Another amazing step for humankind! The invention of a fish! That Glows! In the Dark! Oh… the humanity…
Whenever I come across such a gross example of human hubris, I think of this passage:
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me ‘to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers.’ I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them.
Gulliver’s Travels, Chapter V, by Jonathan Swift »
As far as I can make out, according to 1996 figures, some 53 thousand species of fish have been described. Yes, that’s 53 and three zeros. This includes everything from basking sharks to things so small there aren’t words small enough to describe them. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie.
But now… humans (species: 1) have come up with a new fish, a genetically engineered to glow in the dark. It’s a far cry from for the usual hyperbole spouted by purveyours of Genetically Modified food about feeding the millions of starving around the world. ‘If you’re hungry – get a GloFish!’
You slap our backs and pretend you knew about,
All the things that we were gonna do.
What ya gonna do, what ya gonna do,
When it?s over?
You?re on your own now,
Don?t you think that?s a shame?
But you?re the only one responsible to take the blame.
So what ya gonna do when the novelty has gone?
Yeah, what ya gonna do when the novelty has gone?
– Novelty by Joy Divison »
From the Greenpeace website: ‘California has recently banned the sale of GloFish in the state. Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Schuchat explained the decision this way: “Creating a novelty pet is a frivolous use of this technology. No matter how low the risk is, there needs to be a public benefit that is higher than this.”‘
Apart from the daftness and frivolity of this colourful caper, there are serious implications – there’s no telling what may happen if these fish are introduced to the wild – accidently or otherwise. According to New Scientist, Alan Blake and colleagues at Yorktown Technologies LP claim that the fish are of no danger to the environment, as ‘they cannot survive in non-tropical waters’. Hardly reassuring stuff – the annals are full of stories of ‘out of place’ animals. Besides, surely this means that if fish will breed if introduced to tropical waters? Weirdly, the Glofish site says that the fish were created to help fight pollution!
Read more on the Greenpeace site: One fish, two fish, red fish, glofish? » (includes great bit on the FDA deciding that ‘a fish is not a drug’)
GloFish Official Site »
GloFish on Google News »
GloFish news on New Scientist site »
GloFish Zoom to Market: Genetically Altered Animals Slipping Past Regulation »
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Some boffins have ‘inadvertently’ invented a ‘ two-headed fluorescent zebrafish’ »
The New York Times: No Foolproof Way Is Seen to Contain Altered Genes »
A new report commissioned by the government suggests that it will be difficult to completely prevent genetically engineered plants and animals from having unintended environmental and public health effects.
Frankenfish: mutate your own! »