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Is The Future Lab-Grown? From Meat To Diamonds: Meet The Companies Leading The Way
We’ve all heard of lab-grown meat by now. But did you know diamonds, trees, and even humane bone can be made in a laboratory?
C ellular agriculture, aka lab-grown meat and dairy, will transform animal agriculture. It shifts production away from farming animals to instead focus on processes at the cellular level.
Think tank Blue Horizon suggests that by 2035 ‘every tenth portion of meat, eggs, and dairy eaten around the globe is very likely to be alternative’.
Questions remain about the technology. Is it artificial? Will people accept it? Is it better or worse for the environment?
Some answers are becoming clearer every day. Not only in terms of the food we eat.
Yes, most ‘lab-grown’ tech companies are working to produce animal-derived agricultural products (‘meat’, ‘leather’, ‘milk’, ‘eggs’ etc.). But, there’s a whole world of innovation in other areas.
That is good news for animals and the plant-based community. It helps make ‘lab-grown’ an acceptable idea. Let’s begin with diamonds.
Diamonds are forever?
Earlier this year, Pandora, the world’s largest jewelry company, announced that, going forward, it would only use lab-created diamonds, and not mined diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds have been around since the 1950s. But high energy costs and a lack of ability to create ‘pretty’ diamonds meant they were mainly used in industry, such as drill bits on heavy machinery.
But as with lab-grown meat, technology has advanced and costs have come down. Now lab-grown diamonds are helping consumers avoid the environmental and ethical problems associated with the ‘natural’ product.
Human rights abuses
The charity Human Rights Watch reports that even today most jewelry companies can’t assure its customers that its diamonds are free from human rights abuses. These are particularly child labor, and punitive amputations for villagers who mine in surrounding areas and ‘steal’ company property.
For many mine workers, COVID-19 also worsened conditions and exploitation.
Environmentally, lab-created diamonds still use a lot of energy. But they are up to 10 times more efficient than the fossil fuels, explosives, and heavy machinery used in diamond mines.
It is much easier to source renewable energy for lab-created diamonds. Pandora’s commitment is that they will use 100 percent renewables by 2022.
As with plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, the switch in purchasing power is being driven by young people. They are prioritising sustainability when choosing expensive jewellery.
Perhaps that’s why a lab-grown diamond company has become the first ‘Certified Sustainable’ and ‘Certified Climate Neutral’ diamond producer, with attention also give to water consumption, traceability, and diversity in its workforce production.
Mined diamonds can no longer be marketed as ‘natural’ in contrast with lab-created. The jewellery industry now recognises both as ‘real’ diamonds.
Lab-grown is cheaper
What is really driving change in consumer habits is cost. Lab-created diamonds are around 30 percent cheaper than mined diamonds. That means more people can purchase them for different reasons. (It’s another reason why price parity in the alternative meat and dairy sector is so important.)
That’s perfect for a company such as Pandora, which prides itself on creating affordable accessories for people. Up to 77 percent of people in Europe are aware of lab-grown diamonds.
“The roadblock to the success of this category has never been the consumer,” research company MVEye reported in 2020. “It has been the trade.”