Harmful Until Proven Otherwise
Raw Egg Nationalist
How different would things be – how much healthier and happier would we be, as individuals and as a society – if we took the approach that innovations to our way of life were likely to be harmful until proven otherwise?
I really mean this. What past harms might we have prevented by waiting for tests or studies, by having been less eager to take things at face value, and by thoroughly having assessed new and needed innovations for unforeseen consequences?
My question is prompted by the news that GOOD Meat, the lab-grown or “cultured” meat division of Eat Just Inc., has now received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start selling its first product – cultured chicken – to the American public.
Very soon, for the first time in history, Americans will be able to eat chicken meat that has not required the slaughter of a chicken to produce. All the nutrition, all the taste, without the cruelty of factory farming or the resulting dreaded carbon emissions. If you think this sounds too good to be true – you’d be right.
Although producers of lab-grown meat such as GOOD Meat claim that their product is indistinguishable from meat as we know it – cultured meat isn’t a copy or approximation of meat: it is meat – the truth is that this new product differs in one fundamental respect from the meat you or I are accustomed to eating.
The animal cells of which lab-grown meat is made will replicate endlessly under the right conditions – just like cancer cells. It functions in exactly the same manner. As well as being unappetizing for most consumers – “Cancer steaks, anyone?” “No, I think I’ll pass …” The method of lab-growing meat presents genuine safety concerns. Manufacturers like GOOD Meat know this, which is why they don’t want to talk about it, as revealed in a recent Bloomberg story.
Most forms of lab-grown meat are made with, what are known to scientists, as “immortalized cell lines,” cells that, whether naturally or through intervention (such as exposure to radiation, genetic modification, or the use of an enzyme), replicate without end.
The first use of immortalized cell lines in medicine is mired in controversy to this day. The HeLa cell line has been replicating in culture since 1951, when it was removed from the tumor of an African-American woman – without her consent – at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital. The case of Henrietta Lacks is often compared with the infamous Syphilis Study at Tuskegee as an example of medical ethics gone seriously wrong – although even critics are likely to point out that the cell line has been used in a number of important medical breakthroughs.
Scientists like immortalized cell lines because they don’t need to harvest new samples—just feed them right and they keep on living. Recently, immortalized cell lines, harvested from aborted fetal tissue, were used in the creation of some of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Makers of lab-grown meat like immortalized cell lines for much the same reasons scientists do. Once you’ve got the cell lines, you need never take another sample from an animal again. This means, among other things, that you can market the product as “cruelty-free” and suitable even for vegetarians and vegans.
The problem, for us, is that humans have no history of consuming cells that behave like cancers, as part of their diet. In the last 200,000 years of our history as modern homo sapiens, we are likely to have consumed cancerous tissue only by accident, never intentionally. Occasional scare stories about factory meat “riddled with tumors” being sold to the public are just that: scare stories.
This isn’t just an image problem for lab-grown meat, which, as part of the “alternative foods segment” already has to deal with deeply unfavorable attitudes among the general public. Numerous studies and opinion polls have already revealed that, given a free choice, the majority of consumers do not want to eat products like “plant-based meat” or “plant-based milk.” Rightly, they don’t believe the health or taste claims made in favor of such products.
In a recent survey, 73 percent of Australian men stated that they’d rather lose ten years of their lives than give up meat. This is why companies like Oatly, in line with recommendations from researchers, are falling back on social pressure – including shame – to sway people to buy their products, and advocates of a global transition to plant-based diets are all for weaponized inflation and government intervention.
Some smaller producers of lab-grown meat are now trying to use technologies other than immortalized cell lines because they know “cancer” can only be a disastrous association for a food product to have. It’s unclear whether they’ll be successful. Nevertheless, the so-called Big Three – GOOD Meat, Upside, and Believer – continue to plow on with their use of this technology.
Both GOOD Meat and Upside have managed to convince the FDA that their products are safe to eat. GOOD Meat has also managed to convince the government of Singapore that its product is safe, and it’s already been served to paying customers there, in a number of different venues, from upmarket restaurants to street sellers.
