In the US, genetic engineering has primarily been considered
a food and product labeling issue. However, with a deeper
understanding of biotechnology, it is increasingly known to
be an issue within all issues. People from diverse movements
like: environmentalism, indigenous rights, save our organic
standards, forest and biodiversity preservation, animal rights,
organic farming, ending corporate rule, primitivists, social
equality, and anti-industrial technology have all been working
to stop genetic engineering. With an increase in genetic engineering
of animals, it is now time for US animal rights activists
to get involved and face this heinous beast of gene brutality.
If the suffering of animals in labs, farms, agribusiness,
and in medicine is going to be stopped, genetic engineering
(GE) must be stopped.
One reason GE has not gotten much attention is that it is
complicated. GE is discussed in extremely scientific terminology
that is hard to understand. Also, it is so insidious that
it is hard to recognize as one of the most important biological
hazards we face today. Corporate control has allowed this
run-away industrial technology to proliferate without the
public noticing before it was already too late. According
to Dr. Samuel Epstein, "there is, even at this early
stage of the era of agrochemical genetic engineering, a wealth
of scientific data which more that justifies an international
ban on the new technology " a ban, which would in any
case be justified by social and ethical considerations alone."
Fortunately people are increasingly becoming aware of these
issues and action is taking place. In Britain, for instance,
Uncaged Campaigns took action against xenotransplantation
in Cambridge, at the home of Imutran (a corporation in conjunction
with Novartis who has multi-million dollar investments in
xenotransplatation). 400 concerned people from around the
country joined together in a massive ring-around-the-roses.
Ring around the roses is a medieval children's rhyme commemorating
the devastating effects of the Great Plague. The aim of the
even was to highlight the danger of creating a modern epidemic
posed by xenotransplantation. The Health Secretary in England
has received 20,000 postcards from members of the general
public expressing opposition to xenotransplatation on public
health and animal welfare/rights grounds.
By this time you may be asking: "What the hell is xenotransplatation?"
or "What does GE really mean?" Xenotransplantation
is simply transplanting organs from one species into animals
of a different species, i.e. baboon heart into a human baby.
Genetic engineering is the reshuffling of genes usually from
one species to another. It is an artificial laboratory technique
that allows for the cutting, joining, and transfer of genes
between totally unrelated species that would never occur in
Genes are the blueprints for proteins, the building blocks
of all organisms from bacteria to humans. Geneticists still
consider 95% of the genetic code to be "junk." Jeremy
Rifkin, author of The Biotech Century explains why GE is a
threat to life with the statement, "Imagine the wholesale
transfer of genes between totally unrelated species and across
all biological boundaries: plant and animal and human, creating
thousands of novel life forms in a brief moment of evolutionary
time. Then, with clonal propagation, mass producing replicas
of these very creations and releasing them into the biosphere
to propagate, mutate, proliferate and migrate. This is, in
fact, the radical scientific and commercial experiment now
Questions that are only now being addressed: How do we know
that GE won't produce new toxins and allergenic substances
or increase the level of dormant toxins and allergens? What
are the effects on the environment and on wild life? What
about gene silencing and gene instability? What about the
sacredness of life?
Genetic Engineering is a test tube science. A gene studied
in a test tube can only tell what this gene does and how it
behaves in that particular test tube. It cannot tell us what
its role and behavior are in the organism it came from or
what if might do if we place it into a completely different
species. Genes for the color red placed into petunia flowers
not only changed the color of the petals but also decreased
fertility and altered the growth of the roots and leaves.
Salmon genetically engineered with a growth hormone gene not
only grew too big too fast but also turned green. These are
unpredictable side effects, from an unpredictable science.
It is pretty common knowledge now that 60% of processed foods
contain traces of GE ingredients. This includes fish genes
in tomatoes and other animal genes in fruit/vegtables, making
veganism virtually impossible unless you eat an all organic
diet. Vegetarians consume Monsanto's GE Bovine Growth Hormone,
which causes mastitis and other painful infections in about
30% of dairy cows. Meat eaters devour human genes in pigs
for more tender meat! More than 45 million acres of US farmland
are planted in GE crops a year, but what about GE animals?
