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The Curse of Bigness

By: 
Christopher Ketcham

THE NEXT TIME I HEAR a politico or banker or Detroit executive talk about institutions “too big to fail,” I’ll direct them to the 34 percent of Americans who are obese. Last I heard, these big Americans, themselves a kind of cultural institution, were failing en masse, racked by diabetes, asthma, heart trouble, and bound for early death. The human form can only grow so big. Or I could point them to Pig #6707. Conceived in the laboratories of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the 1990s, Pig #6707’s embryo was genetically altered with a human growth gene to develop a super-pig, bigger and faster-growing and more productive of meat. But the genetic alterations produced a monster, impotent and nearly blind, its legs arthritic, its body crippled, the creature able to stand up and be photographed only with the support of a plywood board. When asked by a reporter why he created the sick pig, the lead researcher said his intent was to make livestock more efficient.