New York Times opinion columnist Ezra Klein has an article headlined "Let's Launch a Moonshot for Meatless Meat."
The crux of his argument is here:
There have been remarkable strides made in plant-based meat — witness the success of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — and milks. And the next step is cultivated meat, which is meat grown directly from animal cells. This isn't science fiction: There's now a restaurant in Singapore where you can eat lab-grown chicken made by Eat Just. Unsurprisingly, it tastes like chicken, because that's what it is.
But so far, most of these advances, most of these investments, are through private dollars, with the findings locked up in patents, by companies competing with one another for market share. We're going to need to move faster than that. "If we leave this endeavor to the tender mercies of the market there will be vanishingly few products to choose from and it'll take a very long time," Bruce Friedrich, co-founder and executive director of the Good Food Institute, told me.
This is where policymakers can, and should, come in. At its heart, the American Jobs Plan is a climate bill. But there isn't a dollar for alternative proteins...
I keep asking alternative protein experts what they wish was in the bill, and the answers I get back are almost laughably small compared with the sums Congress is otherwise considering. The Good Food Institute produced a wish list calling for $2 billion in funding, half of it for research and half of it to set up a network of innovation centers. I'd like to see Congress dream a bit bigger....
What's the evidence that the federal government creates technological advances faster than market-based competition incentivized by the profit motive and ownership of intellectual property? Klein seems to assume it rather than argue it. But even Operation Warp Speed, which brought us the Covid-19 vaccines and included federal spending and military distribution, featured competition and patents and for-profit companies. The "moon shot" reference is unintentionally appropriate. The Soviet Union had a space program without private dollars or patents or companies competing for market share. The U.S., with Rockwell, Grumman, Boeing, General Electric, McDonnell Douglas, and ATT, wound up winning the Space Race. One NASA history observed, "the decision to rely on private industry, rather than in-house staff, for development of NASA programs has probably been the key internal decision in the history of NASA."