Announcing our bold, new campaign: "Cellular Agriculture for the Public Good."

New Report: The Role of Cell Ag in Sustainable, Resilient and Just Food Systems

A new report shares considerations and recommendations for how the Canadian cellular agriculture industry can support a just transition.

Published July 8, 2023 | Updated July 5, 2023 | Yadira Tejeda-Saldana

Back in 2021, we started our first collaborative project in the social sciences with the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley. This project explored the opportunities, challenges, and main considerations for developing a Canadian cellular agriculture industry that supports a just transition to a sustainable food system. 

What is a “just transition”? The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines it as “Greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.”

Cellular agriculture is absolutely a technology that can drive a just transition, with the appropriate considerations and policies in place. This project was a look into how to make it happen.

We embarked on this project knowing that cellular agriculture alone wouldn’t solve all the challenges we have seen with our current food system. We realized that for things to change, we needed to think more holistically and “out of the lab.” Cellular agriculture holds great promise, but in a capitalist-dominated environment, the current path of this technology risks perpetuating existing social issues such as inequity and concentration of power.

Following our mission of “maximizing the positive impact” of cellular agriculture, this project was an opportunity to discuss and reflect on the social implications cellular agriculture could have in society. It was truly an interdisciplinary collaboration with cellular agriculture developers, agriculture and food sector leaders, academics from life and social sciences, students, Indigenous representatives and nonprofits, all actively involved in different aspects of the project, from interviews and workshops to land-use modelling and feedstock studies. 

Two years later, several of us came together virtually to share our key learnings and their implications for policy and actions. 

I’m glad to share the final report: The Role of Cellular Agriculture in Sustainable, Resilient and Just Food Systems: An Action Agenda. This report was co-developed by a diverse group of collaborators and participants, including the private sector and researchers from collaborating institutions such as Royal Roads University and Trent University. The report presents considerations and recommendations for creating and implementing policies, programs, strategies, and actions for establishing a food system that includes cellular agriculture in a sustainable, resilient, and just manner in British Columbia (and Canada).

So what are the key takeaways?

Below you can find the four major considerations and ten key recommendations identified in answering the question: “What are the key considerations and actions needed for guiding the trajectory of cellular agriculture toward sustainable, resilient, and just food systems?”

Major considerations:

  1. A just transition of the protein industry (including the development of cellular agriculture industry) requires increased and meaningful engagement between industry, academia, government, and local communities.
  2. There is a need for transparent communication strategies to educate the public regarding cellular agriculture, recognizing that diverse communities may have values that are in line and/or in tension with this technology.
  3. Canada is a new player in the global cellular agriculture industry. Without increased public support in the form of interdisciplinary training, funding, and incentives for open innovation and knowledge sharing, there is limited potential for the industry to develop in inclusive and holistic ways.
  4. Further research is required to enable cellular agriculture’s maximal contribution to environmental sustainability, including the development of comprehensive environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics, implementation with sustainable energy systems, and integration within circular economies.

Key recommendations:

  1. Meaningfully consult and collaborate with Indigenous communities and governments.
  2. Increase public investment to support the cellular agriculture ecosystem and guide its trajectory.
  3. Develop an indicator system for evaluating success in the food production systems.
  4. Leverage the land sparing potential of cellular agriculture.
  5. Promote industry growth that contributes to food system resilience.
  6. Convene diverse groups and stakeholders to bridge silos.
  7. Develop a plan for strategic engagement using a systems lens.
  8. Invest in relationship building.
  9. Support initiatives that facilitate knowledge mobilization and public discussion.
  10. Develop interdisciplinary education and training programs.

To dig deeper into the considerations and recommendations, give the full report a read here.

A big shout out to the team that was part of this project for two years and to the Future Skill Centre for providing the catalytic funding. 

New Harvest is thrilled to be starting our foray into much needed social science work in cellular agriculture with this collaborative project. Watch this space!

About the Authors
Yadira Tejeda-Saldana is New Harvest's Director of Responsible Research & Innovation - Canada