Brandon Hernández 5 p.m., March 31
In Wake of Twin Bans on Pink Slime and Abortion-Cell Flavor Enhancers, Local Biotech Shifts Gears
"When life gives you lemons, make a new and terrifying food product."
MIRAMAR - "We get it," said Senomyx Chief Engineering Officer Hans Von Hanselhans. "Nobody wants to see how their sausage gets made. They just want the delicious and inexpensive results of what can be a gruesome - if completely legal and totally sanitary - process. Fair enough."
Von Hanselhans was referring to two recent food-related controversies wherein scientific breakthroughs have been reversed by popular outcry. In the first, many national grocery chains promised to stop using finely-textured beef - so-called "pink slime" - to bulk up their traditional ground beef. "Pink slime is just super-ground beef," he argued. "If anything, it's less fatty and more sanitary than regular ground beef. But people see the texture and hear the word 'ammonia,' and suddenly, they think Big Food is trying to kill them. When really, Big Food is trying to get the most out of every cow it slaughters, so that you can make your delicious burgers for less."
In the second, pro-life activists agitated for a boycott of PepsiCo products when it was revealed that the company had contracted with Senomyx, a local biotech that producers organic flavor enhancers. The activists objected because Senomyx used Human Embryo Kindney cells obtained from an electively aborted fetus in its development process. PepsiCo eventually disavowed the use of fetal cells in connection with its products.
"On the one hand, you had an industry that had just lost a huge source of supply," explained Von Hanselhans. "On the other, you had a company that just lost a major client. So we evolved on the fly, and shifted from an emphasis on improved food quality to an emphasis on quantity. It turns out that fetal cells can be made to grow at astonishing rates in the right conditions. Processed correctly, the resultant material looks and tastes an awful lot like pink slime. But it's not pink slime. We're calling it Human Beef Supplement, or HBS. The beef people get their cheap supply line back, and as long as no one goes hollering to the press, everybody's happy."
"Wait," added Von Hanselhans. "You're not recording this, are you?"
More like this:
- Boycott Ends Over Pepsi's Controversial Contract With Local Biotech — May 1, 2012
- Bilbray Hears Complaints from Local Biotechs — Oct. 6, 2011
- Sequenom Stock Soars on Fetal Sex Test — Feb. 16, 2010
- Mystery meat — Dec. 4, 2003
- Never Die — March 23, 2000