Thursday, March 20, 2008

More unclean food for our tables.

This article was emailed to me today by a good friend.

GM Industry Puts Human Gene Into Rice
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
UK Independent

...Scientists have begun putting genes from human beings into food crops in a dramatic extension of genetic modification. The move, which is causing disgust and revulsion among critics, is bound to strengthen accusations that GM technology is creating "Frankenstein foods" and drive the controversy surrounding it to new heights.

Even before this development, many people, including Prince Charles, have opposed the technology on the grounds that it is playing God by creating unnatural combinations of living things...

...In the first modification of its kind, Japanese researchers have inserted a gene from the human liver into rice to enable it to digest pesticides and industrial chemicals. The gene makes an enzyme, code-named CPY2B6, which is particularly good at breaking down harmful chemicals in the body.

...Professor Richard Meilan of Purdue University in Indiana, who has worked with a similar gene from rabbits, says that plants modified with it could "clean up toxins" from contaminated land. They might even destroy them so effectively that crops grown on the polluted soil could be fit to eat...

Whose definition of "fit," I wonder.

...He adds: "I do not have any ethical issue with using human genes to engineer plants", dismissing talk of "Frankenstein foods" as "rubbish". He believes that that European opposition to GM crops and food is fuelled by agricultural protectionism.

...But Sue Mayer, director of GeneWatch UK, said yesterday: "I don't think that anyone will want to buy this rice...

Don't worry, the company will make sure you never find out which brand it is.

...People have already expressed disgust about using human genes, and already feel that their concerns are being ignored by the biotech industry. This will just undermine their confidence even more."

...Pete Riley, director of the anti-GM pressure group Five Year Freeze, said: "I am not surprised by this. "The industry is capable of anything and this development certainly smacks of Frankenstein."

And the Rabbis will, of course, say nothing - and enjoy eating it.


Garnel Ironheart said...

Let's break this down.

1) There is nothing wrong halachically with genetic modification done at the microscopic level. Halachah doesn't care about what you can't see. That's why you can eat food that's covered in bacteria even though, if you want to be picky, microbes aren't kosher. So repeated comments about rabbonim not caring are meaningless. There's nothing to care about in terms of halachah.

2) Frankenstein, as memory serves, was the name of the scientist. His creation never had a name of his own, despite popular belief, and was only ever referred to as Frankenstein's monster.

3) Even so, the monster himself was not evil but reacted with violence when treated with aggression by fearful peasants too simple to understand what he was. His end was because of ignorance. Think about that when you gleefully label something "Frankenstein".

4) Finally, you once again dismiss genetically modified foods without showing any evidence of harm. And even if you do, how is it worse than introducing rabbits to Australia was? What's up with that?

Ahavah said...

The Torah defines "food" for us as things that reproduce after their kind. Just because Orthodox Rabbinic Halacha chooses to ignore that doesn't make it go away - nor does it make these items acceptable to Hashem.

Since the same guys who have recently ruled that "no penetration means no abuse" make up these "rules" of halacha for food, I am not going to accept their supposed "authority" to decide that items that violate the Torah's basic definition of food are kosher. They're not. You are going to have to decide who you really serve, the Rabbis or Hashem. Claiming those ignorant slimeballs speak for Hashem is a joke.

Even a child can understand that we are not to eat carnivores nor items that cannot reproduce after its kind. Why can't you?

Ahavah said...

And regarding "no evidence of harm," aren't you supposed to be a doctor? There are plenty of resources out there which you choose to ignore, obviously - books and studies and dissertations, webpages and brochures, that even the most casual google search will uncover. Why do you say there are no harmful effects when you see the evidence in your office every day? The food supply is contaminated and it has caused unheard of epidemics of metabolic and hormone dysfunction throughout the western world. Other scientists don't have any trouble seeing that - only the ones bought and paid for by the giant agribusiness firms "don't."

Garnel Ironheart said...

> The Torah defines "food" for us as things that reproduce after their kind.

Where does it do that? It does state in creation that each animal must breed after its own kind but says nothing about humans altering the process and thereby the kashrus of the animal. Do you have a source for your contention?

As for you second point, there is a huge difference between genetic and chemical enhancement of the food supply.

>The food supply is contaminated and it has caused unheard of epidemics of metabolic and hormone dysfunction throughout the western world.

"Unheard" is a good word because I have not heard of any. First of all, the hormone scandal isn't. The chemicals are heat sensitive which means when you cook your burger or chicken you break them down. Secondly, even if you don't, most are injected into the animal which means they won't survive your stomach acid. Yes, antibiotic overuse is a concern but that's because it breeds resistant bugs in the animal which then spread to people, not because of the meat we eat.

Maybe check your sources, and then go look at the ones you missed please.

By the way, did you have a good Purim?

Ahavah said...

A source besides the bible itself, you mean? It's all right there in Beresheit chapter 1. Is Hashem's word inadequate for you? Apparently so.

And if you had actually read any articles on GMO processes, you would know that the genetic alterations that they have made in many basic food products have introduced destructive RNA and viral segments which are clearly wreaking havoc on North American people's weight and metabolic and immune systems. Heating these doesn't make them go away - they are incorporated into your system. And how many people heat their salad? Their fruits and fresh veggies? Heating the rice won't make those human genes go away, either. They're still there. They are still human, and still unclean to eat.

