The size and demand of the meat industry is growing rapidly and according to estimates, meat consumption in India is going to rise with the rise in population in the coming years. Anticipating the same, the Maharashtra state government and the Indian arm of US-based NGO Good Food Institute (GFI) have had signed an MoU, in February this year, to set up a Centre for Excellence in Cellular Agriculture in Jalna city, Aurangabad Division of Maharashtra, in a bid to promote cell-based meat production in India.

Cell-based meat cultivation involves growing animal cells in a laboratory rather than slaughtering animals and therefore the meat cultivated in labs is also called as 'slaughter-free' or 'clean meat' and is considered as nutritionally equivalent to conventional animal meat.

The centre will look into developing methods to cultivate stem cells from tissue samples of sheep, to produce mutton.

Set up by Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, the upcoming centre is touted as world’s first research centre focused on research and development in the cell-based meat category.

In its first phase, a lab is expected to come up in Mumbai next year. The second phase, a greenfield project, is expected to come up on 203 acres of land owned by ICT in Jalna by 2021, said GFI India Managing Director Varun Deshpande, to Indian Express.

Additionally, the upcoming centre will also provide facilities for related startups to investigate and create Proofs-of-Concept (PoCs). It will also conduct contract research for relevant private industries and startups and create curriculum and training for the sector.

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Washington-based GFI will offer expertise and guidance in setting up the lab through its network of scientists. "The concept of cell-based meat is still in an early stage in the country. However, the size and demand of the meat industry is growing rapidly. It is estimated that in the coming years, meat consumption in India is going to rise with the rise in population," said Deshpande.

Good Food Institute (GFI) is a nonprofit that promotes plant-based meat, dairy, and eggs as well as clean meat (also known as cultured meat and cell-based meat), as alternatives to the products of conventional animal agriculture. GFI targets scientists, policymakers, and entrepreneurs to promote plant-based products and cellular agriculture.

The current Indian meat industry is valued at an estimated Us $2.585 Billion ( ~ Rs 20,000 crore). Cell-based meat companies in Netherlands, Israel and Japan are receiving support from their governments, while regulatory authorities in America USA are in the process of developing a framework for cell-based meet.

In an another similar cell-based meat initiative, Hyderabad's Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), in collaboration with the National Research Centre on Meat (NRCM), has also initiated research aimed at producing cell-based meat and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), government of India, has even agreed to fund the project with an initial grant of Rs 4.6 crore.

CCMB too has collaborated with GFI for same.

CCMB operates under the aegis of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Government of India, and is a designated "Center of Excellence" by the Global Molecular and Cell Biology Network, UNESCO.

Additionally, CCMB has also signed an agreement with Humane Society International India to launch a ‘Centre for Predictive Human Model Systems;, whiche will help enable shift in scientific research by focusing on new methodologies instead of animal models. This centre aims to stop use animals in research purposes. The alternative testing method would be to test the human cells and convert them into organoids (an artificially grown mass of cells or tissue that resembles an organ).

Source - The Hindu, Business Line, Indian Express, Food Navigator-Asia

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