But while the scientists Bloomberg interviewed for their piece on lab-grown meat said they don’t believe eating immortalized animal cell lines could actually give you cancer, the truth is we can’t be so sure. As I say, there is no history of consumption of such products in our dietary history stretching back hundreds of thousands of years. There are no long-term safety data for anybody – be they the CEO of Eat Just, a representative of the FDA, or a Twitter commentator – to point to.
The cancer threat cannot be dismissed. The Italian government is taking the threat seriously enough that it’s in the process of banning lab-grown meat, as part of wider moves to prevent the adulteration of the Italian food supply with new alternative products including insect flour. Consider the following.
First, we know that the human genome contains hundreds of genes that it has acquired “horizontally” (i.e., from sources other than our parents and ancestors, such as bacteria). We don’t know exactly how or when this has happened, but we do know that it has – and that means it could again. Second, complete genes have been shown to pass from the food we eat into our blood. Third, and finally, research has shown that horizontal gene transfer is a central part of the progression of cancers.
Cancers create bubbles, otherwise known as exosomes, by means of which they can transfer genetic material into healthy cells and turn them cancerous. There’s absolutely no reason to doubt, then, that cancer-causing genes in lab-grown meat (otherwise known as “oncogenes”) could be taken up into the genome of an eater, potentially anywhere in the body, with disastrous effects.
So why are we speeding towards a situation where people could be eating lab-grown meat as regularly as they eat real meat now?
We know why corporations like GOOD Meat, and the regulatory bodies they are in collusion with, don’t want us to proceed with caution – they have stacks of money to make. (If you still think there’s some kind of “separation” between corporate and governmental power in such matters, just look into how aspartame, the ubiquitous sweetener, ended up getting licensed as “safe for consumption,” despite early evidence that it was implicated in brain cancer. For his part in the process, Donald Rumsfeld, better known as one of the architects and profiteers of the Iraq war, ended up being paid $12 million).
Whether we’re talking about aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup, or genetically modified crops, the decision to proceed at pace with their massive incorporation into our diets has been the corporations’ gain and our loss.
We now know, for instance, that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have serious and wide-ranging negative consequences, from the potential to cause cancer and sterility to massive disruption of gut function; that high-fructose corn syrup is not consumed as an alternative to “traditional” sugars, but in addition to them – meaning more useless calories; and that the consumption of GMO corn by Americans tracks almost 1:1 with the explosion in obesity in recent decades.
Doin’ dat Funky Chickin’
The transition to a global plant-based diet, ostensibly in the name of saving the planet from climate change and feeding a world population that will reach 10 billion by mid-century, will allow corporations near-total control over the food supply. This is the foundation of the Great Reset.
It’s not just our food that is subject to the cavalier attitude of “safe until proven otherwise.” This isn’t a glitch in the system. Our environment is now bathed in harmful chemicals, especially, but not exclusively, chemicals related to plastics because we allowed ourselves to become totally addicted to them, long before we knew the mistake we’d made.
More than 2,400 chemicals of potential concern have been identified in plastics or their production, and certain chemicals such as Bisphenol A and phthalates are implicated in a worldwide fertility crisis that could see humans unable to reproduce naturally by 2045.
One unfortunate side effect of the current licensing rules for chemicals is that, even when a chemical is identified as dangerous, the replacement often turns out to be as bad as, if not worse than, the chemical it replaced.
Acetyl Tributyl Citrate (ATBC), a “safe” alternative to phthalates, has recently been shown to impair neural development, and maternal exposure may lead to brain damage for the baby. In 15 years’ time, perhaps we’ll find out the new alternative to ATBC is no safer either. I, at least, won’t be surprised.
I’m not making an argument that we should resist all innovation. Innovation, when it brings desirable change, is to be welcomed. I’m writing this article on a personal computer, a marvel of technology that has made my life immeasurably better – although it does sometimes provoke frustrations when compared to a simple typewriter or paper and pen.
What I’m saying is that we should make room, as a society, to be able to think a little longer and a little deeper about the potential consequences of new products and technologies – especially when their aim – like lab-grown meat and other alternative proteins – is to disrupt habits that have served humans perfectly well from the dawn of time.
Making such room would not be easy, though, as it would mean challenging some of the most powerful vested interests in the world today. For them, time is money. For the rest of us – it’s the difference between sickness and health.
Raw Egg Nationalist is is the author of “The Eggs Benedict Option,” which is available from Amazon and other third-party retailers.