Northern California Science Writers Association

Taking a Bite Out of Climate Change: A Conversation with Pat Brown of Impossible Foods

  • Wednesday, March 09, 2022
  • 6:00 PM - 7:15 PM
  • A Zoom event


Registration is closed

During a sabbatical in 2009, Stanford University Professor Patrick O. “Pat” Brown, inventor of the DNA microarray and cofounder of the Public Library of Science (PLOS), decided to change the course of his career to address the urgent problem of climate change. In particular, he wanted to leverage his scientific expertise toward making the global food system more sustainable by recreating meat, fish, and dairy foods from plants, with a much lower carbon footprint than their animal-derived counterparts.

In 2011, Brown founded Impossible Foods, bringing together a team of top scientists to analyze meat at the molecular level and determine precisely why meat looks, cooks, and tastes the way it does. One of the world’s leading companies devoted to plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, Impossible Foods debuted its first product, the Impossible Burger, in 2016, and launched Impossible Sausage Made From Plants in 2020. The company has plans to commercialize additional plant-based meat, fish and dairy products around the world.

In a new paper published in PLOS Climate, Brown and coauthor Michael B. Eisen of the University of California, Berkeley, present a model showing that a phaseout of animal agriculture would, through the end of the century, have the same cumulative effect on the warming potential of the atmosphere as a 25-gigaton-per-year reduction in anthropogenic CO2 emissions, providing half of the net emission reductions necessary to limit warming to 2°C, even in the absence of any other emission reductions.

Now professor emeritus in Stanford University School of Medicine’s Biochemistry Department, Brown is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a former Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He earned a bachelor’s degree, M.D., and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.
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