Harvard University in the US revealed how GE experiments
had helped create the first three-legged chicken. The news
was hailed as a breakthrough in efforts to help humans with
limb defects, but it also has implications for chickens reared
for the diner table. In the US pigs, cattle, chickens and
fish are all being produced with genes that speed growth and
improve the quality of meat. Closest to reaching the market
are transgenic salmon. These have had a flounder gene introduced
with speeds their growth rate by up to 400%. Some GE experiments
have already had unpredictable and alarming results. In 1985
US scientist inserted human growth hormone into a pig to make
it grow bigger and more quickly. It was crippled with arthritis,
developed ulcers and was impotent. Researchers in Australia
injected sheep with a GE hormone so the fleece fell off without
shearing. The animals suffered severe sunburn and heat stress
and an increased chance of miscarriage.
Some examples of genetic engineering experiments on chickens
include efforts to create chickens with extra legs, cloning
to create identical animals, insertion of gene to create featherless
chicken, insertion of gene to allow hens to eat grass, introduction
of gene to make them more amenable to factory farming techniques.
Experiments on sheep include: cloning to create identical
sheep, creation of sheep whose wool falls off without shearing,
sheep witch have more lambs, sheep which grow more quickly,
insertion of human genes to create milk and blood to treat
Goats are being altered to produce milk containing insulin
or antibodies. Rabbits, mice, and rats are part of GE research
for increased breeding. Vivisectors are trying to genetically
alter baboons to make bone marrow for AIDS patients to boost
immune system. Experiments on pigs include: introduction of
human growth hormone to create bigger animals, human genes
to provide a source of organs for humans, cloning to create
identical animals, genes to make them more amenable to factory
farming techniques, insertion of genes to allow them to eat
grass, cells used to help humans suffering from liver failure,
and fetal cells used in treatments. Fish: Introduction of
gene in salmon to speed growth by up to 400%, genes to enable
farming in colder waters.
Cows are being subjected to GE hormone that boosts their
milk yield, cloning, and the introduction of genes to produce
milk containing insulin or antibiotics.
In 1998 figures by the Home Office in England revealed that
20,499 more animals died in UK vivisection labs compared to
1997. A total of 2,593,587 animals were killed in experiments.
The increase was largely driven by a rise in the use of genetically
altered animals. The exploitation of GE rats doubled between
1997 and 1998. Experiments using animals with harmful genetic
defects rose by about 10% to 259,318. Most experiments used
mice, with 1,588,859 (61.2%) of the creatures sacrificed,
an increase of 72,952. The Home Office minister George Howarth
tried to defend the expansion in the abuse of GE animals by
claiming: "The figures reflect the growing importance
of GE animals in allowing new areas of medical and other scientific
research to be explored." However, distinguished British
biologist Dr. Mae-Wan Ho condemns these troubling developments:
"The cloning and "pharming" of livestock, the
creation of transgenic animals for xenotransplantation and
to serve as animal models of human diseases are all scientifically
flawed and morally unjustifiable." (From her book, Genetic
Engineering: Dream or Nightmare?, Gateway Books)
At the same time that GE is increasing animal suffering and
experimentation, 9 million "surplus" animals are
killed a year in the UK, and the number of animals killed
without being experimented upon is hidden from public view.
A study published in the Independent reported on an investigation
by the BUAV which revealed that a staggering 6.5 million mice
and 2.4 million rats were destroyed because too many of the
animals were bred.
Scientists have created an embryo of a frog without a head,
raising the prospect of engineering headless human clones
which could be used to grow organs and tissues for transplant
surgery. The London Times reported, "The headless frog
embryos have not been allowed to live longer than a week,
but the scientists believe the technique could be adapted
to grow human organs such as hearts, kidneys, livers and the
pancreas in an embryonic sac living in an artificial womb."
