The genetic engineering of farm animals raises all manner of vexing questions. And as gene tinkering applies to poultry, it even offers a reprise of the classic chicken-and-egg conundrum. To wit: Which came first, the chimera or the clone? 

The answer lies with two biotech firms, California-based Origen Therapeutics and Embrex of North Carolina, that are fine-tuning a process to mass-produce genetically uniform chickens—an effort boosted last July by a $4.7-million federal research grant from the National Institute of Science and Technology. “This is not cloning, per se,” says Joan Kureczka, spokeswoman for Origen, “but it is a way to produce, on a large scale, the ideal bird.” By injecting embryonic stem cells cultivated from a grade-A chicken into dozens, thousands, or even millions of newly laid eggs, Origen and Embrex hope to suppress the eggs’ natural genetic makeup and create “chimeras”—chicks that are near carbon copies, genetically speaking. (The companies may have also produced a few identical matches, or true clones.) Such uniformity is a tantalizing prospect for a poultry industry eager to streamline production: The engineered fowl would mature at the same rate, require the same amount of feed, and taste exactly the same. The technology is still a few years, and a number of regulatory hoops, away from market. But don’t be surprised if KFC one day becomes an acronym for Kentucky Fried Chimera.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.