Richard G. Epstein

 

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12 DIE IN "PIG-MAN" RIOT

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Genetically Altered Pig Contains

Human Characteristics

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Rioters Burn Down

North Carolina Facility

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Special to the Sentinel-Observer

by

Sandy Thurston

Twelve people were killed Saturday afternoon in the worst outbreak of civil unrest in the United States in recent memory. Over one hundred people were injured.

Most of the victims were rioters who stormed the headquarters and laboratories of the Garnish Pork Products Company (GPP) just outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. GPP has generated a tremendous amount of public resentment because of its new breed of pig, the Genetically Altered Porcine Entity, or GAPE. To the man on the street, GAPE is better known as "Pig-Man".

Over three thousand demonstrators showed up at GPP's headquarters at about 1:00 PM EDT on Saturday. Chanting "Close it Down!" they were met by a phalanx of armed GPP security guards. There were repeated acts of civil disobedience as protesters tried to block access to the corporation's employee parking lot.

At around 1:45 PM the crowd became agitated after a GPP security guard struck a protester with a rifle butt. At this point, a Molotov cocktail was tossed over the security fence surrounding the facility and the crowd started to chant "Burn it down! Burn it down!" The crowd rushed forward, toppling the security fence at several points. That is when the GPP security guards opened fire.

The twelve fatalities all resulted from gunshot wounds. The wounded were hospitalized for a variety of injuries, including burns and gunshot wounds.

The damage to the GPP facilities, including the genetic research laboratories, was extensive. Police report that members of the Genetic Purity Underground were seen in the crowd. The Genetic Purity Underground is known to advocate violence in opposition to all genetic research that blurs the distinction between the human being and other animal species.

State police were called in and they cleared the GPP campus of demonstrators by 3:30 PM. Over three dozen protesters were arrested.

GAPE, the Genetically Altered Porcine Entity, is a new breed of pig that was created by incorporating human genetic information into the DNA of GPP's prize breed of pig. GAPE is the culmination of several decades of intensive research into the use of human genetic information for the creation of new breeds of livestock.

We have much more information on the human genome than we do about any other species. The human genome has been studied in great detail and there are intricate mappings from specific genes to specific physiological, behavioral and psychological characteristics. Thus, when genetic engineers think about improving a breed of pig or cattle, the human genome is the richest source of possibilities because of the extensive research that has already been performed.

GPP CEO Francis Bacon (that is his actual name) was not at the GPP facility when the riot occurred. He issued a statement from his palatial Greensboro home shortly after the riot was quelled. This is an excerpt from his statement:

"Once again the fanatics and kooks have had their say in opposing genuine scientific progress. GAPE is the pride and joy of our research staff. It is my own personal pride and joy. GAPE yields more grams of protein per ton of feed than any other breed of hog. GAPE and other efforts of this kind mean more food for a hungry planet at lower prices. I think it is time for the government to crack down on GPU [Genetic Purity Underground] and other fanatical groups of that kind.

"I am asking our attorneys to sue any news organization that continues to refer to our product as Pig-Man. The use of that term is misleading, libelous and inflammatory. It amounts to a slander against the good name of this company and against our scientists, who are among the best in the world."

GPP has spent at least three decades trying to develop a breed of pig that would be more efficient in turning feed into protein. They accomplished this and more. Using the gigantic database of available human genome information, they were able to develop a breed of pig that produces larger litters (at least twelve piglets per litter), that fattens up more quickly (up to 98% more quickly than a typical pig) and has a succulent taste that appeals to the public.

GPP chose to use human genes because of the vast amount of knowledge that is available on human genetics. For example, biologists have discovered a gene that controls the production of an enzyme that regulates a fat-burning switch in humans. GPP scientists exploited knowledge of that gene, yielding GAPE, a pig whose ability to metabolize stored fat has been turned off almost completely.

Similarly, GPP researchers were able to use a significant human fertility gene, discovered in 2012, to great advantage, increasing the average litter size from seven to twelve with just one masterful gene-splicing. Indeed, GAPE II is expected to produce litters of fifteen or even twenty piglets.

