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The GloFish “Controversy”


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There is a great amount of debate in the fish-keeping world about the ethics of genetic engineering, and GloFish are usually at the center of this.

I recently watched a pretty good video on not only the ethical questions involved, but also the surprising history of how and why they came to be.

Here’s a link to the video, definitely worth a watch…

 

 

Edited by tonyjuliano
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We are probably not too far away from new era in changing the genes in pets and pet fish that is different from the old school type of GMO that you see in GloFish. Moving genes between organisms using restriction enzymes, or other older technologies is giving way to the more modern CRISPR technology to make edits to the genome.

I can mail order synthetic single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) for $95 and get it in less than a week. Someone like our own @Brandy or even a clever biology student could knock in or knock out whatever gene they thought might be interesting. It reminds me of the computer revolution from the 1970s when computers went from being expensive and rare to something a hobbyist could build from a kit.

And counter-intuitively since the definition of a genetically modified organism includes the insertion of foreign DNA. and since CRISPR allows for precise genetic deletions or replacements, without inserting any foreign DNA, the end product is not a genetically modified organism, or GMO. Maybe the new fish should be called a genetically edited organism, but it won't be GMO if foreign genes aren't inserted.

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On 6/23/2021 at 3:02 PM, NanoNano said:

I've seen multiple posts on other sites with caretakers reporting that their Glofish Bettas have vision problems or total blindness.  Supposition is that the pigmentation manipulation seems to extends into the eye structures of certain Bettas as well.

I hope that’s not true but, unfortunately, incidents such as this are not limited to GloFish varieties, there many examples of irresponsible breeding practices in the production of any “trade” organism.  

A multitude of similar problems exist in “non-GloFish” Betta varieties, to say nothing of the Goldfish population (which that video briefly touches on).

Outside of the aquarium hobby, many canine breeds exhibit serious health effects due to irresponsible breeding.  The hip displacia issues that plague almost all of the German Shepherd population is a good example, but there are many others.

But, in my mind, the GloFish issue is different.  If you have exclusive patent protection, and what you are producing is subject to chronic health issues of any kind, there should be severe penalties involved.

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On 6/23/2021 at 4:12 PM, Daniel said:

We are probably not too far away from new era in changing the genes in pets and pet fish that is different from the old school type of GMO that you see in GloFish. Moving genes between organisms using restriction enzymes, or other older technologies is giving way to the more modern CRISPR technology to make edits to the genome.

I can mail order synthetic single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) for $95 and get it in less than a week. Someone like our own @Brandy or even a clever biology student could knock in or knock out whatever gene they thought might be interesting. It reminds me of the computer revolution from the 1970s when computers went from being expensive and rare to something a hobbyist could build from a kit.

And counter-intuitively since the definition of a genetically modified organism includes the insertion of foreign DNA. and since CRISPR allows for precise genetic deletions or replacements, without inserting any foreign DNA, the end product is not a genetically modified organism, or GMO. Maybe the new fish should be called a genetically edited organism, but it won't be GMO if foreign genes aren't inserted.

Then the definition should be updated!....modification by adding foreign or eliminating of dna is MODIFIED.  Unmodified...is leaving it the hell alone like nature intended it.  Unfortunately Ethics....the stuff that makes people ask IF they should do something rather than CAN we do something is almost extinct.   

Sorry no disrespect is intended.

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On 6/23/2021 at 4:19 PM, tonyjuliano said:

I hope that’s not true but, unfortunately, incidents such as this are not limited to GloFish varieties, there many examples of irresponsible breeding practices in the production of any “trade” organism. 

And if eventually hobbyists are able to make non-GMO type edits, then there may not be patent issues. And if the edits improve fitness, say resistance to parasites then the ethical landscape changes.

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On 6/23/2021 at 4:25 PM, Daniel said:

And if eventually hobbyists are able to make non-GMO type edits, then there may not be patent issues. And if the edits improve fitness, say resistance to parasites then the ethical landscape changes.

And this pretty much sums up the positive & negative potentials in all of genetic engineering.

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On 6/23/2021 at 1:30 PM, HH Morant said:

How about altering the DNA of ich, velvet,  hexamita, flukes, anchor worms, and tapeworms. Is somebody working on that?

