Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead - Robert Brockway (2010)

BIOTECH THREATS

Chapter 16. BIOTECH CONTAGION

AH, BUT NOW COMES the downside: The contagion period. For nearly every experiment with beneficial discoveries, there’s one with horrific, lethal mistakes. These advances aren’t coming out of thin air; they’re developed in lab animals—mice, for the most part. The beneficial drugs are tested, tweaked, and refined in lab animals, and then, if approved, eventually synthesized for humans. Supposedly, this method ensures that there’s no danger of something unintended crossing over to us from the labs, because the mice and other animals used for experiments are somewhat genetically isolated from us. Even if we do accidentally unleash a plague in the pursuit of the betterment of man, it’ll just wipe out some lab rats with nary a vegan to even shed a tear. But for any failed experiments to actually pose any danger to humanity there would have to be more common genetic markers between the lab animals used in these early testing stages and the common man. Like, say, if mice could shoot human ejaculate or something equally horrifying.

Oh wait, they already do exactly that. Surprise! Science hates you.

If Science Doesn’t Hate You, Explain:

·        Styrofoam

·        The atom bomb

·        Roughly 70 percent of this book

This, shall we say, sticky situation (and we probably shouldn’t) all started with researchers at the universities of Pennsylvania and California, who initially just managed to provoke mice into growing viable monkey sperm. While “provoking mice into growing monkey sperm” brings to mind some rather disturbing images of furious primates and sexually antagonized mice, it was all pretty innocent. Perhaps they just wanted to give the internet even morebizarre pornography, or perhaps they were just out to instill some confusing urges in horny rodents for the sake of comedy, but most likely the scientists were hoping to help endangered species by synthesizing sperm on a large scale. That’s what their proposal states is the ultimate goal, anyway, and why lie about something that embarrassing? If it wasn’t true, a more flattering lie than “Professional Rat Molester” should have been easy to come by. So while the researchers in Pennsylvania may have started all of this, it was Canadian researchers hot on their tails (which takes on a rather gross subtext in this instance) who took the concept even further, instilling the ability to produce human proteins in mouse sperm. The Canadian mice now ejaculate human growth hormone—a fact that cannot be doing the tourism industry any favors.

Great Suggestions for New Canadian Mottos

·        “Come to Canada, where politeness is a prerequisite!”

·        “Visit Canada, we have the Internet now!”

·        “Vacation in Canada, our mice cum like people!”

To create this monstrous hybrid of mad science and pornography, the researchers first started by targeting a DNA sequence present only in male sex glands. Once the gene responsible for sperm production was identified, they just spliced in a sequence responsible for human growth hormone … and that was it! Apparently nature’s pretty flexible about this shit. You want mice to come like people?

No problem, says nature!

She’s in a giving mood this millennium. What else you want? Some crocodiles with sonar, maybe a feathered dog, hey—how about some gorillas with scales? Genetic splicing is apparently limited only by your imagination, funding, and willingness to fight off snake apes. The Canadian researchers at least had good reason for their spunk meddling; their process has some impressive potential for the pharmaceutical industry. Insulin is already being “farmed” in animals for human use, but differences in chemical composition results in varying degrees of effectiveness, depending on the animal. By altering these mice to produce genetically identical human insulin in their sperm, the Canadian scientists expect to have a new, completely safe, and entirely effective method for producing high-quality medicine on demand.

Taking a money shot in the veins from Mickey once in a while is a small price to pay for that kind of progress.

But the researchers soon realized that tiny mice have tiny mouse orgasms—not producing a lot of the desired substance—and instead moved on to re-create their experiment in larger animals, eventually settling on boars and cattle, which can produce more than 300 ml of semen up to three times a week on average. Though these HGH experiments are being performed only with semen for the time being (because if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing grossly), eventually the hope is to encode the modified gene sequence so the hormone is produced in more amenable substances like cow’s or goat’s milk …

Or pig urine!

No kidding. That is a specific goal. The researchers involved in these experiments hoped to farm something slightly less horrific than mutant mouse semen (and really, who could blame them?) and so began looking toward replicating the results in other fluids. And either some guy just totally missed the point of this exercise, or else had some really unsettling sexual priorities:

Scientist 1:

Does it have to be rat jizz? I mean, sure we’re extracting the pure chemical from the substance, and using the end product isn’t like letting a mouse pop one off into your veins, but it’s still pretty weird. I’m not sure how people will feel about this.

