Mammoth Ribs, Fries, and a Diet Coke To Go, Please . . .

Posted by Osagie K. Obasogie October 26, 2006
Biopolitical Times
South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk’s fraudulent research on human cloning is world famous, but his work in animal biotechnology—such as cloning the first dog—has remained largely untarnished. This makes ABC News’ report on Tuesday all the more remarkable: Hwang spent part of his research money to pay the Russian mafia (!!) to obtain mammoth tissue samples in order to clone and recreate the species.

Whether it’s advisable to pay Russia’s Tony Soprano to deliver delicate biomedical materials is a question I’ll leave for another blogger. (Agent Harris, any thoughts?) Fortunately, there was little need for a whacking; mammoths have been extinct for over 3500 years. What’s interesting, however, is how Hwang’s attempt to become biotech’s Marty McFly and go Back to the Future intersects with recent reports that the FDA is likely to allow meat from cloned animals into the nation’s food supply. I can see it now —McDonald’s offering a new McRib sandwich featuring 100% boneless mammoth meat with pickles and onions on a Kaiser roll, all with the FDA’s seal of approval. It’s “Yabba Dabba Delicious!!!” Sounds crazy, I know. But so too does cloning your cat for $35,000.

As a child of the 80s, I always wondered what a Bronto burger or a slab of mammoth ribs might taste like. I also wanted a pet unicorn and to dance with a leprechaun around a pot ‘o gold. But, at some point I grew up. We can only hope the same for the biotech industry; Hwang Woo Suk is not the only person more interested in science-for-celebrity than science for the public good.