Sunday, May 29, 2011

Human Fish. Yummy.

As a faux member of the Advisory Committee reporting to the FDA I felt it was my duty to inform them that, while genetically engineered salmon appears to be safe, more testing would be needed before I, in good conscience, could approve it.
     "When you're dealing with the public's safety it's better to err on the side of caution.  Do the math,"  I insisted.  "Do the math."
     AquaBounty Technologies, the developer of the country's first would-be genetically engineered food animal, made it clear to me that they were "unpleased" with my stipulation, and offered to give me a personal tour of their facilities.  When I declined, they also made it clear to me that I did not have a choice.
     I must admit, I was very impressed with what I saw when I got there.  The farm looked very clean and state-of-the-art.
     "See that," my guide pointed to a randomly selected room.  "We have computers."
     "And who's that?"  I asked, pointing past the computers to a man trying to stay hidden behind some poorly hung drapes.
     "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtains," I was instructed.
     I noticed that the male workers were all tall, muscular, and very good-looking.  I also noticed that the women all had humongous breasts.  What were the odds of that?  I wanted to shake the hand of the Personnel Manager, but instead settled for shaking the hand of the employee who had come to welcome me to the facility.  He shook my hand, pinned an "I Eat Fish" button on my lapel, and still had one hand left over to point me in the direction he wanted us to go in.  Curiouser and curiouser.
     "What makes our salmon so safe is that they are farmed, not wild-caught."
     "Doesn't farmed salmon contain higher levels of PCBs, dioxins, and pesticide residues?  Aren't they also treated with antibiotics, fungicides, and parasiticides?"
     My guide blinked his one eye furiously.  "What's your point?"
     He led me to one of a dozen water tanks used to farm the fish.  As I passed a window I glanced outside and saw an employee walking a giant chicken on a leash.  It was the size of an elephant.
     "That's a big chicken," I said to myself.
     I looked over the side of the spawning-tank.  In it were hundreds, maybe thousands, of these genetically altered fish.  One of them made eye contact with me, and I was astonished by how human its eyes looked.  In the background, sounding somewhere far away, my guide was still talking.
     "...salmon DNA mixed with human DNA.  And not just any DNA, but baby DNA.  That's what makes them so delicious.  They've received the Dr. Mengele Seal of Approval.  Do the math," he kept insiting.  "Do the math."
     The fish that I had made eye contact with began to swim gingerly toward me.  What I remember most was how sad its eyes looked.  It poked its head out of the water, and maybe it was just the water it was swimming in, but it looked as if it were crying.  Then it mouthed the words:  "Help me.  Heelp meee."  I did the math.
     And then I ran.

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