Scientist 2:

Well, what if we splice it into a more socially acceptable fluid?

Scientist 1:

Yeah, yeah! Like blood or, hell, even milk!

Scientist 2:

Or pig piss!

Scientist 1:

Yeah, I … wait, what?

Scientist 2:

Think about it! You could drink all the pig piss you wanted, and it would even be good for you!

Scientist 1:

I hate everything about working with you.

  The only potential downside to using something like milk would be the waiting period: Not only would you have to wait until the genetically modified animals reach sexual maturity to begin farming, but you’d have to wait for them to lactate, too. Honestly, though, we as consumers already have to wait that long for normal dairy products, I think we can wait a few extra weeks to avoid mainlining mouse man-batter.

Another key concern of genetic experimentation in general is that of containment viability. Modified genes tend to carry over naturally, after all, and it takes only one pair of star-crossed cow lovers and a broken section of fence to introduce the traits to other cattle. Cattle that have other uses. Cattle that produce milk.

Cattle that you eat.

Methods of Ensuring Your Meat Is Safe (In Order of Difficulty)

·        Burn everything to ash.

·        Consume only products you grow yourself.

·        Stop eating meat (this includes bacon).

If this does happen, you would not only have a nearly untraceable dose of pharmaceutical-grade drugs in the food supply, like that aforementioned insulin, but that would also further narrow the gap between those previously isolated laboratory animals and humans. Perhaps this interbreeding leads to medicinally fortified foodstuffs, or perhaps it leads to a Grilled Ham and Insulin sandwich that, while undoubtedly delicious, is unfortunately always served with a heaping side of hypoglycaemic coma. That example is just to illustrate a point, though; the real problem is much larger.

While consuming genetically modified animals won’t alter our own genetic code, the fact that our livestock is now one step closer to humanity opens a gateway to a multitude of diseases and mutations that can cross over between species, not to mention some potential for unforeseen changes to the source animal. So at first you just have lab mice ejaculating human protein, but what if that starts to carry over in reproduction? If just one animal gets out, natural selection would start to take hold. The altered gene might become hereditary, and then we all get to find out exactly what effects a human gene in the mouse population can have. What’s your wager? Is the end result the walking incarnation of hugs, like a real-life Mickey Mouse, or something more akin to the drugged-out psychoses of the Rats of NIMH? Is human growth hormone too obscure a worry to illustrate this danger? Well, try this horror hat on for size and tells me how it fits:

Most Popular Mouse Phrases (If Mice Could Speak)

·        Foodfoodfoodfood.

·        I like climbing!

·        I poop where I stand!

German scientists have successfully modified a batch of mice with a human gene for speech. Now, I know what you’re thinking:

“What? Fuck that.”

But it’s true! In an effort to better understand the evolution of human language, they’ve spliced a gene called FOXP2 into some lab mice. Humans with a low FOXP2 count can suffer from anything from speech disorders to cognitive inhibition, and though a relative of this gene is present in all sorts of animals, the strain in humans is entirely unique to our species.

Well, it used to be, anyway.

What did we talk about earlier in this chapter? Remember how amenable nature seems to be to changes in genetic structure? If you want talking mice, nature is probably quite happy to oblige.

There’s actually evidence of change happening already: The enhanced German mice showed drastically increased nerve activity in the language center of their brains, for one. They can’t speak or anything yet—this shit is crazy, not retarded—and even if the language centers were amplified to human levels, that doesn’t mean anything like human speech would develop. But it does mean that they’re now better at communicating with one another. That’s a clear biological improvement. In terms of evolution, that means it’s likely to favor a gene and pass it on to future generations. That’s not idle speculation, either; the scientists in charge of this experiment freely admit that, though this research was initiated just to study the evolution of human speech, it could well give these mice a push down that same evolutionary path.

If there’s one thing we don’t want communicating and coordinating with one another, it’s rodents. Disease-spreading creatures that have already, at least once in history, participated in the near total destruction of the human race, thanks to their role in spreading the Black Death. And that was without boosted language skills and human sperm! Now they can not only jizz disease on your face, but ask you who your daddy is while doing it.

Isn’t progress wonderful?