Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Proposed Legislation in Oklahoma Would Outlaw Using Human Fetuses in Food

Proposed Legislation in Oklahoma Would Outlaw Using Human Fetuses in Food:

Tasty HEK 293 cells? Who knew this was a problem? The
anti-cannibalism bill [download]
introduced by State Senator Ralph Shortey (R), reads:



No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or
any other product intended for human consumption which contains
aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted
human fetuses in the research or development of any of the
ingredients.



Apparently, the senator has heard that, Senomyx, a flavor
research company in San Diego, has patented a
taste receptor system using proteins derived from the cell line
Human Embryonic
Kidney 293
(HEK 293) as a way to test novel flavors. The
Miami New Times
reported
that HEK 293 is: 



... a cell line that started in the 1970s from human embryonic
kidney cells. The line was cultured by scientist Alex Van der Eb in
the early 1970s at his lab at the University of Leiden, Holland.
Since then, the cell line has been cultured and grown in
laboratories (you
can buy some here
). It's primary use is as a protein or a
protein vessel -- sort of a natural test tube. It's also pretty
common and seems to be available at most laboratory supply
companies and used by many R&D facilities. In short, maybe not
such a big deal.



Senomyx apparently works with leading food companies, including
PepsiCo, Nestle, Kraft Foods, and Campbell Soups on flavor
research. Introducing the bill has not too surprisingly garnered
Sen. Shortey numerous headlines. The senator
tells
 The Atlantic blog:



"The unfortunate thing is, this has been framed as 'this guy
doesn't like fetuses in food,' " Shortey said via telephone on
Thursday. "I'm under no delusion. I don't think that's actually
happening. The headlines are phrased as 'this guy thinks there's
chopped up fetuses in your food.'"



Well, yes. One might think that since the bill does say
"contains aborted human fetuses." 


Mea culpa: My colleague Nick Sibilla was
much faster
in addressing the fetal food ban.