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The promises of genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms have been touted for decades. Tinkering with DNA could yield new drugs to cure terrible diseases and other medical miracles for the human race, like limbs that regenerate. On the way down that road, however, there have been some wild, experimental examples of new creatures created in labs. Species hatched by innovation bring with them issues of ethics, environmental consequences and the good, old-fashioned cringe factor. For example, a goldfish that glows in the dark.
Check it out. A fluorescent zebrafish visible even during Earth Hour. Kinda. The GloFish appears to glow in the dark and comes in dazzling colors like Starfire Red, Electric Green, and Sunburst Orange.
These fish absorb light and then re-emit it, which makes them look like they're glowing, especially under a black light. The GloFish was developed by scientists who were trying to create a fluorescent fish that would respond to polluted water, according to glofish.com.
The fish's debut in pet stores was met with a ban in California and concerns in Michigan that the fish could contaminate native stocks if released to the wild, Greenpeace notes. They are only available for purchase in the U.S.
2. See-Through Goldfish
Also called the "ryunkin" goldfish, this translucent swimmer was created by researchers at Mie and Nagoya universities in Japan. The see-through goldfish sports see-through skin that reveals a beating heart, brain and other internal organs. The idea was to eliminate the need for dissecting fish for lab experiments, a practice opposed by animal rights groups, as noted in a previous TreeHugger post.
What do the groups think about this mutant as a replacement for the razor, or computer simulations, we wonder? The researchers also hope to sell the fish to the public some day, perhaps for daddy-daughter fish anatomy lessons.
Japan also is home to the see-through frog, developed by the Institute for Amphibian Biology of Hiroshima University, with plans for public sales.
3. Sterile Pink Bollworm
These worms are already nightmarish when it comes to destroying cotton crops. The United States Department of Agriculture has done field testing of a genetically engineered version of the bollworm designed to help control populations of the pest. That's sparked concern from groups like The Center for Food Safety, who wonder what's coming next. On the other hand, how does the use of a GE worm to control cotton losses square up with using pesticides or GE crops made by Monsanto?
A non-mutant pink bollworm is shown here. The GE worms are sterilized by radiation and imprinted with a florescent marker for easy tracking, according to Oxitec, the worm's developer. Sterile insects help reduce populations of the worms, since sterile males compete with wild males for females.
4. Sudden-Death Mosquito
Oxitec, the same British biotech company involved with the GE bollworm, has created mosquitoes that are programmed for sudden, early death. The idea is to release quick-dying males to mate with wild females, passing on lethal genes that kill the young before they can reproduce, according to Wired News. The short-lived bugs could help control the spread of dengue fever and other diseases.
Imagine the opposite: A super mosquito designed to live longer. Hollywood script writers, take notice.
The Sudden Death mosquito is not without its critics:
"Releasing millions of genetically modified terminator mosquitoes into wild ecosystems amounts to a reckless and uncontrolled experiment with a risky technology," Jim Thomas, of the ETC Group, a technology watchdog, told Wired.