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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Banning fetuses in food: when morons are in charge of our laws

by David Atkins

Oh good lord:

A Republican state senator from Oklahoma City introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food, despite conceding that he’s unaware of any company using such a practice.

Freshman Sen. Ralph Shortey said his own Internet research led him to believe such a ban is necessary and prompted him to offer the bill aimed at raising “public awareness” and giving an “ultimatum to companies” that might consider such a policy.

Shortey said he discovered suggestions online that some companies use embryonic stem cells to develop artificial flavors, but added that he is unaware of any Oklahoma companies doing such research.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy said: “FDA is not aware of this particular concern.”

The executive director of the anti-abortion group Oklahomans for Life, which has successfully pushed some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country through the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature, also said he had never heard of human fetuses being used in food research.

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Tony Lauinger.

"His own Internet research." If this sounds to you like your crazy right-wing aunt freaking out over bullshit in a chain email, that's because you're not that far off the mark. The only significant story in recent years about this apparently crucial issue is this bit of interesting science involving Pepsi and stem cells from last year:

A bizarre controversy is unfolding over an impending low-calorie soda from Pepsi (PEP), which the company is creating with the help of the biotech company Senomyx (SNMX). Numerous anti-abortion groups have started a boycott of Pepsi products because they say Senomyx, which develops new ingredients intended to enhance sweetness and other flavors, has done so using embryonic kidney cells that were originally taken from an aborted baby.

This accusation presents a two-fold problem for Pepsi. The first, most obvious one is that the beverage giant has now ardent anti-abortionists breathing down its neck. The second, and possibly more troubling, issue is that some of Pepsi's attempts to create groundbreaking and healthier products are now associated with fetal kidney cells.

Is this claim true? Neither Pepsi nor Senomyx returned calls, so we don't know the companies' side of the story. But a perusal of Senomyx's patents suggests that it may well be. All but 7 of the company's 77 patents refer to the use of HEK 293 (human embryonic kidney) cells, which researchers have used for decades as biological workhorses. (For the bio-geeks among you, these cells offer a reliable way to produce new proteins via genetic engineering.)

The company appears to be engineering HEK cells to function like the taste-receptor cells we have in our mouth. This way, Senomyx can test millions of substances to see if they work as different types of taste enhancers without subjecting human volunteers to endless taste tests.

To non-scientists this may sound a bit strange, but the reality is that HEK 293 cells are widely used in pharmaceutical research, helping scientists create vaccines as well as drugs like those for rheumatoid arthritis.

So Pepsi's research affiliates were using stem cells to test food substances the same way pharma companies test vaccines. Interesting and kind of cool. So naturally last year the nutcase womb police boycotted Pepsi; and now partly due to this ridiculous nontroversy, Pepsi has disaffiliated from Senomyx.

And less than a year later, this embarrassing incident for America has trickled down into the fevered imagination of some elected moron in Oklahoma that people are being fed fetus parts on their dinner plates. So naturally he steps into legislative action based on his "Internet research."

Welcome to the heartland "values" to which we unAmerican coastal elites are supposed to give deference and utmost respect.