FoodThe Download

The Download: lab-grown chicken, and rewilding the world

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Two companies can now sell lab-grown chicken in the US

The news: The first cultivated, or lab-grown, meat has been approved for sale in the US. Two companies, Upside Foods and Eat Just, have received grants of inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture, the final step required for each company to begin commercial US production and sales.

How it’s grown: Most meat alternatives on the market today are made using plants. Cultivated meat products are made using animal cells that are grown in bioreactors. Tissue samples from living animals are isolated and their cells grown in a lab. As those cells grow and multiply, they can be processed into food.

Why it’s important: This pair of approvals are first of their kind in the US. Animal agriculture makes up nearly 15% of human-caused global greenhouse-gas emissions, and the two companies are among a growing number of enterprises working to bring alternatives to market that have the potential to cut emissions. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

What “rewilding” means—and what’s missing from this new movement

Repairing the damage humans have done to the planet is a colossal challenge. One way we can restore some of its natural ecosystems is through rewilding: making more room for natural processes and allowing other species the freedom to shape their environments, with human management kept to a minimum.

Not since the eco-­utopian communes of the 1960s and ’70s has there been such an appetite for practical guides to engineer our surroundings to meet the needs of nature. A growing number of books propose practical projects to repair the natural environment, with the aim of leading us out from ecological anxiety toward hope for a wilder world. Matthew Ponsford takes a look at three new titles, and what those of us without hectares of land to our names can do to help. Read the full story.

This story is from our forthcoming print issue, which is all about accessibility. If you haven’t already, subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on future stories—subscriptions start from just $80 a year.

The hope and hype of seaweed farming for carbon removal

Say, theoretically, that a pipe in your bathroom springs a leak. Bad situation, right? The good news is that there are pretty much only two things you need to do: turn the water off and clean up what’s already been spilled.

In the same way, there are two major things we need to do to address climate change. We need to cut emissions—for example, by slowing down our use of fossil fuels. That’s akin to turning off the water tap. Then we’ll need to mop up the spill—that’s carbon removal.

A growing number of ventures are turning to the oceans to do that. They cover two-thirds of our planet, and have huge potential to store carbon. But there are major obstacles in their way, too. Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart explains what they are. Read the full story.

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly newsletter covering energy and climate. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The FTC is suing Amazon for ‘tricking’ customers into paying for Prime
It says it traps users via ridiculously complicated cancellation policies. (NYT $)
+ Amazon says it’s looking forward to its day in court. (WP $)
+ Bernie Sanders wants the company’s working conditions investigated, too. (The Guardian)

2 The next pandemic could be triggered by AI
People could potentially use large language models to generate deadly pathogens. (Vox)
+ AI is consuming… more AI. (The Atlantic $)
+ Let’s play AI existential risk bingo. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ How existential risk became the biggest meme in AI. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Abortion pill providers in the US aren’t giving up
Despite state legislation making it as difficult as possible to acquire them. (Wired $)
+ Texas is trying out new tactics to restrict access to abortion pills online. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Apple is opening up app development for the Vision Pro
It’ll be hoping that eager developers will step up to answer its call. (TechCrunch)
+ Fitness features were mysteriously missing from the launch event. (The Information $)
+ Apple will need to convince developers to build apps for its headset. (MIT Technology Review)

5 A Catholic cartographer wants to help the church fight climate change
Trouble is, no one knows just how much land it actually owns. (MIT Technology Review)

6 These saildrones are capable of sailing into hurricanes ⛵
They’re sturdy enough to capture data where humans dare not venture. (Ars Technica)

7 China’s ostracized internet users have fled to Reddit
But the refuge has simultaneously fostered extreme views. (Rest of World)
+ Reddit is still in a state of chaos following the API fallout. (Slate $)

8 Sperm counts are falling across the world. Why? 
Scientist Shanna Swan thinks everyday products in our homes are to blame. (FT $)
+ Inside the race to make human sex cells in the lab. (MIT Technology Review)

9 The internet isn’t a town square
These days, it’s closer to a sanitation system—sewers and all. (The Atlantic $)

10 Sweden is building a wholly wooden city
And before you ask, yes it’s already thought about the risk of fires. (Economist $)

Quote of the day

“The story speaks for itself.”

—Meta spokesperson Iska Saric gives the Verge a cryptic response when asked for further details about Mark Zuckerberg challenging Elon Musk to a cage fight.

The big story

Your first lab-grown burger is coming soon—and it’ll be “blended”

December 2020

One cool fall night in 2010, Jessica Krieger was horrified by a documentary that showed the gruesome ways animals are slaughtered for food. Then an undergrad in neuroscience, she threw herself into a then-fringe area of research: growing and harvesting edible animal cells without killing any sentient creatures.

While lab-grown meat was busy trying to find its way out of the petri dish, plant-based meat substitutes were undergoing a revolution. But rather than treating their success as a threat, Krieger and a number of other entrepreneurs see it as the opening they need to finally bring their creations to market—in the form of “blended meat.” Read the full story.

 —Niall Firth

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ The UK’s ancient stones are pretty awe-inspiring.
+ This year’s Drone Photo Awards winners do not disappoint!
+ If you’re planning a solo vacation, Rwanda and Guatemala look especially amazing places to start.
+ Why not kick back in the sun with one of these timeless summer novels? (Rebecca is particularly brilliant.)
+ Why cooking late at night isn’t for the faint-hearted.

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