“When my father and I started a company to 3D print human tissues and organs, some people initially thought we were a little crazy,” (TED) explains Andras Forgacs, CEO and Founder of Modern Meadows and Organovo. Organovo focuses on creating bio-materials that will hopefully remove the need for the maintenance and slaughter of animals to procure necessary materials such as leather and meat goods. He got the idea when people started to ask him with his capabilities would he be able to produce animal products. “when someone first suggested this to me, quite frankly I thought they were a little crazy, but what I soon came to realize is that this is not so crazy after all” (TED).
In order to maintain global standards of meat consumption today there are 60 billion animals to raise. Considering estimated population increases in the next thirty years, this number would necessitate the faculty of 100 billion animals. This figure made all the more dramatic when demand for resources is already at an all-time-high and climate concerns over agriculture are made ever more prevalent. Forgacs is “convinced that 30 years from now, when we look back on today and on how we raise and slaughter billions of animals to make our hamburgers and handbags, we’ll see this as being wasteful and indeed crazy” (TED). Therefore, not only are current standards of meat production unable to sustain projected demands, they are uncivilized. Bio-fabrication has emerged within the health-care industry by producing body parts such as ears, fingers, and noses, and according to Forgacs this process will first re-imagine leather prior to meat goods (TED).
Firstly, leather is a good sharing enormous global demand yet tends to escape the equally enormous political nuances contained within food production; there tends to be heightened liberty with leather production. Secondly, the fabrication of leather is capable of producing variations to material itself. For instance, a translucent leather good or a more flexible leather good. For the process works by adding cellular layers, the layers are not fixed as in traditional leather and may be manipulated for specific purposes.
Due to the fluidity of fabrication process, “It can have all the characteristics of leather because it is made of the same cells, and better yet, there is no hair to remove, no scars or insect bites, and no waste. this leather can be grown in the shape of a wallet, a handbag, or a car seat. it is not limited by the irregular shape of a cow or an alligator” (TED). Therefore, the inefficiencies of the current leather trade will be eliminated created minimal waste and overall a greener planet. Forgacs envisions leather creation to parallel that of a brewery, distillery, or yogurt culturing; an environment that is not to be hidden but is educational, clean and embraced by culture.
After all, “Perhaps bio-fabrication is natural evolution of manufacturing for mankind. It’s environmentally responsible, efficient and humane. It allows for us to be creative. We can design new materials, new products, new facilities… Perhaps we are ready for something literally and figuratively more cultured” (TED).
The term sustainability has taken on many masks and unfortunately, the prevailing one has become associated (rightfully so) with sacrifice in the form of lifestyle choices. I , for one, think that in order for sustainability to become prevalent within society it will have to adhere itself to the reality that consumerism has prevailed as the choice lifestyle. rather than hindering choice within the market, solutions must increase lifestyle and decrease waste. This is a perfect example of novel thinking that does just that. Not only does it eliminate material waste but it actually increases flexibility and therefore creativity.
Great job Mr. Forgacs! I applaud you.
the TEDTalk transcripts and screenshots may be found at: http://www.ted.com/talks/andras_forgacs_leather_and_meat_without_killing_animals.html