The "Pig-Man" nomenclature derives from the human visual characteristics that the GAPE possesses. The public disclosure of this fact in the form of graphic and provocative photographs created a tremendous uproar earlier this year. Yesterday's riot was just the latest example of that growing public outrage.

In incorporating human genetic information into GAPE, GPP scientists created a pig that has almost human-like skin and human-like ears and facial characteristics. In addition, the forelegs of GAPE end in unusual appendages that resemble tiny human fingers. Perhaps the most unsettling thing about GAPE is that the male of the breed develops a black goatee when it reaches maturity.

The uproar over GAPE is unprecedented in the history of genetic engineering. Silicon Valley University bioethicist Jane Crosley is one of those who opposes the incorporation of human genetic information into livestock. "What we have is a continuum. At one end is the pure pig that nature and natural breeding techniques produced and at the other end is the human. Now, when we incorporate human genetic information into the pig, it becomes more man-like. The human facial features of the GAPE are truly unsettling. In terms of the human diet, this raises the issue as to whether eating pork from a GAPE pig makes one more akin to a cannibal as opposed to an ordinary carnivore. At what point does the pig cross over and become a man?"

GPP scientist Tom Burpee dismissed Jane Crosley's notion of a continuum. "To equate eating a delicious GAPE pork chop with cannibalism is totally irresponsible. Genetic information does not belong to any particular species. The genetic information just controls the behavior and characteristics of the organism. The superficial similarity between GAPE and human beings in terms of facial features is irrelevant because the GAPE is not human. GAPE is a pig."

Bioethicists have not reached a consensus on whether there is some point where a genetically altered pig is enough like a human being to be considered human or at least to be considered as something other than a pig.

In a related development, a researcher at Duke University, Dr. Tim Promanti, told reporters that his research with a GAPE indicates that it is far more intelligent than an ordinary pig and, in his words, "The GAPE is clearly the second most intelligent mammal on this planet at this time." Dr. Promanti, a zoologist whose parents made headlines during the 1970s when they taught chimps how to communicate using sign language, has succeeded in teaching two GAPES a sophisticated symbolic language, using plastic icons.

Dr. Promanti told reporters that GPP gave his laboratory two GAPES to experiment with last November. "GPP knew that the GAPE was unusually intelligent, and they were hoping to exploit that intelligence in order to control the GAPE's feeding and breeding behaviors. One of the GPP executives told me that GPP hoped to integrate the GAPE into the corporate culture, producing a pig that would be a 'team player', so to speak."

Genetic engineering technology, in blurring the boundaries between the various species, is raising ethical dilemmas for vegetarians as well. New plant products that incorporate animal genetic information are being developed on a nearly daily basis. Both human and other animal genetic information has been used to produce sturdier, more nutritious, more tasteful and more efficient varieties of nearly every kind of agricultural product, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts.

When Labardi Agricultural incorporated pig genes into its line of tomato, this raised a quandary for vegetarians and other groups, such as Jews, Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists, who do not eat pork. Is that tomato in the supermarket truly vegetarian now that porcine genetic information had been incorporated into it?

In 2021 Jewish and Moslem religious authorities issued an unprecedented joint declaration that no agricultural product that contained porcine genetic information would be considered kosher (the Jewish term) or halal (the Islamic term). They reasoned that the Torah and the Koran had objected to the "pigginess" of pork and not just to pork itself. It is the "pigginess" of the pig that is objectionable. The religious scholars of both faiths asserted that "pigginess" is encoded in the pig's genetic information. Thus, they ruled that agricultural products that contain pig genes have crossed over a boundary line and had become "piggy", to use their terminology.

Some experts believe it will become increasingly difficult for such religious groups to decide what is permissible and what is not since the genetic boundaries between species are being blurred more and more.

Francis Bacon vowed to continue to develop GAPE and other "revolutionary products that are required to feed a planet whose population is still growing."

Nearly forty GAPE pigs escaped into the countryside because of the riot and breech of security at GPP. Authorities launched an intensive search for the pigs.

"There is absolutely no danger to humans from the release of these pigs into the environment," Francis Bacon said. "We do not expect much difficulty in rounding up the pigs over the next day or two."

 

 

1997, 1999 Richard Gary Epstein

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