An interesting article in Forbes explains how a well-known Stanford biochemist, Patrick O. Brown, is moving from genetics research to helping change farming and food consumption patterns.

Brown’s reasoning stems from the fact that livestock practices result in so much methane and nitrous oxide, which trap heat far more efficiently than does carbon dioxide (mechanisms of this heat trapping are discussed here), that

cows, chickens and their ilk have a larger greenhouse effect than all the cars, trucks and planes in the world.

It’s well known that producing food for animals uses far more water, fertilizer, land, and energy, than it takes to grow food with equivalent nutritional content for humans.  Brown believes that eventually the costs of meat will be prohibitively high, and he might be right. Costs of irrigation water alone may tip the balance.

As the article details it, Brown

plans to spend the first six months of his project hammering out economic models with colleagues, illustrating ways that animal farming is likely to become onerously expensive. Then he’ll take a year off to work with famous chefs and food researchers on tastier vegetarian dishes, and to develop a strategy to tackle the political, economic, legal, behavioral and food-security issues he’s sure to face.

All I can say is, more power to him.  It’s going to be a difficult roe to hoe, far more difficult than anything Brown has accomplished to date, and he’s done quite a lot.  If he’s in the right place at the right time, when enough of the right people are ready to listen and understand his message, he just may get somewhere.


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