Actually, colleagues of mine are currently working to modify the genes of mosquitos for malaria resistance, malaria itself, giardia, and other human parasites, and also certian agriculturally critical pathogens and parasites, to knock out their lifecycle or decrease their fitness in some way. Those advances could potentially reach the hobby eventually via fish farming. I have not looked into it, but a search of PubMed articles will probably yeild fascinating reading for some.

Also, I have worked with many (and even made a few myself) model organisms (Drosophila, C. elegans, Mice, etc) which are genetically altered to express fluorescent proteins in a specific cell or under specific condidtions, this can be a phenomenal tool for studying the very minute or obscure or otherwise rare biological processes. 

Like a gun or a hammer or an airplane this is a tool like any other, and neither intrinsically good or evil.

 

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On 6/23/2021 at 5:37 PM, Brandy said:

Like a gun or a hammer or an airplane this is a tool like any other, and neither intrinsically good or evil.

Yes...I agree....if its usage was left up to scientists looking to gain knowledge and help people ok....but in the hands of the greedy corporations who are just looking for ways to make money without the ethics...then your putting the gun in Charles Mansons hands!

Knowledge is not dangerous...its how its used that is!

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On 6/23/2021 at 5:37 PM, Brandy said:

Like a gun or a hammer or an airplane this is a tool like any other, and neither intrinsically good or evil.

One of my next neighbors working on using RNA interference to suppress Colorado potato beetles. This beetle causes much damage to food crops worldwide.

And as @Brandy indicates, using these new tools to understand how biological processes work might be where the real long term value is.

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If you alter the genetics of a virus to make it nonlethal your helping people.  If you alter the genetics of a living creature just so you can make them appealing so people will buy them. That is unethical and purely done for greed!  

People helping people I am for and support.  People doing unethical crap just to get rich well Ill let you guess what I want to do with those people!

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Ahhh, but are GloFish really that appealing? 😏

No I get you @ARMYVET. Animal abuse does not have to involve hitting something.

Arguably research and agriculture are "helping people" but they have limits and are heavily regulated by AALAC, IACUCs, the FDA, etc, and I will be the first to admit that is still not always enough. The thing that always concerns me is the potential for off-target effects. Ironically, with all my extensive training I have many more hoops to jump through to use recombinant DNA than I suspect Daniel's neighbor has--unless Daniel just happens to live next to a trained scientist working for a regulated institiution as I am. 

 

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On 6/23/2021 at 5:58 PM, Daniel said:

One of my next neighbors working on using RNA interference to suppress Colorado potato beetles. This beetle causes much damage to food crops worldwide.

And as @Brandy indicates, using these new tools to understand how biological processes work might be where the real long term value is.

I can see the good side of that absolutely...but what if by eradicating that beetle causes the extinction of something else like some bird that eats it.  That would be bad.  Unless that bird is eating my Koi....then all bets are off!! 

 

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i get more concerned about genetically modified food, both plants and animals. unless you grew it yourself, most of your food has been modified to grow faster, and be more appealing( compare that turkey you eat at thanksgiving with its wild cousin, almost not the same animal).  as for ornamental type fish, id prefer they didnt modify them, and wouldnt buy one myself.

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On 6/23/2021 at 4:30 PM, tonyjuliano said:

“Nature”, or some unknown force behind it, is the greatest “modifier”.  Nature, and time, leave nothing unchanged.

I thought about this comment for a while before posting a response....I felt it really needed some serious thinking behind it.  SO my response is....When has Nature or the "Unknown force" modified anything for the worse unless stimulated in some way by man?

Evolution which is what I think you were getting at has always made changes for adaptations for the betterment to the best of my knowledge.  I am not saying its an absolute but I cannot think of any changes that were made that hurt a species unlike what man has accomplished.

Thank you for making me really think about that one😉

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On 6/23/2021 at 6:29 PM, ARMYVET said:

Evolution which is what I think you were getting at has always made changes for adaptations for the betterment to the best of my knowledge. 

Not always true.  The concept of “natural selection” (evolution) means that some people organisms were not “selected”.

Those not “selected” became extinct.

In my mind, nature is neither benevolent nor destructive.  I think that that is the exclusive domain of the human species.

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