What do you think food is, exactly, OTHER than it's microscopic components? What is it that your body uses BESIDES microscopic components? And what are you imagining "unclean" has to do with the physical, anyway? Even the smallest part of an unclean creature makes you unclean - one fraction of an ounce shrimp compared to your hundred(s) of pounds is enough to make you unclean - just touching an unclean carcass makes you unclean, much less eating it.

If just TOUCHING it makes you unclean, that proves even the tiniest particle is inherently unclean. You don't even HAVE to eat it. That's not hard to figure out, right from the text. One cell or one part of a cell is enough to make you unclean - and make your food unclean.

You are trying valiantly to defend an undefendable position that the rabbis have taken - because...why? It is threatening to you that they are wrong about something?

Guess what - they've been wrong about a lot of things. Mice don't spontaneously appear from dust. There aren't mermaids that can mate with men out there and never have been. And you don't have to penetrate a child to be abusing them.

They're wrong at the very most fundamental level of the definition of food when it comes to items contaminated with cells from other species - especially unclean ones - and items that can't reproduce because they've been surgically castrated by scientists so farmers have to buy from them every year.

Castration - preventing something from being able to reproduce - also makes it unclean and unfit!

These are fundamental tenants of Torah that everybody knows - you're just trying hard to pretend they somehow don't apply in this case.

That's your prerogative, of course. You're the one who will have to explain to Hashem why you knowingly ate human cells, knowingly ate cells from other unclean species, knowingly ate castrated species, and knowingly ate poisons. If you're ok with that, fine. It's not me you have to answer to.

I prefer to stand before Hashem with a clean, pun intended, conscience.

Garnel Ironheart said...

You really have your terminology messed up.

First of all, right there in Bereshis 1 it talks about man ruling over the world which many modern commentators take to mean building society and using the resources on the planet to improve our lot. GMO's can be part of that as well. The Torah does not forbid them.

Secondly, you're using the term "unclean" in the wrong sense. "Unclean" refers either to "non-kosher" or to ritual impurity and it can be confusing which the Torah is referring to. But the major commentators note that the word "unclean" in the list of non-kosher animals means non-kosher. After all, living animals are never a source of tumah and only certain dead ones (like the famous shemonah sheratzim) can transmit tumah.

Further, "unclean" is a spiritual concept, not a physical one. How it is possible a person who is a metzora is NOT a source of tumah until the kohen tells him he is? Why is it that an intact earthenware vessel can receive tumah but then loses it when it breaks?

Also you're forgetting your basic kashrus. A small piece of shrimp that is less than 1:60 of the food it falls into becomes nullified. That's right, it de facto disappears. Now look at genes and think about their relative size vs the genomes they're stuck into. How much more so.

> Heating these doesn't make them go away - they are incorporated into your system. And how many people heat their salad?

And if you were paying attention, you'd have noted I was referring to antibiotics and hormones, not genetic modifications with my thoughts on heating.

Hot lettuce? Yeewwwww!

> What do you think food is, exactly, OTHER than it's microscopic components?

Belgian chocolate is 2.5% love. No really, I looked it up on line. That's why it tastes soooo good.

It's not mice the rabbonim thought spontaneously generated from dust. It was lice.

And the implication that I have anything in common with child abusers is highly offensive. There's rebutting and then there's being hateful. You're really treading towards the latter with some of your comments!

If you want, read the relevant sections of Shulchan Aruch, then go and read Rav J. David Bleich's multiple essays on the subject of genetics and halachah, and then when YOU actually know something about the subject, I'll listen.

In the meantime, my conscience is clean without blissfully ignoring the facts around me.

Ahavah said...

Lev 5:2 "'Or if anyone touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean animal, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and it is hidden from him, and he is unclean, then he shall be guilty.

That's pretty straightforward. Only rabbis with an agenda make it otherwise.

Ahavah said...

Sanhedrin 91:

A sectarian [min]6 said to R. Ammi: 'Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?' — He replied: I will tell thee a parable. This may be compared to a human king who commanded his servants to build him a great palace in a place where there was no water or earth [for making bricks]. So they went and built it. But after some time it collapsed, so he commanded them to rebuild it in a place where water and earth was to be found; but they replied, 'We cannot'. Thereupon he became angry with them and said, 'If ye could build in a place containing no water or earth, surely ye can where there is!'7 'Yet,' [continued R. Ammi], 'If thou dost not believe, go forth in to the field and see a mouse, which to-day is but part flesh and part dust,8 and yet by to-morrow has developed and become all flesh. And shouldst thou say, 'That takes a long time,'9 go up to the mountains, where thou wilt see but one snail, whilst by to-morrow the rain has descended and it is covered with snails.'10

Lice was said to spontaneously arise from sweat, not dust, if I recall correctly.

As for the 1:60 ration, it doesn't apply - because the unclean gene is in every cell of the GMO item. No part of the item is clean, therefore there is no 60 available to offset the 1.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> As for the 1:60 ration, it doesn't apply - because the unclean gene is in every cell of the GMO item. No part of the item is clean, therefore there is no 60 available to offset the 1.

What kind of logic is that? The GMO item is less than 1:60 of each cell it's part of so it's nullified cell by cell.

At any rate, this discussion is useless because the Torah doesn't look at microscopic organisms or pieces when determining the kashrus of an item. Your whole argument is a non-starter and I'm not going to waste more time on it.