Oklahoma Bill Prohibits Use of Fetuses in Food
Recently submitted Senate Bill 1418 specifically states in its introduction that the bill is, “An Act relating to food; prohibiting the manufacture or sale of food or products which use aborted human fetuses; providing for codification; and providing an effective date.” Read on to learn what some believe this Bill is really all about.
Last Thursday, Senator Ralph Shortey, a Republican from Oklahoma City introduced a bill that prohibits the manufacture or sale of food products that use aborted human fetuses. News of the Bill first hit the Associated Press and The Daily O’Collegian—Oklahoma State University’s student newspaper, and has since became an overnight news sensation on Twitter and Facebook.
Recent reports state that the Oklahoma City Republican based his Bill on some online research he did that consists of a 2010 boycott of Pepsi Co. by an anti-abortion group in Florida called “Children of God for Life,” who say that that Pepsi Co. had contracted with Senomyx, a biotech company that the anti-abortion group charges were using human embryonic stem cells in artificial flavoring testing. Senomyx is a San Diego-based biotech company that produces artificial flavor enhancers for food makers such as Nestle, Campbell's Soup and Kraft Foods.
The Children of God for Life have a record of inflammatory news-making claims that includes releasing warnings to parents that current vaccines used on children are made from aborted fetus cells.
In spite of denials of the allegations by Pepsi Co. and Senomyx, Senator Shortey was undeterred and states that he believes embryonic stem cells are being used in research by private companies in the food industry.
“I want a serious conversation about this,” Shortey told the Los Angeles Times. “This wasn’t an open invitation for the country to chime in. This was an invitation to my colleagues to have this discussion.”
The wording of the Bill states explicitly that:
“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.”
While the direct use of aborted human fetuses in food thus far appears to be without merit as officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration state that they have never heard of any such use, a recent report in the NPR News Blog “The Two-Way” attributes a more indirect connection between aborted fetuses and the food industry.
Last year journalists from the Miami New Times published a story that claimed that Senomyx used a cell line of human embryonic kidney cells called “HEK-293” in their food enhancement research. HEK-293 is an easily available cell line that was originally cultured in the early 70’s from a human embryo in the Netherlands.
Senomyx denied that it had used the cell line, but when reporters from Miami Googled a search of HEK-293, they found a patent by Senomyx in 2008 titled "Recombinant Methods for Expressing a Functional Sweet Taste Receptor," in which HEK-293 is mentioned.
Therefore, the real issue behind Senate Bill 1418 appears to be a new twist on the stem cell debate. While the therapeutic use of stem cells in organ replacement such as with creating new retinas for treating blindness no longer is as controversial as it used be, the question to ask is this: Can we stomach the use of stem cells when it comes to food?
Passage for the Oklahoma Bill that prohibits the use of fetuses in food is scheduled for November of 2012. While it is likely that a new re-wording of the Bill will take place before then, it does at least raise an interesting question of whether supporters of medical stem cell research will also be in favor of the food industries use of stem cells…or will they see it as matter of bad taste.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia