Nutrient pollution is one of the world’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems. Although less discussed than the impact of carbon on our environment, nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy.
A significant source of nutrient pollution results from the use of chemical fertilizers and animal manure, which provide crops with the nitrogen and phosphorus necessary to grow and produce the food we eat. If not fully utilized by the growing plants, excess nitrogen and phosphorus can be washed from farm fields and into waterways during rain events and when snow melts, and can also leach through the soil and into groundwater over time. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can cause eutrophication of water bodies, the formation of harmful algal blooms rendering water unsafe for consumption, and major releases of methane and carbon dioxide.
The impacts of food production on the environment are complex. While the reduction of carbon sources is a critical element to creating a better future, managing our impact on phosphorus and nitrogen systems in the environment are also critical aspects that are not often discussed.
Matt Scholz, Senior Project Manager of Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, shared with CULT that “manure and fertilizer are the world’s largest sources of nutrient pollution, which is perhaps our greatest threat to freshwater quality. That pollution also causes something called eutrophication, which is a major and underappreciated source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Designed appropriately, cellular agriculture could play a major role in addressing the existential threats of climate change and deteriorating freshwater supplies.”
The best way to reduce the impact to chemical fertilizers and animal manure is to not introduce it into the environment in the first place. Cell-based foods are one of the few ways to do that, and still maintain our ability to produce animal proteins.
Cell-based foods are produced in a closed system that does not introduce animal waste or fertilizers into the existing environment, protecting our air and water supply. This technology represents one of the few options to continue the production of animal agricultural products without increasing nutrient pollution within a region.