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Researchers Seek Treatment for Mad Soybean Disease
August 19, 2058
NEW YORK--Officials for the World Health Organization announced today the funding of a special initiative dedicated to discovering improved treatment and diagnosis of Bovine-Derived Tofuiform Encephalopathy (BDTE), more commonly known as Mad Soybean Disease. "Though confirmed cases of BDTE have not been many in number, their global distribution, coupled with the widespread consumption of bovine-derived soy products, is a matter for prudent concern," explained WHO spokesperson Wilfred Inkling.
The disease is closely associated with the consumption of bovine-derived tofu. Prior to widely publicized recent cases of BDTE, few consumers realized that some 30% of tofu sold worldwide was at least in part bovine-derived. "The tofu industry doesn't want to talk about bovine-derived tofu because they know the market will be suspicious," claims Haril Paltry, executive director of transgenics watchdog group Generation One. "And we should be suspicious. The public needs to know about how this stuff is produced."
Bovine-derived tofu is harvested from a proprietary, transgenic Soy Cow developed and patented by Soystock inc., a soy industry collaborative standards and research corporation. A full-grown Soy Cow resembles a traditional cow whose flesh is composed of food-grade tofu. The tofu is harvested three to four times each season using techniques derived from the traditional shearing of wool. A freshly-shorn Soy Cow begins to re-grow tofu-flesh on its lean, grey-houndish frame within hours. During its ten-year lifespan, the typical Soy Cow will produce more than 32 tons of tofu.
"People naturally react negatively to unfamiliar innovations," points out lead Soystock researcher Phillipa Reade. "I think the public is ready for this. We haven't been advertising the Soy Cow, but we haven't made it a secret either. The control we have over the product through control of the Soy Cow genome is phenomenal. We've been able to very closely link Soy Cow behaviors with desirable product qualities. The firmness of the tofu, for instance, is tied to the exercise regime of the stock animals."
Reade is more circumspect when questioned about BDTE: "BDTE is a serious concern, but I don't think all of the evidence is in yet. People tend to jump to the conclusion that it is related to Soy Cow tofu when it may be a consequence of engineering of traditionally grown soy, or even of centuries of traditional soy husbandry. We know much more about the Soy Cow genome because we planned every nucleotide in it. We know much less about traditional soy."
BDTE's symptoms include the rapid development of tofu-like plaques in the spine and in the frontal lobes of the brain, causing dementia, amnesia, uncontrollable body tremors, periodic seizures, and, ultimately, brain death. To date, few treatments have been effective. Public domain drugs for treatment of BSE-1, BDE, and BSE-211 have produced noticeable, but temporary relief of some symptoms.
"We don't yet fully understand BDTE's vectors," notes WHO's Inkling. "Because of the lengthy incubation period--as long as 15 years in some cases--we have determined that research dollars should be allocated now, rather than later. If preliminary investigation indicates that BDTE causative agents are relatively uncommon in the population, then we'll re-evaluate our decision. Until then, however, a dedicated research initiative is the only humane response."
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