Fluorescent fish, cloned cats, dolphins with prosthetic tails — these are just a few of the many oddball creatures you’ll read about inFrankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, a new book by science journalist Emily Anthes.
In it, Emily describes her tour through unconventional animal facilities across the country, from a barn of transgenic goats in California to a lab that’s cloning endangered species in a forest outside of New Orleans. Emily somehow manages to tell a fun story without glossing over complex scientific concepts and thorny ethical issues. The book comes out officially on March 12, but you can pre-order a copy now.
Emily and I worked together at SEED Magazine (back when there was aSEED Magazine…), and we both love Brooklyn and dogs. I learned a lot from her book, and she kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about its content and her writing experience.
VH: I want to start with the AquAdvantage salmon, the genetically modified fish that grow super fast. When you wrote about them in the book, the FDA was still — after 17 years! — making up its mind about whether it would allow the fish to be sold as food. Finally, at the end of December, the agency issued a draft document declaring AquAdvantage safe, and we’re now nearing the end of the 60-day public comment period.
So, if the approval happens, what would it mean for the U.S. biotech industry? Why is this fish such a big deal?
EA: The short answer is that this fish is much more than just a fish — it’s a test case. If the fish are approved, they’ll be the first transgenic animals approved as consumer products in the U.S. (The FDA has approved a pharmaceutical that is extracted from the milk of genetically modified goats, but the AquAdvantage salmon would be the first whole GE animals cleared for human consumption.)
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