x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Swallow your disgust

Chinese scientists have cloned a lamb, combined with roundworm genetic material. Health-conscious consumers can't afford to turn up their noses.

What's for dinner? Roundworm, you say? Sounds delicious.

It's hard to imagine the family delightedly clamouring at the dinner table for their serving of nematode steak. It would certainly help, however, to dress it up as lamb chops.

Scientists at the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen announced last week that they had accomplished just that by cloning a lamb, endearingly named Peng Peng, that has been genetically engineered with roundworm DNA. But why would the scientists bother (aside from grossing out their friends)? It turns out that the transgenic little lamb is loaded with the "good fats" that health nuts are so fond of - the unsaturated fat that is found in fish, in some vegetables and, well, in nuts that is good for the heart.

All this reminds us a little bit too much of the novel Oryx and Crake, by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood, in which scientists engineer "Chicken Nobbies" grown in one big amorphous, headless mass of meat. There are sound reasons why Peng Peng, over its own objections to be sure, would make a good meal. And the roundworm is along for the ride.