By Max Burbank
For three generations, my
family has been breeding Italian Greyhounds with Shar-peis in an attempt
to craft the canine equivalent of a flying squirrel. In this we have
met with little success, having so far created only a dog with such
a petite and delicate bone structure that it often becomes displaced
in its own flesh, like an infant in an oversize pair of Dr. Denton's.
It is prone to hip dysphasia, epileptic seizures, poor bowel control
and sudden, unpredictable violence.
The above cautionary tale
is something of an exaggeration. My immediate family has owned just
four dogs since arriving in America, and the only relative involved
in actual breeding is my allegedly simple cousin, Lloyd, whose activities
are not so much husbandry as an abomination in the eyes of God and a
crime in 49 states. Sorry, Tennessee.
The point, however, remains.
‘Picture swapping’ with ‘friends’ while ‘chatting’ on the ‘Internet’
is admittedly fun, but it leads inexorably to parts of you being recovered
from a locker in a Mexican bus station. Wait, that's not the point I
meant to make. See, the point is: nature is slow. When man tries to
speed it up the best he can hope for is a Saint Bernard type experience.
Cute, friendly, loyal, but it drools a lot. More often, it's the gypsy
moth. About a hundred years ago, a Frenchy by the name of Trouvelot
brought over a mass of Gypsy Moth eggs from Asia with the idea of breeding
a silkworm hardy enough to survive in New England. The silk of the gypsy
moth is totally useless, but they're hardy as all hell, and when they
inevitably escaped they bred like Catholic rabbits and now periodically
defoliate great swaths of forest. I recall a summer in the late seventies
when the sound of their fecal pellets falling to the ground was like
soft rain twenty four hours a day for over a week. Trouvelot moved from
amateur ecologic catastrophe to the safer field of astronomy and I'm
told that there is now a crater on the moon named after the meddling
bastard. Perhaps we could name some geologic feature of Mars after the
Monsanto Corporation in anticipation.
On a secret hermetically
sealed, germ free laboratory farm somewhere in England, veterinarians
in clean suits genetically infuse pigs with Human DNA to make their
organs suitable for transplantation into people. (For details visit
Close observation will show that something similar is going on with
the Teletubbies. In 1995 at the University of Massachusetts, a hairless
mouse was caused to grown an ear shaped mass of human cartilage on its
back. I don't think we need to get a moon crater lined up for the researchers
just yet, as, if these mice escape they will not breed true. If you
personally fear seething hordes of hairless earmice erupting from the
subways, this is probably evidence of some chemical imbalance. The same
goes for any night terrors inspired by the glow in the dark bunny with
the iridescent jelly fish genes.
But what if tomorrow's scientist
takes that glow in the dark bunny and grafts Stalin's brain on its back
and then gives it the genes for opposable thumbs? Who'll be laughing
then? What if William Shatner's sequenced DNA was spliced into Pygmy
Elephant Shrew Fetuses, and someone gave the resulting offspring guns?
Unlikely scenario? Yes, but do you think Froggy LeSilkworm ever imagined
the sound of billions of Gypsy moths pooing while dreaming of cheaply
made sheets for the gentleman of leisure? And if he did imagine it,
was he wearing women's underwear and an excess of eyeliner at the time?
I don't mean to be an alarmist.
I myself have six or seven baboon livers in the ice box at any given
moment so my constant alcoholic frenzy won't be spoiled by fears of
cirrhosis. If it's me on the waiting list for a heart transplant someday,
you can bet the nurses will need earplugs to keep from going deaf. "A
PIG HEART! A PIG HEART! GET ME A GENETICALLY ALTERED PIG HEART THIS
MINUTE! I DON'T GIVE A CRAP IF A TRANSGENIC VIRUS DEVELOPED AS AN UNINTENDED
BYPRODUCT OF THIS RESEARCH DECIMATES HALF THE EARTH, I WANT MY GOD DAMN
PIG HEART!!" If it's me we're talking about, then yes, throw caution
to the winds, Frankenstein, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.
But if it's you with the bum ticker I'd like to respectfully request
that you show a little perspective and die without complaint.
I guess what I'm driving
at here, is that when it's my life on the line or my patent on the flying
dog, I'm pretty sure it's okay. Unfortunately, lots of governments and
corporations out there feel the same way, and they have money and I
don't, and if you're taking the time to read this, my guess is you have
less than jack diddly crap yourself. So it won't be me and you with
a jug of genetically enhanced Orangutan kidneys in the fridge in any
case, any more than the point of extra hardy winter wheat is filling
bellies in Kazakstan. The best you and I can hope for is that somewhere
out there, there's some egg headed freak on a global conglomerate gravy
train engineering a gene that will make us smile when we get bent over.
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