In response to the news that scientists are genetically engineering pigs to produce heart-healthy pork, my friend Brett asks if they can create kosher pork?
Though meant as a joke, it's an interesting question. The laws regarding kosher mammals derive from Leviticus 11, which begins, "You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud." Verse 7 specifically forbids eating pig, which "though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud." Chewing the cud is a method of digestion that is exactly as disgusting as it sounds and transforming an animal's entire digestive tract is probably beyond current technology -- but it's a brave new world out there, and if someone put their mind to this, I'm sure it could be done eventually. Presumably some rabbis would say that since Leviticus specifically mentions pig, nothing would change the prohibition. But it seems to me that the pig is being used as an example of an animal with certain traits, and if those traits are different... who knows?
I'm currently seeking answers from rabbis. Will report back with results. Meanwhile, please enjoy the photograph of the hot pig-head lingerie model.
Update 1: It's not looking good: " So, we move into a philosophical notion of Kilayim, that is, impudently trying to 'improve' G-d's creation by creating new species. The rabbis are divided on this. Some would consider many hybrid foods to be a philosophically unpleasant matter; others would say that G-d creates anew and we merely facilitate by performing the hybrid planting." And that's just veggies! Stay tuned.
Update 1a: OK, here's the relevant part of the Torah: "Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." The first decree would seem pretty definitive. Yet, so does the third, and nobody follows that any more. I bet the second is pretty widely dismissed too. I suspect it might be possible to find a rabbi somewhere who would OK kosher bacon. Maybe.
Update 2: A case against. Seems tautological to me, but for what it's worth: "If a carp is genetically engineered so that it has no scales, is it still kosher? After all, fins and scales are what make a fish kosher in the first place.... Abraham Steinberg, a leading Jewish medical ethicist, says the scale-less carp would still be kosher. Steinberg argues that altering a carp's genes so that it does not have scales does not change anything fundamental about the fish. Since we know carp is kosher, he said, it doesn't matter whether it actually has scales."
Update 3: Turns out, bleeding edge Jews have been wrestling with this question for some time.
Here's a life sciences prof at Bar Ilan from way back in 5758:
In the Mishnah, tractate Bekhorot 1.2, we read: "...that which issues from the impure is impure, and that which issues from the pure is pure." In other words, the decisive factor when dealing with animals is not necessarily the indications of purity; rather, the state of the mother that gives birth to the animal is the determining factor. Therefore, everything born of a pig is impure. This is supported by a talmudic ruling based on Lev.11:4: "The following, however, of those that either chew the cud or have true hoofs, you shall not eat..." One might have an animal that chews the cud and has true hoofs, yet is not to be eaten. And what might that be? A pure animal born of an impure one (Bekhorot 6a). Thus, it seems, with the means currently available to us, any genetically engineered pig parented by a fertilized ovum from an impure pig, reimplanted in a host pig, is not kosher and its offspring are not kosher.
However, the rule that "what issues from the impure is impure" is not mentioned in the Mishnah and Gemara with respect to fish. It appears, in my humble opinion, that only indications of cleanness, fins and scales, are operative with respect to fish. Thus a non-kosher fish that has been genetically engineered to have the requisite signs of cleanness would be kosher. Returning to the case of non-kosher animals, if it becomes possible to grow a fertilized egg in vitreo until it reaches maturity, then this will pose a more complicated halakhic question.
Or you could make use the first cud-chewing (pure) pig just for breeding pure piglets. The mother might not be kosh, but the offspring would be pure-from-pure, right? Now all we need is a non-dairy cheese and it's kosher ham and swiss on rye time.
Update 4: Cite your sources, man! "Is a pig that�s been genetically engineered to chew its cud kosher? Some of these questions have been answered�a pig is, for now, still a pig, so kosher bacon isn�t on the horizon�but more fascinating and difficult problems are sure to be raised in the coming years." Answered by whom? When? Why? This isn't my Jewish learning!
Update 5: Good news and bad from Torah.org. The good: "gene transplantation isn't cross-breeding, and isn't forbidden under the laws of kilayim." The bad: "Transplantation of a few genes from a non-kosher creature into a kosher creature doesn't make it unkosher, because its basic identity hasn't changed." Still in the realm of tautology, though.
Update 6: Thinking outside the box: Don't engineer the pig, engineer a cow to give birth to a pig! "As the Mishna says, "If a kosher animal gives birth to a non-kosher animal, the offspring is kosher...because whatever comes from a kosher animal is kosher." Jackpot!
Update 7: And of course there's test-tube pork, but that's disgusting.