BSAS 2020 Invited Speaker Q&A: Alison Van Eenennaam

12 Feb 2020

Presentation title: “Animal Scientists and Cell-Cultured Meats: Learning from Past Science Communication Failures”

Area of specialism: Animal Biotechnology and Genomics


What will your session focus on and what does it address?

My session will focus on cell-cultured meats, what they are, what is known about their anticipatory life cycle assessments (LCA), and more importantly how animal scientists should use their expertise and knowledge of science to constructively engage with proponents of cell-cultured meats.


What will audiences learn from attending this session?

I would hope that audiences would learn:

  • What cultured meat and what it is not
  • An overview on the technology that is used to produce this product
  • Who has invested
  • Some of the claims that have been made in support and against the technology
  • How to constructively engage in discussions around this technology


Who will benefit from attending this session?

Anyone with an interest in understanding what cultured meat is, scientists looking to engage with audiences on this topic, and learning from past science communication failures as to how to constructively engage with in discussions around this topic


How can ideas talked about in the session be utilised in the agriculture and animal science sectors?

Animal agriculture and production practices are often associated with a lot of misinformation. Animal scientists, especially, need to understand how to effectively engage in public discussions around this topic and innovative technologies. Groups that demonize technology, or use bombastic arguments to preclude access to unfavoured technologies do long-term damage to the sustainability of agriculture. 


Besides presenting, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s Conference?

I always enjoy hearing about what is going on in animal agriculture in different countries and geographies and seeing if there are novel approaches being proposed to address common problems.


In what ways do you see the Animal Science sector addressing the Challenge of Change?

As a techno-optimist I believe that animal science sector will continue to adopt innovations (e.g. genomic selection) to improve the environmental footprint of animal protein production. I believe more productive animal production systems is a better way to address projected increased in animal source food demand, rather than an increased number of animals in existing or less-efficient production systems. There are real yield gaps in some developing countries where adoption of proven technologies such as better disease management, and genetic improvement programs could yield considerable gains.