7/20/2005

The OU and Stem-Cell Research

No this has nothing to do with Eric Cohen's in First Things that Hirhurim and Kaspit have already critiqued.

This has to do with the incredible impact that stem-cell cultures can have on the kosher meat industry. If a way can be found to culture muscle tissue massively and cheaply, then the kosher meat industry will be forever changed, as will, more importantly, the crisis of world hunger. It won't be long: theck this out!

I'm wondering alou about the kashrus issues that will be involved - they didn't have it in their FAQ's, for some reason.


1) What will be the relationship between the original cells and the cultured proliferations?
This has MASSIVE kashrus implications; if the original cells, once proliferated, are 'bateil be-rov', then any cultured meat can become kosher. If the cells have the status of 'davar ha-ma'amid', then if they are taken from a treifah, neveila, or tmei'ah, then they won't be kosher. Of course, how difficult will it be to get cells from a kosher fetus? Is it possible that they will be considered carbon copies of the original cells - beyond ma'amid - so that they will be considered exactly as the original cells are? That's the only way I can see this meat being 'fleishig'. As we all (should) know, davar ha-ma'amid is batel when it comes to basar b'chalav.
Also, once the cells begin to proliferate, the original cells will be the minority of cells. Once that happens, it's no longer necessary or even sufficient as a 'ma'amid' for massive proliferation, so eventually it may all be kosher.

2) Though the cells will be 'living' when harvested, as long as they're harvested from a non-living organism (a non-living or dead animal can still have living tissue), there shouldn't be an 'ever min ha-chai' issue.

3) will the nutrients in which the cells are 'bathed' need to be kosher? Will their synthesis into the cell structure eradicate their original identities, like when food is digested? Will it depend on the 3-way dispute amongst the rishonim regarding milk found in a calf's stomach (the positions breifly: a. kosher. b. treif. c. depends if the milk is curdled)?

Can you imagine the effect that this can have in Israel? It'll cost the shochtim and meat-certifying kashrus organizations a pretty penny, but it will make nutritious foods much more affordable! Perhaps more importantly, it can completely annihilate the religious one-upmanship that revolves around everybody's suspicions about everyone else's kosher meat.

Looking forward to that first cheeseburger.
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