Originally published in All About Eve, Saturday 14 April, 2001, London.

in the news

Bunnies that glow

Jennifer Nelson

Alba, a white bunny featuring in the Out There section of this month's eve, may look harmless – but turn out the lights and you'll notice that she glows, because of the green fluorescent protein that was injected into her genes.

More controversial still is that fact that she's the brainchild of Eduardo Kac – not a scientist pioneering gene procedures, but an artist hoping to trigger 'a larger social dialogue' on genetic engineering.

Find out more, discuss the issues and visit the websites where you can make a difference with eve debate.

What gives Eduardo the right to tamper with an animal's genes?
Many animal rights supporters believe there is no justification for experimenting on animals. But for those who do, the standard justification is that 'it's for the advancement of science'.

Gene manipulation may hold the key to treatment for hundreds of genetic disorders. Even pharmaceutical and food companies pioneering genetic modification techniques do so in their respective bids to improve our quality of life – whether it's by enhancing agricultural methods or developing new medicines.

Eduardo Kac did not manipulate Alba's genes for the advancement of science – so should he have done it?

Should scientists have sole rights on gene manipulation technology?
'Biotechnology right now is a language only a few people speak,' says Kac, whose mission is to bring this ‘language’ to a wider audience. He explains: 'What is important is the completely integrated process of creating the bunny, bringing her to society at large, and providing her with a loving, caring and nurturing environment.'

By placing genetic engineering in a social context, Kac sees his aims as not only distinct from those of scientists, but also different to those of traditional artists. 'Transgenic art,' says Kac, 'is not about the crafting of genetic objets d'art.' Doesn't Kac have as much right to GM technology as the scientists?

Links to information
ekac.org Eduardo Kac's website
Picturing DNA Geneart.org interview with Eduardo Kac
But is it art? New Scientist article – interview between Gretel Schueller and Eduardo Kac
Genethics News Archive of news, analysis and features put together by conscientious geneticist (last updated 1998)
Beginner's guide to gene patents Guardian Unlimited explains gene patents, with a link to the latest genetic stories
Andi the GFP monkey Alba's not the only one going green – as this Guardian report relates
Biotechnology organisations DTI contact list of organisations and committees working in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors

Where to go to make a difference
genewatch.org Subscribe to support their work
Human Genetics Alert Join to keep up with the issues
Corporate Watch Donate to support their work
Alba guestbook Show your support for Alba's release from the science lab (which refuses to release her to Kac)

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