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Lyle Zapato

The Cloo Harvest Begins

Lyle Zapato | 2009-03-14.3520 LMT | Food | Technology | Entertainment

Four years ago I predicted that the technology of "cultured meat" -- meat grown in a vat from tissue samples, which is being promoted by the NPO New Harvest -- would inexorably lead to celebrity cannibalism:

C-level celebrities, unable to make any money in the crowded reality TV market, will turn to peddling their own flesh to pop-culture-obsessed gourmands. I think it's safe to augur that Kenny Rogers Roasters will start serving actual roasted Kenny Rogers and that an all-in-one George Foreman Grill/Meat Maker will let you grill up some George Foreman.

This turn of events will darken as unauthorized celebrity tissue samples find their way into the meat market. Big-name celebrities will be targeted, with stalkers and opportunists trying to steal medical biopsies from doctors or even samples directly from the source. In this black market of celebflesh, counterfeiters will flourish, leaving many celebrities torn between feeling violated by meat pirates and offended by being falsely portrayed as too stringy.

In time, these celebrities may find it wise to give into fan demands by offering up their officially licensed flesh as a gourmet alternative -- think "Newman's Own Meat". Increased pressure to perform gastronomically will lead to scandal over the common usage of "meat-synching" by celebrities of subpar flavor. There may even emerge a new kind of celebrity who's known only for how good he or she tastes, resulting in a generation of kids whose highest ambition in life is to be considered delicious.

Many of you called my prediction ridiculous, or disgusting, but were unable to argue against my logic. Well, now my prediction is off to an early start with the threatened introduction of tofu flavored like actor George Clooney.

Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA (presumably now standing for "People Eating Tasty Actors" -- hopefully I'm not late with that obvious joke), unveiled their plan to use Clooney-sweat, harvested from a gym towel acquired by a PETA operative, to engineer artificial Clooney-flavoring which would be added to tofu, creating what they're calling "CloFu".

While not quite vat-grown Clooney-meat, it is a harbinger of the looming intellectual property concerns raised by the easy availability of people's DNA -- a trail of which we leave wherever we go in our biological detritus of shed skin-flakes, finger grease, and lost hairs. If Clooney doesn't have a patent on his genome (or at least the genes that give him his flavor), can he legally do anything to stop PETA from making CloFu, or future New Harvesters from offering ClornDogs, ClooStew, chicken cordon Cloo, or other Clooney-based entrées? Or what if someone applies for a patent before him? Or if patents on DNA are ruled invalid?

It's a Brave Cloo World we're entering. Make sure to bring a bag lunch.

Update 2009-03-20: It occurred to me on rereading this post that the link I made from PETA's proposed artificial Clooney-flavoring to the cultured meat industry as envisioned by New Harvest might seem tenuous to the uninitiated. However, last year PETA president Ingrid Newkirk offered a $1 million prize to the "first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012." That, in one year's time, Newkirk could go from "let's replace immoral murder-meat" to "let's enjoy the sweet, sweet, sweat taste of George Clooney" just illustrates the dangerous allure of celebrity cannibalism.

End of post.