Jonathan Slack, professor of developmental biology at Bath
University UK, says he can now create headless frog embryos
relatively easily by manipulating certain genes. Using the
technique, he has been able to suppress not only development
of a tadpole's head, but also its trunk and tail. Under current
Home Office rules, they are not considered animals until they
are a week old, when they have to be destroyed. Professor
Andrew Linzey, an animal ethicist at Oxford University, denounced
this research, "This sort of thinking beggars belief.
It's scientific fascism because we would be creating other
beings whose very existence would be to serve the dominant
group. It is morally regressive to create a mutant form of
It was the cloning of frogs 30 years ago that led to the
cloning of Dolly at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland.
Cows, sheep, pigs and monkeys in labs around the US and Europe
are now pregnant with clones created by methods similar to
those used to make Dolly the sheep. These animals are used
to fulfill long-standing goals of cloning animals that produce
medical drugs in their milk. However, many pregnancies involving
clones have already ended in miscarriages, and evidence is
cropping up that many cloned fetuses have subtle genetic alterations
that affect their development in mysterious ways. Tanja Dominko,
a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, said a team there
had taken skin cells from the ears of adult cattle, inserted
those cells into cattle egg cells whose genetic material had
been removed, and then applied an electric current to fuse
the two cells and make them start dividing into an embryo.
In Scotland, Dolly was the sole survivor of 277 sheep embryos
made from adult cells. No one know why most of these attempts
failed and only one succeeded. From a technical viewpoint,
cloning presents different obstacles in every species, since
embryo implantation, development, and gestation differ among
different species. Are 276 "failed" lamb attempts
acceptable losses? In recent studies, some of Dolly's chromosomes
underwent subtle structural change usually found only in cells
from older animals, evidence that they have retained a molecular
memory of the fact that they are derived from a skin cell
taken from a 6-year-old animal. A more pressing potential
problem among cloned animals, described by several researchers,
is the tendency for them to grow overly large in the womb,
at significant risk to newborn and mother.
Cloning encourages the commodification of animals. Though
industrialized societies commodify animal labor and animal
lives, the biological commodification involved in animal cloning
would be of a vastly different order. Cloning would turn procreation
into a manufacturing process, where animal characteristics
become added options and offspring become objects of deliberate
design. Such a process of commodification needs to be actively
opposed. It produces no benefits and undermines the very basis
of our established notions of animal individuality and dignity.
Residents of Craig County, Va. fear a proposed transgenic
cattle farm will pollute their groundwater with mutant cow
dung. They oppose Pharming Healthcare Inc.'s plan to bring
to Craig a herd of 200 cows capable of producing human proteins
in milk. If the proteins, used to make medicines, are in the
cows' milk, they could end up in the cows' urine and manure.
Pharming President Otto Postma said residents have nothing
to fear: The cows are genetically designed to excrete the
proteins only in milk. Earlier this year, Pharming, a subsidiary
of Dutch pharmaceutical company Pharming Group, N.V., announced
that it would build $37 million worth of plants in Craig and
at Virginia Tech to make medicines from genetically altered
"There are really two areas of concern," said Krimsky,
author of the book "Agricultural Biotechnology and the
environment." "First, are the proteins localized?
Are they just expressed in the milk, or do they come out in
other aspects? If they're being expressed in other ways from
the animals, then that's a concern. Also, another issue or
area of concern is the spread of antibiotic resistance factors.
Sometimes, in the laboratory, you attach antibiotic resistance
to cells. Could this create bacteria resistant to antibiotics?"
The biggest concern about antibiotic resistance genes is the
possibility that they could be transferred to bacteria in
the guts of animals or humans, or to bacteria in the environment.
Strains of farm-bred fish developed to grow fat quickly are
threatening to drive Britain's majestic wild salmon into extinction.
