Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Halloween Fish Fable

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, Inc., the developer of the would-be country's first 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 hesitated, 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 whole farm looked very clean and state-of-the-art.
     "See that," my guide pointed to a randomly selected room. "We even 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 curtain," I was instructed.
     I noticed that the male workers were all tall, muscular, and ruggedly handsome. I also noticed that all the women had humongous breasts.
     What were the odds of that?
     I tried to shake the hand of the Personnel Manager, but instead shook the hand of one of his toadies who had snuck between us and welcomed me to their facility. He shook my hand, pinned an "I Eat Fish" button on my lapel, and still had one hand left over.
     Curiouser and curiouser.
     "What makes our salmon so safe," I was told by one of the ruggedly handsome employees, who, I must admit, couldn't be distinguished from any of the other ruggedly handsome employees, "is that they are farmed, not wild-caught."
     "Doesn't farmed salmon contain higher levels of PCBs, dioxins, and pesticide residues?" I asked my guide. "Aren't they also treated with antibiotics, fungicides, and parasiticides?"
     My guide blinked his one eye, that happened to be located in the middle of his forehead, furiously.
     "What's your point?" he asked.
     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. I shook my head in amazement.
     "That's a big chicken," I couldn't help but say out loud.
     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. I was astonished by how human its eyes looked. In the background, sounding somewhere far, far away, my guide was still talking.
     "...salmon DNA mixed with human DNA, and not just any human DNA, but baby DNA. It's what makes them so delicious. They've received the Dr. Mengele Seal of Approval. Do the math," he kept insisting. "Do the math."
     The fish that I had made eye contact with began to swim cautiously 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 was crying. Then it mouthed the words, "Help me. Heeelp meeeee."
     I did the math.
     And then I ran.

Fifty Shades of Funny

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