In Science First, we often share articles discussing encouraging alternatives to the use of animals in science. But unfortunately, this week, we would like to inform you of a disturbing new “teaching kit” that will be available next month—one that allows anyone to make their own genetically-modified frogs.
A company called The Odin will be selling a do-it-yourself kit that will allow the general public to experiment on live frogs in their homes. Starting this October, for $499, you will be able to purchase frogs—and DNA to modify them—in addition to other materials including cages and food, which come with the “Frog Genetic Engineering Kit.”
Despite the fact that it has been known for decades that insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) influences the growth of organisms, the general public will have the chance to inject live frogs with DNA for this gene and see this effect for themselves.
According to the company’s website, those who purchase the kit will be advised to anesthetize frogs in a benzocaine solution “until they [become] unresponsive” and inject them with either the IGF-1 DNA or a control solution lacking the DNA weekly for four weeks. The growth of the animals can then be monitored over time to see what effect the IGF-1 gene has on animal growth.
According to the company’s website, “The purpose of this kit is to teach people modern science and genetic engineering,”—and, even more of a stretch—”but also to provide people with the tools required” for “gene therapy and life-saving treatments.” While the company is marketing this kit as a way to learn about genetic modification and gene therapy, it is sending a very troubling message to the general public.
Selling living organisms to the general public for the sole purpose of performing research on them encourages people to experiment on animals and to think of animals as just research tools—not as intelligent, complex creatures that deserve to live their lives as nature intended. We believe that all of us could stand to learn more about the importance of treating animals humanely in science—not the opposite.
We find it particularly worrisome that individuals with no training in animal welfare will be able to conduct research on living animals. Purchasers of the kit will just have to take a nine-question safety quiz regarding animal handling, which does not provide adequate laboratory animal training information.
The availability of this “product” also highlights deficiencies in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which does not cover frogs, in addition to many other animals. As we do not support experimentation on animals in general, NAVS is working to address some of these deficiencies by advocating for expanded protections under the AWA.
Please TAKE ACTION and inform The Odin that it is unethical to needlessly exploit members of the animal kingdom and remind them that the public can easily learn about genetic engineering without harming innocent animals. The company can be reached by phone at (707) 879-8635 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.