Banned GloFish

The new GloFish, genetically engineered to glow in the dark, have been banned in the state of California. Chris Mooney tells us why there is no good reason for this decision. One state official commented:

“For me it’s a question of values, it’s not a question of science,” said commissioner Sam Schuchat. “I think selling genetically modified fish as pets is wrong.”

This argument is weak, and presumably could be used to ban dogs and cats — both the products of selective breeding — as well. The GloFish nonetheless have a deeper symbolic value, and are likely to go down in history as a turning point of sorts. Once we let the market create and promote commercialized products in this arena, it is hard to imagine tough regulations working in the long run. Consumers will demand the products, experimentation will be rampant, and how will you enforce the laws? Will California check the cars entering from Nevada for contraband GloFish? If that is the case, GloFish “coyotes” will cross with their booty only in the day, not the night, a reversal of the classic smugglers’ methods.

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