Food Safety

Published on July 19th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

22

Gelatin Made from Humans — Vegan?

orange gelatin

Gelatin Square

Wow, this is an interesting one. Some scientists are working on creating gelatin derived from human flesh and bones. Seriously — an article has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. My mind is a little blank trying to think of what to say about this. On the one hand, I have plenty of thoughts, but on the other hand, I’m in a little bit of shock.

I’ll start with some info from the press release regarding this study (published on Science Daily): “300,000 tons of animal-based gelatin [are] produced annually for gelatin-type desserts, marshmallows, candy and innumerable other products.”

Of course, this is a concern for vegans, strict vegetarians, and animal lovers around the world. Often, when I mention to someone what gelatin is (and why I don’t eat it), I get that “hmm, I don’t want to think about that” look. Seriously, who does?

Human Gelatin Alternative?

To cut down on diseases spread via animal-based gelatin (including “Mad Cow” disease); gelatin variability and resulting manufacturing difficulties; and perhaps this concern for animal welfare, scientists have been looking into the possibility of “human-recombinant gelatin” (gelatin produced from human genes). The scientists in this study “developed and demonstrated a method where human gelatin genes are inserted into a strain of yeast, which can produce gelatin with controllable features,” Science Daily reports. “The researchers are still testing the human-yeast gelatin to see how well it compares to other gelatins in terms of its viscosity and other attributes.”

Can Human Gelatin be Vegan?

While, technically, human gelatin can’t be vegan in my eyes (humans are animals, too), human gelatin does seem like it would eliminate the main concern of vegans — animal cruelty and murder. Thus, it has gotten a number of greenies and foodies to bring up the question.

Where the scientists get the human genes, I’m not sure… but you must imagine they don’t come from abused or murdered humans.

Still, gelatin from humans? Could it pass with people? Lead author Jinchun Chen and his fellow researchers think that this option could be scaled to produce large amounts of gelatin for commercial use. But would people really be cool with this option?

Aside from the natural repulsiveness of the idea, this also makes me wonder (yet again) if we are going too far with our scientific manipulation, and what sort of unexpected consequences could result.

Want to read about another similarly shocking idea that involves food and scientific “innovation”? Check out Jeannie’s piece on the “Turd Burger” (video included) if you haven’t already.

Want to read more about gelatin (“normal” gelatin, that is)? Check out these two Eat Drink Better posts:

  1. Eating Vegan: The Gelatin Problem
  2. How Pig Parts Make the World Turn

Image via nezume_me

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



22 Responses to Gelatin Made from Humans — Vegan?

  1. Becky says:

    Bizarre. Clearly we don’t have enough to think about in our society. There are plenty of things to eat, even for vegans (I’d say especially for vegans). Why do we feel the need to generate an optional food additive in this way? Just plain crazy.

  2. Gross!

    Though this does remind me of a running joke I have with a friend about whether eating a vegan is in fact vegan.

  3. VEGANS eat only the produce of mother earth (plants which have roots)
    …everything else is NOT VEGAN.

  4. Anita says:

    I find this totally revolting! The whole idea has made me feel sick
    The meat eaters I’ve asked say the same…
    What’s the point?

    Happy (plenty of it around) vegan eating!
    Anitax

    • Zach says:

      every time i think about it, feel sick. hard to imagine what made someone come up with the idea.. & move forward on it

  5. Kevin says:

    Isn’t this Cannibalism?

  6. Pass me the rice pudding, please!!

  7. raep says:

    Why can’t people just stop eating gelatin products? I don’t eat anything from gelatin simply because it’s nasty.

  8. Evz says:

    Holycrap, humans are freakin’ weird… I mean, what other species would ever come up with this s**t??!! How hungry would I have to BE to eat that?! (hint: hungrier than I have ever yet been!) I don’t miss gelatin; happy roasting pineapple & mango chunks, thanks; SURELY will not trade that goodness for this weirdness… ew ew ew ew ew.

  9. Patrik says:

    I must say I think it’s an interesting idea. If I understand right, the human-genes are used to create a sort of yeast. So the gelatin made can’t be said to be human really. It should be called yeast-gelatin. And yeast is considered vegan, right? The fact that they’ve taken human-genes instead of some poor animals is only positive because no innocents had to suffer in the creation of it.

    Or have I understood the process wrong? Btw I’m vegan.

  10. Katie says:

    In the article, it says that the companies want to decrease the risk of animal based diseases, and they mention manufacturing difficulties…. Um, a) there are already some wonderful, creutly-free substitutes out there for all kinds of goodies like jell-o and marshmallows, etc (Sweet and Sara brand marshmallows, for example) that are made completely without the use of gelatin. If they can do it, so can all the companies that currently use gelatin. Why does there HAVE to be gelatin in their products, especially to the extent that they’d go to such disgusting and unthinkable lengths to have it?! I swear, most people would die if they were told they could no longer use animal products in their food. and b) You think there are a lot of diseases that stem from animals NOW? What kind of diseases do you think would come about if we started eating human parts? Just when I think I’ve heard it all (like scientists creating milk similar to human breast milk), someone goes and tops the crazy chart! Seriously, not long from now, anything will go. I do NOT think it would be vegan to eat human-based gelatin, even if no one was murdered to get it. One of the (many) reasons I am a vegan is because I think it is disgusting to eat something that has the same basic anatomy and physiology as my own body. I know what’s inside of me, and I’ve never once said, “Hmm, my liver sounds tasty! I think I might just cut it out and grill it!” And I see no difference between eating another human being and eating an animal. But that’s my own opinion.

    • zach says:

      Katie,

      I fully agree, on all points! :D

      -no need for gelatin at all
      -not vegan
      -disgusting to think of eating anything from a human or an animal (no matter how it was obtained)
      -we are getting crazier & crazier (maybe bcs of what we are eating?) :D

      thanks for chiming in :D

  11. erika says:

    most likely aborted fetus. Google Senomyx, a biotech company that uses aborted fetal cells in the research and development of artificial flavor enhancers. PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, and Nestlé are already partnered with Senomyx. Seriously.

  12. Damon says:

    I’d like to pint out, the gelatin is NOT made from humans. If you read the paper (http://is.gd/MiYqBA) it is made from yeast, which use a human gene (as you point out). The gelatin is no more human than the insulin used by millions of diabetics around the world (read http://is.gd/odAttg )

    Cloning a human gene doesn’t require a life to be sacrificed; human cells grown in petri dishes are routine work in biology (thats how most medical research is done). Libraries of human genomes are kept from the human genome project, that contains all of the hundreds of genes humans have. And these can be synthesized, they do not require harvesting from live people.

    All that is required to initially obtain a human gene, is a sample of tissue. Anything. A mouth swab of cheek cells, a blood sample is the usual way. (Your ‘aborted fetus’ suggestion is outright crap). Once it is identified, everything else is synthesized.

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