A Start-Up Wants to Grow Kosher Meat in a Lab (The Atlantic, 9/16/16)

Is lab-grown meat kosher? From the point of view of kashrut, is it really meat? Can one eat a lab-grown meat cheeseburger? Is lab-grown pork kosher?

Explore these and other questions in a home learning program on Sunday, July 8, at 7:00 p.m., hosted by Buddy and Judy Joseph, 2609 Berwyck SE. RSVP to Rabbi Krishef to let him know that you are coming.

This is the second of our food technology-related studies of halakha, Jewish law. The first, in June, was an exploration of Genetically Modified Organisms. We thank Ken and Allyson Strauss for hosting, and Ken for covering the science behind GMOs. Here are some halakhic conclusions from the paper we studied regarding the genetic modification of plants and animals:

1) The Torah’s ban on kilayim, the physical blending of different species of plants or animals, does not extend to the modification of gene sequences. Jews may benefit from the fruits of hybridized plants and animals, but they should not intentionally create entirely new species. 

2) The health implications of genetically modified foods must be examined on an individual basis, without making broad assumptions that all GMOs are either salubrious or dangerous. The Torah’s command (Deut. 4:15) that we guard our health requires vigilant attention to the safety of our food supply. 

3) When considering the genetic modifications of organisms, Jews must, as informed and engaged citizens, seek to minimize animal suffering and to protect extant species.

And here are some halakhic conclusions regarding the genetic modification of humans:

4) The creation of dual species human/animal chimera is forbidden. 

5) Modifications of the human genome intended to combat illness are permitted, for they may promote human health and protect human dignity. 

6) Genetic modifications intended to enhance the aesthetics of otherwise healthy humans are forbidden, for they violate Jewish teachings about the sanctity of human life. Modifications to the human genome must be limited to changes needed to restore health. Because the line between therapy and enhancement is often ill-defined, consultation with a scholar versed in the halakhic, ethical and biological considerations is required before such therapy is commenced.

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