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Climate change panacea: No more cows, shift to synthetic meat, Bill Gates tells rich nations

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates speaks speaks at Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City. Goalkeepers is organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to highlight progress against global poverty and disease, showcase solutions to help advance the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals) and foster bold leadership to help accelerate the path to a more prosperous, healthy and just future. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Bill Gates wants wealthier nations around the globe to ditch eating beef and instead switch to lab-grown or plant-based alternative “meats” in an effort to combat climate change.

The Microsoft cofounder sat down with MIT Technology Review to plug his new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” and provided his views on what possible solutions might be viable — or not.

One area where Gates has become more optimistic is in the idea of transitioning folks away from beef, since cows are notoriously viewed as damaging to the environment due to emissions from their flatulence.

On this topic, Gates told MIT, “In terms of livestock, it’s very difficult. There are all the things where they feed them different food, like there’s this one compound that gives you a 20% reduction [in methane emissions]. But sadly, those bacteria [in their digestive system that produce methane] are a necessary part of breaking down the grass. And so I don’t know if there’ll be some natural approach there. I’m afraid the synthetic [protein alternatives like plant-based burgers] will be required for at least the beef thing.”

Gates went on to plug a number of firms he invests in that produce meat alternatives, such as Memphis Meats, Beyond Meat, and Impossible Foods, noting that “as for scale today, they don’t represent 1% of the meat in the world, but they’re on their way.”

He added that he does not think that such options would be viable in the world’s poorest countries where “we’ll have to use animal genetics to dramatically raise the amount of beef per emissions for them.”

Gates then declared:

I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef. You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand.
The tech titan also complained about pushback in Congress over wanting to label the faux meat products as “beef,” however, he acknowledge that his idea may not catch on right away. Gates told MIT, “Now I’ve said I can actually see a path. But you’re right that saying to people, ‘You can’t have cows anymore’—talk about a politically unpopular approach to things.”

Anything else?

Gates, one of the richest men on the globe, has become increasingly involved in areas of agriculture in recent years. Last month, The Land Report discovered that he is now the largest private farmland owner in the United States.

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