We live in very strange times. Nothing is what it seems and “discoveries” once thought impossible are now frighteningly real. World scientists come together to prove global warming exists, but the information is dismissed as fake news. Face transplants have become all the rage. And now chickens are being genetically modified to lay cancer-fighting eggs.
The first two make my head hurt, but I’m not at all sure how I feel about that last one. On the one hand, any breakthrough in the battle against the Cellular Eat Beast is promising. On the other, what does the future hold for the animals that have been mutated in this ongoing struggle? Are we setting ourselves up for yet another horror show of Wellsian proportions? Except this time, it isn’t happening on some secluded island by a mad physiologist, but on the international science stage by actual, government funded egg heads!
Scientists have for years been custom designing sheep, cows, rabbits, even plants to be “biofactories,” where changes are made at a cellular level to produce a desired chemical or protein believed to be beneficial to mankind. It’s said to be far cheaper than traditional laboratory means and thus the results are more accessible, not only to researchers, but to future consumers. It also gives rise to controversial mega-corporations like the now-defunct Monsanto, which introduced herbicide-resistant vegetables and the acronym GMO (genetically modified organism) into the world lexicon.
Monsato may not exist any more, having been “acquired” and absorbed into the Bayer pharmaceutical company in 2018, but their influences remain. Just as the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland – the brain trust responsible for the GM chickens mentioned above – is the place where Dolly the sheep was cloned two decades ago. Clearly they learned nothing from the Eugenics War that produced Khan Noonien Singh.
No more than they learned from our introduction to Soylent Green in 1973. Apparently showing what could happen when a shadowy organization uses questionable means to feed a growing world population wasn’t enough to scare scientists away from the concept. Today Soylent is available as an “affordable, sustainable and satisfying” GMO product, geared toward “finding solutions to our food access concerns.” Recidivism at its most insidious. Seriously, look it up.
If I have learned anything from the great prognosticators of the last century – Asimov, Bradbury, Clark, Dick, Ellison, and the rest of the alphabet – the road to hell is often paved with disregarded cautionary tales. In the very human pursuit of knowledge and prestige, what madness are we as a species unleashing? Meddling with nature is the kind of science that created some of the more spectacular mutant monstrosities of the 20th century. Has history taught us nothing?
Yes, these are very strange times. Some might even say fantastical. It’s almost as if the schematics of the world we live in have been rewritten by a cartoon character, or one of the denizens of Wonderland. I’m not sure what we can do about that, but I can tell you the next time I’m snacking on radioactive deviled eggs, while flipping through a face catalog during a freak summer blizzard, I’ll be giving it a lot of thought. Because I just know that somewhere there’s a horny chicken lady laying plans for human conquest.