December 08, 2002
Biotech and Vegetarianism

Ronald Bailey, writing in Reason magazine, notes why vegetarian groups are misguided in their attempts to ban genetic engineering that introduces animal genes into plants. A sample:

Vegetarians (although not strict vegans, who eschew all animal products, including milk and eggs) already have a precedent to guide them on the issue of animal genes in food. Until 1990, the vast majority of cheese was produced using a curdling agent called rennet, the sole source of which was the linings of the fourth stomachs of slaughtered calves. Twelve years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a biotech version called chymosin, which is produced by yeast and bacteria into which the calf gene for the enzyme has been spliced. Now nearly 80 percent of all hard cheeses made in the United States are produced with the biotech enzyme. Many vegetarian groups have embraced cheeses made with chymosin as "vegetarian cheese." They recognize that an animal gene spliced into a fungus is saving millions of calves from being slaughtered for their rennet. Surely this is an animal-friendly result.

Once again, Bailey demonstrates why he is one of the best science and technology writers around. He finds an issue that has been misrepresented or underreported, and produces a thoughtful article.

posted on December 08, 2002 05:34 PM


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