Would you grow your own shoes from 'genetically manipulated stingrays'?
UPDATE: Friday, June 1at 9:15 a.m. ET.: The collective knowledge of the CBC Community never ceases to amaze us. We have even more evidence that this might be a hoax.
Community member auricomindustries says, "For those of you thinking 'this is a hoax', congrats, your BS detectors are working. No transgenic stingray has, to date, been described in any scientific literature. I work on transgenic zebrafish, where pattern genetics are relatively well understood, and we don't have anything like this level of control over pattern or colour. Either this company has done about a billion dollars of research in stingray genetics without anyone noticing and achieved a level of proficiency beyond that of the best academic scientists anywhere, or this is a fairly clever viral marketing tool (you'll notice you can't actually buy the shoes, they just want you to submit designs on their website)."
ORIGINALLY POSTED: May 31 at 10:00 p.m. ET: A new footwear company is making waves over its promise to mass-produce genetically modified sea creatures in the name of fashion.
For approximately $1,800, Rayfish claims that consumers will be able to select their own unique pattern to be grown on a live stingray. When the creature is large enough to be harvested, it becomes a pair of Rayfish sneakers.
According to their website, scientists at Rayfish's acquaculture facility in Thailand use a process called bio-customization to produce these shoes.
Customers mix and match various patterns of stingrays, then workers combine DNA strands to match the design of their choice.
"Nature has already done the design work for us," the website reads. "All we have to do is identify the genes responsible for color and pattern, and implant the synthetic 'supergene' cluster into fetal rays before they are born. As the ray grows and matures, it expresses the predetermined patterns on its skin"
Others are skeptical about the technological process, questioning whether or not this might all be a hoax.
"One suspects they are playing with genetics, if they are doing anything at all, and claiming an understanding they don't possess," said David Edwards, a professor of Bioengineering at Harvard University to the Daily Mail. "'The ethics of this, not to say the legality, are other issues at least disturbing."
Stingray leather, also known as shagreen, has been in use for centuries, but never before have Stingrays been genetically manipulated to be harvested for cosmetic purposes.
"The era of mass production is over. We've entered the era of mass customization - which means that end users personalize their products before they're made," said company founder Raymond Ong in this video found on YouTube. "I believe we are moving from mass customized products, to biocustomized projects."
While the company bills their service as "harnessing the beauty of nature," many are crying foul over what Rayfish appears to be doing.
What's your take? Is personalized stingray leather cool or cruel? Would you wear Rayfish shoes? Are there any biologists in our community who can tell us if this is even possible?
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