HAPPY EARTH DAY!
In this interview, Ross Reynolds talks to Emily Anthes, the author of “Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts,” about how biotech will change our pets and livestock. Check out the podcast here: Bionic Bulldogs and Spider Goats.
A transgenic animal is created by inserting DNA from one organism into another one to create an animal that will express the desired character traits coded by that DNA. How is this different from animal and plant breeding practices that go back to the beginning of agriculture? This is a form of genetic transfer between species that in the wild would never mate or breed together since they are of different species. It is only due to the manipulation of the genetic code through recombinant DNA techniques (used and developed by human scientists, obviously) that the organism has come about. In other words, it is a human-made species created for specific human purposes. Mostly those have been for research and development in medicine–human medicine. And there is of course a lot of money to be made.
People have been using animals for labor and for wealth generation for a very long time. Today we live with our pets, not our food. Laboratories where animals are used for testing are not places we run past on our way to the grocery store to get our food (with the genetically engineered dog in the car?). We live from the labor and life of other animals, the extent to which remains largely invisible to us. Ecofeminists would draw a parallel here between the status and labor of animals and that of women. What kind of respect and rights do we owe these animals and plants? Does genetic engineering violate this?
Do you care about eating genetically engineered organisms (most corn and soy in this country is genetically engineered already)? What about transgenic animals?
One of the most beautiful aspects of the natural world is its wildness–its ability to organize itself, its innate freedom. Think about a bald eagle hunting its prey or the riot of moss and ferns in the Hoh Rain Forest. This is something (supposedly) beyond human control, and is the reason for the awe we feel in the face of nature and its creatures. With more and more engineering of nature, the feeling for wildness slips away.
What do we owe the wild? Can we engineer nature and still remain faithful to the wildness of the world?
Let’s remember the wildness of the world today on Earth Day.