Engineered Meat on a Plate

By / Food / April 19th, 2010 / Like

I received a press release recently regarding an organization called Genome Alberta that’s launched a competition for bovine and swine genomics research. For those of you who may not be too familiar with the term “genome”, here’s a quick definition: a genome contains all of the genetic information an organism passes on to its offspring. Researchers have spent years trying to map the genome with varying degrees of success. Genome Alberta is hoping to use genome research to “contribute to the success and growth of Alberta’s highly competitive livestock and meat industry.”

The question, though, is whether applying this kind of research to the livestock industry is even ethical. Alberta farmers want to improve the genetic strength of the 2.3 million hogs raised every year and build on overall herd quality. Surely, these aims can be achieved with a more holistic, natural and less invasive method. We’re not talking simple time-honoured breeding techniques here, where Farmer Brown would mate a white pigeon with a black pigeon in the hopes of having a nest full of grey pigeons. Genome research can be linked to genetic engineering. For instance, if we want cold hardy tomatoes, we can inject the genes from a cold water fish into the genetic make-up of the tomato. Sounds simplistic and very sci-fi, but a similar thing has been done with pesticide resistant corn. I’m not saying that genome research shouldn’t be allowed. There are, in fact, many beneficial outcomes — a cure of cancer, preventing Alzheimers. But, artificially outfitting a living thing to make it more profitable is seriously problematic for me. Don’t forget, just because we’re able to make a species stronger, does not mean that viruses, bacteria and other parasitic organisms won’t also evolve to survive.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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