of a new generation of food, focused on respect for the environment, waste reduction, prevention of people's health and food and production chain safety".

The problem, however, explains Mayssa Al Midani, is that people don't want to "give up on traditional flavors like bacon and eggs". So how do you do it? Simple: "This is possible using bacteria, that is, exploiting a technology called precision fermentation. Just like in the production of beer, this type of fermentation uses microbes of natural origin that multiply and, in doing so, create specific foods. With With the help of synthetic biology, engineering and computer technology, this technique programs microbes to produce non-animal or plant-derived proteins with the same macronutrient profile as soy, meat and eggs."

Eggs of Columbus, we add to the enthusiastic vision of the Pictet manager. Which also provides concrete examples.

"An example of a new synthetic food - claims Al Midani, again quoting the "expert" Monbiot - is the bacterial flour pancake tested in a laboratory in Helsinki, made up of a "tasty" yellow flour, called Soleina, obtained using microbes derived from the air they grow on a diet of CO 2 , hydrogen and oxygen which are in turn captured directly from the air. Once fermentation is complete, they are dried to produce flour. Precision fermentation uses much less land, coal, water and fertilizer from traditional methods of food production. It requires 1,700 times less land than the most efficient traditional means of agriculture to produce protein and 138,000 times less land to produce meat."

Clearly, "because this process is done entirely in the laboratory, it also prevents water and chemicals from being released into the natural world, limiting waste."

To this Al Midani also gives us some news, which the various producers of veg substitutes have taken great care not to disseminate to consumers: "This technique is already used to produce a wide range of protein foods without meat (vegetable burgers, fish sticks without fish and "nuggets" without chicken), many of which have already found space on supermarket shelves, on restaurant menus and in the choice of fast food".

In conclusion, "many plant-based food producers have also raised hundreds of millions in funding in recent years to promote healthier and more equitable nutrition, a mission in which Pictet firmly believes".

At this point, on the basis of these important proclaimed values, we ask Pictet to make public the names of these companies where they have invested millions of dollars entrusted to them by unwitting investors. And we also ask that as a major supporter of these companies, you commit to having TRUE consumer information about how these products are made and what's in them placed on the labels of meat substitute products.

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EFA News - European Food Agency