Art and commentary by Kimberly Harris

Posts tagged ‘GMO’

Crocsquito apocalypse!

A swarm of mosquito-crocodile hybrids is descending upon Fort Lauderdale

Havoc reigns at Florida tourist resorts as swarms of genetically-engineered mosquito-crocodile hybrids descend upon beaches and golf courses to feed on hapless vacationers.

News Flash! Genetically engineered mosquitoes created by British scientists to combat viral diseases mutate into toothy flying killing machines.

Well, it seemed like a good idea in theory. A British biotech firm with ties to Oxford University developed a methodology to breed mosquitoes whose DNA had been altered using genes from coral and cabbage and proteins from E. Coli bacteria and herpes virus. The thinking was that this combination would suppress breeding because when the altered male mates with a normal female, the resulting larvae will die. This in turn would suppress the incidence of two serious mosquito borne diseases, dengue and chikungunya. To test the effectiveness of the plan, the mosquitoes were released in Key Haven, a secluded development of million-dollar homes near Key West in Florida.

What the scientists did not foresee was a sequence of events that would ultimately lead to calamity as they did not take into account the consequences of introducing a toxic cocktail of genes from animals, plants, bacteria and viruses into the environment. As fate would have it, a freak offshore storm blew in unexpectedly and propelled the GMO mosquitoes off towards the Everglades where they quickly settled in among the foliage. A few stray females that were inadvertently included in the brood began their quest for blood. With no humans in sight, the females proceeded to bite the resident crocodiles. So, what happens when a recombinant DNA experiment involving a mosquito, a crocodile and a cabbage goes awry?

Aedes aegypti + Crocodylus acutus + Brassica oleracea = Crocsquito Apocalypse!!!

It wasn’t long before crocodile hatchlings began to exhibit characteristics of all the genes that had been injected into the GMO altered mosquitoes. They grew long sharp proboscises and stout wings with veined structures similar to cabbage leaves. They soon took to the air seeking nourishment. Attracted by the dazzling display of brightly colored Hawaiian shirts combined with the aroma of thousands of backyard barbecues, the mutants headed straight for Fort Lauderdale to feast on the flesh of terrified tourists.

Even those fortunate enough to escape serious injury from the crocsquito’s sharp crushing jaws, there is still the likelihood of acquiring a nasty case of herpes from the beast’s infectious saliva.

Illustration by Kim Harris
Story by Don Rudisuhle

Yes, Virginia, There is a Frankenfish  

A little girl accepts a lollipop from a strange fishlike man

Ginny accepts a lollipop from a Frankenfish

Oblivious to his unusual appearance and his disagreeable body odor, little Ginny eagerly accepted a big lollipop from the eccentric stranger who lives across the street next door to the AquaWhopper genetic engineering labs.

In recent months there, has been much controversy surrounding the FDA’s proposed approval of the sale of genetically engineered fish for general public consumption. The technology is being promoted on the grounds that the modified fish are nutritionally indistinguishable from wild species or conventionally farmed fish. Industry officials further assert that the fish are completely safe to eat and do not pose any threat to the environment, as almost all engineered fish are female and reproductively sterile. Even in the event that a few might escape from the farms, these captive populations are said to be incapable of interbreeding with other fish in the wild and therefore do not pose a threat to the natural biodiversity of indigenous populations. The industry also suggests that an ample supply of high quality farmed fish will reduce pressure on native species caused by overfishing.

Critics disagree with these positions.  For one, escaped fast-growing transgenic fish with voracious appetites might compete for food and habitat with native populations, to the detriment of the latter. Furthermore, environmental concerns aside, detractors are concerned that the FDA’s proposed approval does not presently contain any provision for labeling genetically modified fish as such. Therefore, a consumer would have no way to distinguish genetically modified fish from wild caught fish in the supermarket. The growth hormones used to produce hybridized fish, although ostensibly natural, could have unforeseen consequences with human immune systems that could be triggered by alteration of intestinal flora caused by ingesting bacteria associated with the modified fish. A study conducted in the UK in 2004 explored the possibility of the horizontal transfer of transgenes from modified foods to human intestinal microflora. While the study found evidence of the survival of some genetically modified DNA through the upper GI tract, it failed to demonstrate that the complete transgene had been transferred to host bacteria. Nevertheless, the study recommended that this phenomenon be considered at the time when the safety of genetically modified foods is evaluated for wholesale human consumption.

In a move that would appear to stifle transparency, the FDA is proposing to regulate genetically modified fish as “animal drugs” in order to protect the producers’ proprietary processes and trade secrets. The approval process relies extensively on the producer’s own testing and data, which suggests a conflict of interest whereby data could have been skewed and negative findings suppressed.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) recently announced that he was making it a legislative priority for 2011 to defeat the FDA’s proposed approval of genetically modified salmon, or at least to force disclosure on the packaging. This is considered by many to be a fundamental requirement that would protect persons who may allergic to the modified fish. Furthermore, it has been disclosed that modified fish are relatively low in omega-3 content when compared to wild salmon and have also been found to contain considerably larger concentrations of IGF1, which is a hormone associated with various human cancers. Information regarding these risks needs to be made available to the public so that they can make informed purchasing decisions.

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