Reading the ingredients list in any processed food is always thought-provoking. If you really want to know what those mysterious combinations of letters and numbers mean, you have to become adept at Internet research. So I suppose it could be argued that artificial colors and flavorings, the various forms of sugars, like that derived from GM beets, addictive chemicals, and strange substances like meat glue are actually good for us.
I mean, it’s intellectually stimulating – tracking down their origins and possible side effects. Like a puzzle or a good detective story, right?
Now how about human genes in your drug capsules, dessert, or cosmetics?
The latest stomach-turning development in the science of food processing is gelatin derived from human genetic material. According to the American Chemical Society, scientists at the University of Chemical Technology in Beijing, China, are working on culturing human collagen genes to yeast. In this highly synthesized process, the human-DNA-laden yeast does what yeast does so well, reproducing itself many times over and making massive amounts of gelatin. Human-derived gelatin. The advantage in this gelatin over the conventional animal-based kind, is being able to get around allergic responses and risk of infectious diseases carried by animals, claim the Chinese scientists. Is it vegan?
Having spoken to a biochemist of my acquaintance who prefers to remain anonymous, it becomes clear that the gross-out factor is the major deterrent in our minds. There’s no question of cannibalism. It’s not necessary to boil down human bones or skin. An inner-cheek swab would provide enough DNA to start the synthesis. According to my source, the manufacturing process is already well-known and widely used. And the original human material is so remote from the finished product that ethical concerns are irrelevant.
Well, it depends on what you consider ethical. To observant Jews and Muslim, not to mention vegetarians or vegans, this kind of food is abhorrent. In addition, humans are full of infectious diseases, just like animals, so the “cleaner than animal-based” argument seems specious.
Since this human-derived gelatin falls under the safe food category, it might not even be required to appear on labels. One more reason to avoid processed foods. As if we needed another reason.
Yet the scientist I spoke to brought up another issue: this kind of gelatin is essentially another genetically modified food. It’s not yet known how our bodies ultimately react to synthetic foods. We were born with enzymes that help us metabolize animal and vegetable foods, but handling synthetic foods wasn’t built into our body’s blueprint. They are viewed as irritants by our natural systems and treated as such.
Now, what’s an allergy? Reaction to an irritant, isn’t it? And with current theories about the origins of many cancers coming from constant cellular irritation, you really do have to pause for thought. Before you treat your child to GMO food, swallow a capsule, or apply makeup, that is.
More on creepy synthetic foods to avoid on Green Prophet:
Photo of Jello by Paul.Carroll via Flickr