Boing Boing reports that the Wisconsin legislature is considering whether to designate Lactococcus lactis (right) as the state's official microbe. If it passes, Assembly Bill 556 would honor Lactococcus for the crucial role it plays in the Wisconsin economy (it turns milk into cheese).
Lactococcus feeds on the lactose in milk and creates lactic acid as a byproduct. The acid curdles the milk, making cheese possible. It also lowers the pH of the cheese, which helps preserve it from other bacteria that like humans much less than friendly Lactococcus. Best of all, this heroic bacterium does its vital work entirely for free.
"We call those people who oppose [the bill] 'lactose intolerant,'" said the bill's sponsor, Democratic legislator Gary Hebl, taking the all-too-rare opportunity for a fairly decent legislative joke. It wasn't clear whether anyone actually opposes the bill.
The bill would add information about the microbe to the "Wisconsin Blue Book," which is a storehouse of official information about the state. Lactococcus would thereby take its rightful place alongside the state's current symbols, namely its official "seal, coat of arms, motto, flag, song, flower, bird, tree, fish, state animal, wildlife animal, domestic animal, mineral, rock, symbol of peace, insect, soil, fossil, dog, beverage, grain, dance, ballad, waltz, fruit, and tartan."