Tag: Genetic-surprises

Manufactured Animals

Why It’s Time to Calm Down about “Invasive” GM GloFish

Is the neon green tetra GloFish soon to be the florescent, transgenic terror of America’s waterways? The internet hype machine has repeated ad infinitum the Washington Post’s recent story about the invasive potential of a new breed of GloFish. First sold to the public in 2003, the original GloFish were four brightly colored strains of zebrafish that fluoresced thanks to jellyfish and coral genes.

Last February, the biotech company Yorktown expanded their species range by introducing a transgenic, acid green version of the tetra fish. It’s this Electric Green Tetra (©) that has biologists and wetland conservationists worried. While tropical zebrafish go belly-up in cooler US waters, their argument goes, tetras are better adapted to seasonally cold conditions. Any released GloFish tetras could potentially take over lakes and rivers, their freaky genes compelling them to outcompete native species or breed with their wild cousins.

It’s a catchy argument. It’s also untrue.

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Post Natural Organisms of the EU

If you happen to be in the neighborhood you might want to drop by at the exhibition Post Natural Organisms of the European Union in Amsterdam. The small but delicate expo, curated by the good people of the Center for Post Natural History, presents eleven specimens of organisms that were intentionally altered by humans via domestication, selective breeding or genetic engineering. Think alcoholic rats, genetically modified wheat, a chihuahua, anti-malarial mosquitoes and a rib-less mouse embryo (image above).

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Rayfish CEO Responds to Break-In by Animal Rights Activists

A few days ago we wrote about the animal rights activists that broke into the Rayfish Footwear fish farm and stole the entire stock of genetically modified stingrays that the company was growing into bio-personalized sneakers.

The company now released a video in which their CEO, Raymond Ong, discusses the controversy around their product. He believes that “the issues that have surfaced since his company website was launched, reflect the complexity of our consumptive relationship with animals.” and calls the robbery an “irresponsible act that will have unforeseen consequences for years to come”.

The CEO furthermore claims the highest standards of wellbeing for both his stingrays and his workers, steering the debate towards the question whether it is more unethical to buy a pair of expensive handmade sneakers you know were “raised” for your own personal satisfaction, or to buy cheap disposable sneakers made by underpaid workers from cow leather “raised” under deplorable conditions.

“Most of us have become complete strangers to the products that surround us”, Ong said. The CEO also noted his concern that the genetically modified stingrays may interbreed with wild populations. Speaking of nature caused by people…


Who will Question Bio-Engineering?

Bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe presents a parade of recent bio-engineering experiments, from glowing monkeys, to genetically boosted salmon, to cyborg insects. He asks: isn’t it time to set some ground rules? Sure. Bring it on Paul!

Now regular readers of this website already know most of the lustrous & monstrous examples, yet throughout the talk you feel a certain suspense: you-are-now-listing-to-a-real-bioethicist-who-any-minute-now-is-going-to-lay-out-some-crystal-clear-ground-rules-for-bio-engineering. Unfortunately Paul constrains himself to a call for rules, but doesn’t deliver them himself. Who will?

Thanks anyway Ewelina Szymanska.


Activist Release Transgenic Stingrays in the Ocean

This morning we received an astounding video from a group of animal right activists that broke in at Rayfish Footwear, the Thai based fashion brand that creates $1500 personalized sneakers from genetically engineered stingray leather.

The amateur recording (turn volume down before playing) shows the anonymized activists plundering the fish breeding facility of the company, while ‘rescuing’ the stingrays. At the end of the video the fish are released in the ocean.

Rayfish.com was launched some months ago with a contest that invited people to design their own stingray patterns. The most beautiful designs where grown on the skins of the transgenic fish and turned into personalized stingray leather shoes. Some of the happy winners had already received their pair of Snaketongue, Flamingo Zebra or Golden Dalmatian shoes.

Earlier its CEO Raymond Ong gave a lecture at our Next Nature Power Show in which he unfolded his groundbreaking biocustomization technique. Although there where many enthusiastic responses there was also much controversy around the company. Seems some of the hard core protesters now decided to take action.

We have tried to contact Rayfish Footwear to confirm the robbery, but haven’t been able to reach them. At this moment there is no mentioning of the break-in on the Rayfish blog, nor on their Facebook, or Twitter pages. To be continued…

UPDATE: Rayfish confirms the break-in and released a video statement.

cutie orange
Food Technology

Creating the World’s Cutest Fruit

Just like corn, bananas, and essentially any other plant we cultivate, the Cutie mandarin is the result of a concerted effort to produce an ideal food. Mandarin oranges come from wild orange trees that grew in India, possibly as long as three millennia ago. Introduced to the West in the 19th century, the mandarin has since been carefully bred, even irradiated, to bring tasty new mutations to market.

The Cutie’s peel comes off like zipper. The fruit is small, seedless, and sugar-sweet. Gone is the hassle of wrangling with a tough peel, or spitting out pips with every bite. The Cutie is, in fact, about as close to a candy bar as a fruit can get. There’s even a saccharine marketing campaign to go along with them: Cuties are made for kids.

The mandarin’s perfection, however, dispenses with a relationship that’s as old as flowering plants. Like all citrus, Cuties produce seeds when they’re pollinated. To produce a dependable snack, Cutie growers must protect their orchards from bees and other pollinators via nets, physical isolation, or other means. Effectively fencing out bees from huge sources of nectar, this widespread farming practice may be a contributing factor to hive collapse. Developers of the Tango, another mandarin variety, have bypassed this issue by producing a completely sterile fruit.

Via Smithsonian Magazine.

blackfoot kitten

Adorably Endangered Kitten Born to Domestic Cat Surrogate

“Crystal”, an endangered black-footed cat, was recently born to a domestic cat surrogate at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. The birth was achieved using a previously frozen embryo, marking the first successful implementation of this method for this species. Last year, the center also pioneered the first in-vitro fertilization of black-footed cats. First mice, now cats, maybe Neanderthals next.

Story via the Times Picayune.

GFP mice

Better Than Nature?

At the turn of the millennium, miniaturized canines acquired the cherished status of living, designer handbag ornaments.  These teeny tiny photogenic doggies, which had been shrunken from generations of in breeding, were snapped up by fashionistas who pouted alongside them in front of seas of clicking cameras.

In just a fragment of evolutionary time, today’s ‘to die for’ bio-couture has been genetically spliced with jellyfish signatures. These trophies are freer to roam and easier to find than their miniaturised predecessors, as they can glow under UV, or ‘black’ light. Although not all varieties can fit in a clutch purse yet, there is an impressive range of designer ‘glo’ organisms available in green and red (blue is possible but isn’t as impressive under UV light). Options include fruit flies, fish, mice, chickens, rabbits, pigs and cats (for glo-cats, see here, here and here).

Science justifies these media friendly creations in service of the greater public good. Yet these animals have great popular appeal that speaks little to their ability to fight cancer or other diseases. Despite their ‘freaky’ designer origins, glo pets are undeniably ‘cute’. Genetic modification is part of a spectrum of technological approaches offered by the new science of synthetic biology, which enable us to overcome the apparent lottery of nature. The fundamental ‘vanity’ at the heart of synthetic biology is that we can do ‘better’ than nature, but is this actually possible?

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Edible Implants

Why turn to implants when the female body can do it by itself? Dutch designer Femke Mosch came up with the idea of making edible implants that stimulate breast growth from within.