Millions of modified fish have escaped into the Atlantic from
offshore farms in Europe and America. The new strains are
mating with wild salmon, polluting their gene pool and producing
hybrids that can't survive in the open ocean. Don Staniford,
of the Scottish office of Friends of the Earth, stated, "Wild
salmon are nearly extinct in a number of Scottish regions
and rivers where they used to be plentiful." "There's
certainly a link between the decline of our wild salmon and
the escape of these farm-bred fish. It's genetic pollution,"
says Sue Scott, of the Atlantic Salmon Federation in New Brunswick,
Canada and "the farm fish are bred to be fat and lazy.
Their genes have been manipulated by crossbreeding to produce
a fish that grows quickly." They are kept in huge pens
in the open ocean off the coast of New Brunswick and the coast
of Maine in the States. And over the last few years millions
of them have escaped into the Atlantic.
Animals are not only being subjected to transgenic research,
but are also being force fed GE feed right along side us human
animals. Animal feed is the dumping ground for otherwise unmarketable
waste from the food industry. The BSE crisis in Britain had
its origins in contaminated animal feed; the recent dioxin
crisis in Belgium had its origin in contaminated animal feed
The lesson is simple: contaminated animal feed may in turn
contaminate the meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products we eat.
GE animal feed risks pollution of the food chain, is the principle
market for GE crops, and there is no regulation of GE animal
feed. Unlike a food in the human diet, an animal feed derived
from a single plant, corn or soy, may constitute a significant
portion of the animal diet. Therefore, a change in nutrient
or toxicant composition that is considered insignificant for
human consumption may be a very significant change in the
In an unmarked warehouse in the middle of a wheat field in
central Ohio, a hulking 300-pound pig lies on her back, her
legs tethered to a crude iron gurney in a bare, well-lighted
room. The animal has been sedated into a light state of sleep,
and the pale pink expanse of her belly rises and falls rhythmically
with each breath. A young man in green hospital garb has just
sliced a six-inch incision between the sow's nipples; now
he pokes around her innards with latex-gloved hands. The pig
on the table is pregnant.
The young man, a veterinary technician named Bruce Close,
is about to remove her newly fertilized eggs. At 26, Close
is an old hand at pig surgery; he has performed this operation
more than 600 times in the two years he has been employed
by Nextran, the Princeton, N.J., biotechnology company that
runs this warehouse as a breeding center. This, however, is
no ordinary pig farm. For the past decade, Nextran has been
locked in a high-stakes race to build the perfect pig: an
animal with human genes, whose organs can be transplanted
In the medical lexicon, this is known as xenotransplantation,
and it has been an elusive dream of scientists for nearly
100 years. Today, despite fears that pig-to-human transplants
could unleash a deadly new virus, the dream is closer than
ever to reality. Unlike human organs, which are donated, pig
organs will be sold, and in a climate in which demand far
outstrips supply, the seller will name the price.
Moving quickly and in silence, he tears at layers of pig
fat until he can feel the pig's uterus. Gently, he extracts
the slippery pink-and-purple mass, palpating it until his
fingers reach a cluster of 10 blood-rich pustules -- the ovulation
points." Each contains a single egg so recently joined
with a sperm, through artificial insemination, that it has
not yet divided from one cell into two. This is the optimal
moment for creating " transgenic" piglets -- animals
that, at least in a genetic sense, look ever so slightly like
people. It is a bizarre, almost creepy sight, this big, fat
pig upside down on an operating table, her head dangling backward
over a bucket in case she vomits, her insides splayed out
on a blue- paper surgical drape as a scientist rearranges
the DNA of her unborn young.
In a moment, the animal's eggs will be flushed out of the
ovaries, collected in a tiny vial and smeared onto a glass
slide; then a "microinjectionist" will examine them
under a high-powered microscope and, with a needle finer than
a strand of hair, insert a single human gene into each. Later
this afternoon, Close will return to the operating room to
implant the growing embryos into a foster mother sow. In roughly
114 days, if all goes as Nextran hopes, she will deliver a
litter that includes at least one transgenic piglet. Across
the Atlantic Ocean, at an undisclosed location in the English
countryside, Imutran is running its own transgenic pig farm.
