Friday, December 29, 2006

Is Cloned Meat Kosher?

Being Jewishly-observant often gives me a rather odd view of the news. For example, when I first heard about Fry-O-Diesel, a Philadelphia-based company that is trying to perfect the process of converting waste grease to clean-burning fuel, my first thought was, "is this 'kosher'?" After all, this Philly-based company would surely be making their fuel from the greasy Philly favorite, the cheesesteak, and Jewish law forbids us from deriving any benefit from a milk-meat combination!

The same sort of odd thoughts went through my mind when I heard about the FDA's recent conclusion about cloned meat: It may be safe, but is it kosher?

I haven't been able to find any answers to that question yet. In the Orthodox community, most of the discussion about cloning to date has dealt with cloning humans: cloning for reproductive purposes, and cloning for medical purposes (e.g., for stem cell research and treatment). You may be surprised to hear that the Orthodox rabbinate for the most part supports stem-cell research, within some limitations.

It surprised me a bit that I couldn't find any serious discussion of the kashrut of clones, given that the highly-publicized first mammal cloned from an adult cell was Dolly the sheep, and sheep are kosher. That was followed two years later, by the cloning of cows in 1998. In 2000, pigs were cloned -- definitely not kosher!

I suspect that the kosher status of clones will not be a problem. It appears that Orthodoxy has already generally accepted the kashrut of genetically-modified foods, which is a much more dicey issue of Jewish law: it is essentially hybridization, which is against Jewish law, and it often involves splicing the genes of non-kosher animals into kosher plants, in addition to the unnatural production aspect that it shares in common with cloning. The consensus about GMOs seems to be that, although the process of creating them may be a violation of Jewish law, once they are created the means of their creation does not affect their kosher status, and the genetic material used is broken down to the point that it is too small to count.


FDA decision

Jewish Opinions on Cloning Generally
Please note: even though several of these titles use the word "kosher," they are speaking of meeting the requirements of Jewish law generally, not about Jewish dietary laws specifically; they mostly talk about cloning for reproductive or medical purposes

Jewish Opinions on Stem Cell Research

Jewish Opinions on Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs)


Angie D said...

I am not jewish (I do have a jewish paternal grandmother and a jewish fiance though). I prefer kosher meat because of the humane treatment of animals and also because I want to hedge my bets.(wink) (I was raised Catholic, I gave it up in favor of being a Noahide) Will there be some announcement on cloned animals being non-kosher? I do not want to go to my local store and have to wonder about the meat. Should I ask my orthodox friends?

JewFAQ said...

I expect that the OU or other kosher certification organizations will say something official sooner or later. In the meantime, Rabbi Mordechai Becher has a podcast that discusses the subject on OU's website here:
Short version: He says that if it's cloned from a kosher animal and has the kosher signs (cloven hooves, chews its cud), then he doesn't see any kosher problem (though he doesn't know whether it's healthy).

Edo said...

How does Kashrut review the following, or has this even been considered?

Recycled sewage water is used on some crops such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and other vegetables, especially coming out of the Salinas Valley of California. The sewer process is unable to remove the pharmaceuticals and that same process has been shown, in addition to the pharmaceuticals, to enhance the levels of antibiotic resistant pathogens, again something with which sewer plants deal very poorly (see for example: Pruden-- Environ. Sci. Technol., 40 (23); 7445 -7450, 2006, or Firl--; or Kinney --Environ. Sci. Technol., 40 (23), 7207 -7215, 2006).

These studies show that the genetic information from fractured pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics slip right through sewer plants and are found now in drinking water. Some of these crops receiving recycled sewage water are also considered Certified Organic. Additionally, sewage sludge is used to “top-dress” some irrigated pastures where cattle are fed. Further, there is a movement to use paper mill sewage sludge as an ingredient to feed cattle. Other food crops are allowed to use sewage sludge in the growing process.

Thus, considering the above, what might be the position on the impacts on Kashrut . I note from the web-site the following-----------“Food can be kosher without a rabbi or priest ever becoming involved with it: the vegetables from your garden are undoubtedly kosher (as long as they don't have any bugs, which are not kosher!------------“.

Thus the underlying issue with bugs one of cleanliness, and would this logic extend to the pathogens and use of sewage? I see in other areas that just the hint of contamination is sufficient to render something unclean.

JewFAQ said...

Actually, the "bugs" issue has nothing to do with cleanliness. Bugs aren't kosher, so if your vegetables have bugs on them, the vegetables aren't kosher. However, if you can remove the bugs (and usually you can), the vegetables are kosher.

I'm not aware of anyone raising any kosher issues related to the use of recycled sewer water.