Monday, December 05, 2005


In recent years, the biotechnology industry has launched a massive enterprise to genetically reconfigure a large portion of the world�s food supply. Hundreds of genetically altered crops and animals are being developed in laboratories, and already several varieties of such foods are on grocery shelves (unlabeled). In most cases, biotechnicians transpose a gene from one species into organisms of another to endow them with a trait they do not ordinarily possess (e.g. human growth gene into salmon to increase their size; flounder gene into beets to make them cold resistant; bacterial gene into corn and potatoes to make them pesticidal). Because this technology is growing so rapidly, because it could in many respects be irreversible, and because an increasing number of Jews (including many rabbis) are concerned that its products are unkosher, it is important there be a comprehensive examination of genetically engineered food in relation to Halakha so that, if necessary, prompt action can be taken to secure labeling and protect Jews from being unknowingly subjected to a broad influx of these altered foods.

From the perspective of Jewish law, there are two basic questions regarding genetically reconfigured foods, the second more general than the first.

Question #1: Do foods that are ordinarily kosher become unkosher when implanted with genes from unkosher animals?

Question #2: In the context of food production, does the artificial transfer of genetic material between species that are naturally prevented from crossbreeding constitute a violation of Halakha (even if both species are kosher)?


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