The Gasper du Jour

     Today’s gasper centers around the question of the consequences of meddling with animal genetics. The Enviropig has its genes manipulated, we are told, by the addition of a mouse gene and a piece of E.coli bacteria. The amended pig is able to convert more of the phosphorus* in its unnatural grain-only feed so that it doesn’t have to be fed extra phosphorus when kept in a confined environment. Thus, we are told, its feces don’t smell bad and don’t put extra phosphorus into the groundwater from the huge containment ponds–the ‘lagoons’–that are an essential part of the environment at pig-factory farms.
    The meat is said to be indistinguishable from real pork. We’ve heard that before:
                 “Genetically modified soy and corn are indistinguishable from the ‘real’ grains.”
    Awkwardly, tests have shown that they are not. In a case in point, GM soy fed to mother rats resulted in a 10 percent reduction in brain size in the babies. Even U.S. chain restaurants such as Taco Bell and McDonald’s refused to use GM corn in their products, so it is either shipped overseas or used as animal fodder. (See rats above.)
     For three years spent on a steep learning curve, we Frosts kept hogs, on open pasture. Their feces don’t smell that bad. Their feces don’t contain high concentrtions of phosphorus. So the only purpose of the Enviropig is to make pig factory farms tolerable to individuals who find themselves downwind from the farms.
                                                  In my head I hear a squealing of brakes.
What if, just for the novelty of it, we started at the right end of things and stopped twisting our hankies about shortages of food and water and habitable land, about conflicts over international and ethnic boundaries?       
    What if we put all that on hold while we thought instead about limiting human reproduction? What if we addressed the real cause of the destruction of the planet: blind, purposeless overpopulation? What if for once we were to emphasize quality–not quantity–in breeding more like ourselves? There’s radical novelty if ever I’ve heard it.
    Stop the mad, insane, self-destructive pace of reproduction. If China can do it by imperial command, decreeing flatly, “this is how it will be”, even a gentler method might work. And in the case of world populations, even something is better than nothing.
I mean it.
    And a further thought: What if government agencies were to say, “If you’re too feeble or too disabled or too indolent to support yourself, okay, we’ll give you welfare–up to two children … though Goddess knows why we should. More than two kids? Tough. Feed ’em yourself. It’s not the taxpayers’ problem.” Might we not then see a change in population curves?

* Phosphorus does several things, we are told: It prompts the growth of algae, encouraging death of fish from anoxic conditions. It degrades the quality of water in the world’s aquifers.

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