Genetic Engineering, Veal, and Rennin

Today I thought I’d go just a little off topic. Lots of people out there are really upset about the idea of putting genes into plants, like putting genes for Round-Up resistance into soybeans, or genes for caterpillar resistance into corn. And, I do agree, this is a pretty powerful technology that needs to be used carefully – probably more carefully than it’s being used right now with plants.

But the funny thing is, one of the places where transgenic creatures really dominate the market is in a place that is almost never considered. Today 80-90% of cheese made in the United States is produced using bacteria genetically engineered to produce rennin. What is rennin you ask? Renin is the stuff normally found in a cow’s stomach which causes milk to curdle – and cheese to be created. For those of you interested in looking into this further look up rennet which is the substance in a cow’s stomach which naturally contains rennin.

After looking around a bit I really can’t find that many people upset about the use of genetically engineered microbes to produce rennin.  Actually, some people who are quite sensitive to environmental concerns may prefer it.  Historically rennin comes from dead young cows – it’s a byproduct of veal production (kind of a nasty industry if you ask me).  Rennin that comes from genetically altered bacteria has nothing to do with dead cows and so vegetarians often find cheese produced with genetically engineered rennin to be more appropriate.

8 thoughts on “Genetic Engineering, Veal, and Rennin”

  1. I’m noticing that there is no name attached to this blog entry – contrary to the other ones. Is that because the writer is afraid to be filed in the “pro GMO drawer”? I like to read opinions from both ends of the spectrum and anywhere in between. Life is not black and white: vegetarians aren’t necessarily less violent (Hitler was a vegetarian)and rennin producing GMO bacteria are more environmentally friendly than veal production byproduct rennin. Thank you for your post: it’s food for thought and that is always a good thing!

  2. Gabriele, it’s because we forget. Thursday is Jeff’s day. He and Bert seem to have this problem. I think it’s a Y chromosome issue. (I’m sure Jeff will add his name once he realizes he left it off.)

  3. A naturally occuring vegetable rennet can be obtained from fig leaf stems. It’s the white milky substance that you get from a broken stem.

  4. I’m thinking that it is much easier to control a population of bacteria and other microbes than plants, and that many anti-GMO-plant people are concerned mostly about unwanted incursions of those modified plants and their genes into non-GMO plantings.

  5. I never understand how people who drink milk and eat cheese get preachy about veal. If there was no market for dairy there would be no veal. Veal comes from all the excess cows created on dairy farms tha
    t are of no use to the farmer because they would over (or in boy calfs cases can not) produce the milk for the cheese. So to make a point the perfectly natural cycle of using dead calfs to make cheese which was not really a problem has been fixed by the completely useless GMO bacteria. Dear geneticists stop solving problems that do not really exist. Oh well someday the GMO rennet bacteria will invade the human population and women will begin to lactate cheese whiz.

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