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GloFish and the Zombie Apocalypse

March 6, 2011

There’s a product on the market that I learned about some months ago, called GloFish. They’re zebrafish that have been genetically modified and bred with the altered genes so that they glow in different colors; red, green, and yellow are shown on the company’s website.

I understand that genetic research and experimentation are long-standing pillars of science, and I support efforts to expand human knowledge. However, we must be careful with what we create and unleash on the world around us. Evolution of species is a co-dependent process, and while GloFish may seem harmless on their face, we do not know the long-term effects of their being introduced into the ecosystem.

Nor do we know the long-term effects of corn that is resistant to poison, or any other manipulation of nature that we have brought into the world. The decisions to create these things are too often guided by the needs of commerce, with less than appropriate concern for the overall magnitude of what is being done. Every altered organism we drop into the world is a shocking anomaly in a usually slow, gradual process.

We’re living on a planet on which cute little lizards that used to hop around on leaves morphed into massive, incredible beasts that dominated all life for millennia—and this happened over the course of natural development. If earth-based organisms are capable of that kind of transformation, I shudder to think what could grow from humankind’s careless meddling.

After a decade or two of GloFish and FrankenCorn, who’s to say that a chain reaction of evolutionary anomalies might not result? Who is to say that some hideous disease might not manifest from the pool of GM crops and creatures? We just don’t know.

One day, when we least expect it, we could find ourselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

I don’t imagine that this zombie apocalypse would have the religious undertones of the Romero films, in which the dead actually rise from their graves and stumble around biting people, initiating a worldwide catastrophe. No doubt, there are those who would prefer the religious angle, as it represents the comeuppance of our kind for our sinful ways, or vengeance from a righteous deity, or something. To that perspective on the story, I recommend the addition of some wizards and unicorns to round out the fairytale.

A human-induced zombie outbreak would probably be more along the lines of the 28 Days Later franchise. In that story, an extremely communicable and dangerous virus turns Britain into an island of vicious, blood-covered, red-eyed monsters that run around destroying and infecting everything.

We can hope that the outbreak will be contained and that humans will go about their lives afterward, but we can’t be sure it will play out that way. Reality isn’t a Hollywood production. Earth has been the stage of many cataclysmic events, and human dominion represents a tiny percent of the planet’s history. We could all be wiped out tomorrow, and in 100  years, there might not be a single creature left that can bear witness to our existence. Nature can be merciless like that.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that our alteration of the natural order of things will be accelerated rather than applied more cautiously. As explained by numerous frankenfood proponents, earth has a lot of hungry mouths to feed, and it is urgent that we use science to find ways to feed them.

Rest assured, those mouths are getting hungrier all the time.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2011 14:19

    If I could choose an apocalypse, definitely the dawn of zombies. Ever read the Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks?

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