Has the world gone Franken-crazy?
More genetic modification is done with food crops than animals. However, animal modification is very real and perhaps not as controversial as gen-mod plants, simply because it is not as well known. Public outcry is a serious foe to those agribusinesses and pharmaceutical interests that are the most likely to benefit from genetic modification.
Some examples that raise eyebrows, and concerns, include glowing fish, pigs and cats. There are mice grown for cartilage such as seen in the famous image of a human ear grown atop a mouse’s back, which makes some people cringe. Many animals are “improved” for breeding of their species for human consumption, and several cloned animals are being marketed for the pet trade. Some bizarre cases of tampering raise questions as to how long it may be before a genetically modified human embryo is brought to term.
People, rightfully so, should question (without hysterics) what improves and what degenerates quality of all organisms on the planet. Perhaps some people want a glowing kitten, or her Glo-fish aquarium entertainers, but at what price? Is this a valid need for those rich and extravagant enough to buy living “toys.” Wouldn’t people benefit more by seeing nature as she is rather than as a giant lab kit for their amusement?
The glowing animals are said to be helpful in HIV research, but it should be remembered that all the oil of the Exxon Valdez and BP Gulf Deepwater Horizon explosion were for the good of ALL as well. Other technological advances include Thalidomide, Space shuttles, and every big bang from Hiroshima to Fukushima. The nicest cabin on the ship may be amazing, and with global warming, no worries that the ship is called Titanic. Maybe humans should constantly return to what nature teaches, as an (older and wiser) Einstein advised.
Shouldn’t people be concerned when organisms which took millions of years to create and sustain all life are transformed drastically at the whims of just one organism? For the most part, scientists readily admit humans know very little about what they do, and the consequences. Being a curious bunch, maybe enthusiasm surges ahead of common sense for these researchers. Usually, however, the bottom line is what profits are to be made.
The idea of “playing God” is an old one in the march of science. The idea of Frankenstein, first imagined by Mary Shelley has been around since 1818. Yet Shelley could never have envisioned how creating a monster would become a constant fear, and even cliché of science. Now anything seen as monstrous, and disastrous to the natural order frequently has the prefix Franken added. The modern world has Fraken-food, Frankenfish, FrankenPharmacology and even hybrid products of chemical and organic origin fused together. For example, specially bred corn and other grains are being manipulated to contain pesticidal toxins. For the most part, genetic modification is to increase yield, and hence profits, but skeptics call for more open transparency if good is in fact, the only result.
Now Franken-freaks are a reality in the world, although largely hidden from the populace at large. Domestication of animals is not new, and most extreme modifications are still guided without tampering at the genetic level. These include exaggeration of fat on beef, cattle, chickens and pigs. Some of these domesticated “freaks” rival any mutant created by gene manipulating genes. Some chickens and turkeys have such enormous breasts they cannot easily move. Some Franken meat is the result of $20,000 cloned stud bulls being used to inseminate hundreds of cows, for increased volumes of beef.
Also controversial with factory farming of cattle is modifying breeds with resistance to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE, better known as Mad cow disease. Critics point out that feeding brains and other animal products to livestock for added protein should be stopped. Finding a way to continue the practice more “safely” is simply inhuman, unnatural, hazardous and unwise.
It would seem the simplest rule of thumb in genetic modification should be transparency. When all factory farms and genetic labs open their doors and secrets to the world, the light of day is the best disinfectant. If there is nothing monstrous to hide, those in modification industries can proceed with the encouragement and blessing of even the non-gods among us.