Like Nextran, which was purchased several years ago by Baxter
International, one of the world's largest medical-products
manufacturers, Imutran is owned by a drug- industry powerhouse,
the Swiss-based Novartis Pharma AG, a company with three times
the annual revenue and nearly seven times the research budget
that Baxter has. While Nextran has been testing its pig hearts
and kidneys in baboons, Imutran has been running tests in
monkeys and baboons, and reporting longer survival times.
Like Nextran, Imutran is facing mounting criticism as it
moves closer to testing its organs in people. Animal rights
advocates, predictably, lament the fate of the poor pigs that
will be used as spare-parts factories, a charge the companies
shrug off by pointing to refrigerators stuffed with bacon
and pork chops. What they cannot shrug off, however, are the
very real safety concerns. The Campaign for Responsible Transplantation,
a coalition of scientists and public-health professionals,
has asked for a ban on cross-species transplant research.
And one prominent xenotransplant expert, Dr. Fritz Bach, of
Harvard University, who is a paid consultant to Novartis,
has called for a national commission to study the risks
Harold Vanderpool, a medical ethicist at the University of
Texas Medical Branch, in Galveston, has a term for the visceral
reaction these pigs evoke. "I call it 'the gag factor,"'
he says. "We are thinking across a barrier that should
never be crossed." And in point of fact, there may be
a very good reason -- the viruses -- it should not be. Pigs
have become the animal of choice in xenotransplant research
for a variety of reasons. They are plentiful, and they breed
easily. They are physiologically similar enough to humans.
And pigs and people have lived side by side, in relative health
and harmony, for centuries. Three years ago, the Institute
of Medicine calculated that if animal organs made it possible
to offer a transplant to everyone in the United States who
needed one, annual expenditures would rise to $20.3 billion,
from $2.9 billion. Already, the Mayo Clinic has entered into
what its director of heart and lung transplantation, Dr. Christopher
McGregor, calls a "strategic alliance" with Nextran.
McGregor is busy testing pig hearts in baboons, and the company
has built a state-of-the-art breeding facility not far from
the clinic so Mayo doctors can have a ready supply of pigs
in the event that xenotransplantation takes off.
The Campaign for Responsible Transplantation, the group pressing
for a research ban, has lately been threatening to sue Shalala
if she does not respond to its petition. "The prospect
of a global health pandemic doesn't seem to be concerning
anybody," warns Alix Fano, the campaign's director. "And
the people that are voicing their concerns are either being
silenced or ignored."" - Sheryl Gay Stolberg: The
New York Times October 3, 1999, Sunday, Late Edition - Final
Could This Pig Save Your Life?
Animal liberators play an important role in ending genetic
engineering. GE animal labs must be targeted, crops for GE
animal feed must be destroyed, human-centered and elitist
xenotransplantation must be eliminated, and GE animal "pharming"
must end now! Don't be fooled by "frakenscience,"
this technology is based on suffering, mutations, greed, corporate
power, and a lack of understanding about biodiversity and
the natural world.
One note of caution. Warning!!! GE animals have already been
released from the confines of biotech hell, and the sentiments
behind these actions are very powerful. However, please keep
in mind that any GE animals released into the wild will scar
the genetic heritage of all wild beings. This must not be
taken lightly. Please do the research necessary to find out
if lab animals are GE before any liberation takes place. Even
in the lab, there is no real secure place for GE "experiments."
It is important for us to recognize life's natural prolific
tendencies, and we must be sensitive to the fact that GE animals
must be dealt with as a unique situation. Please be careful
out there! Life is in our hands.
ANIMAL GENETICS ("Pharm"ing) INDUSTRY
ABS GLOBAL (farm animal genetics in WI.)
DIVERSA, (Bio-patenting firm in San Diego)
INFIGEN (farm animal genetics company in WI.)
PHARMING (animal genetics, in WI and MD.)
ROSLIN INSTITUTE (Dolly the clone)
JACKSON LABS, ME (Cloned Mice)