Bacteria as couture and transgenic salmon?

Trash Fashion, opened at Antenna, a science gallery at London’s Science Museum in June 2010 with a piece of bio couture amongst other ‘trashy’ pieces. According to an article by Suzanne Labarre at,

[Suzanne] Lee, a senior research fellow in the school of fashion and textiles at Central Saint Martins in London, makes clothes from the same microbes used to ferment green tea. By throwing yeast, sweetened tea, and bacteria into bathtubs, she produces sheets of cellulose that can be molded into something you might actually want to wear. (Fortunately, the microbes are non-pathogenic.)

Here’s a close up of Lee’s garment,

Detail of Suzanne Lee's bio couture ruffle jacket (image from Ecouterre via fastcodesign)

Labarre’s article offers more detail about Lee’s work and how it fits into the Science Museum’s Trash Fashion show. The Ecouterre item and images can be found here. You can find London’s Science Museum website here but I had a hard time finding anything more than this about Trash Fashion on their site.

Transgenic salmon

If you think of it as new ways of interacting with various life forms, then these two items can fit together although it is a stretch. In an article written by Ariel Schwartz in a rather provocative style for Fast Company, Schwartz introduces his transgenic salmon by referencing genetically modified food and, in case we missed the point, goes on to call these salmon ‘frankenfish’,

Do genetically modified fruits and vegetables make you uneasy? …

The transgenic salmon is a mash-up of Atlantic salmon, a growth hormone gene from the chinook salmon, and an “on-switch” gene from the ocean pout that triggers the fish to eat year round, according to The Olympian. AquaBounty doesn’t plan to sell the actual salmon. Instead, the company will sell fish eggs to farmers.

Despite its initial frankenfish creepiness, AquaBounty’s salmon has a number of advantages.

Apparently, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is close to giving its approval to a ‘salmon’ which grows twice as quickly as the ones in the wild. That’s a big advantage given the current issues with faltering salmon stocks on the west coast. From the Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s page on Fisheries Management and Wild Salmon Policy,

There is no question that fisheries management presents complex biological, economic, and political challenges. The status of salmon throughout much of BC and the US Pacific Northwest substantiates this difficulty.

In the lower continental US, salmon have disappeared from 40% of their historic spawning range and commercial fisheries proceed only as exceptions. In British Columbia, commercial catches of salmon between 1995-2005 were the lowest on record and the number of stocks contributing to this catch has declined, shifting over the decades from many diverse runs to fewer large runs.

In 2008, Raincoast published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences on the status of salmon on BC’s central and north coast. Our findings show that since 1950, salmon runs have repeatedly failed to meet their DFO escapement targets – meaning that not enough fish are returning to spawn. This resulted in a diminished status given to all species in nearly every decade. Only 4% of monitored streams consistently met their escapement targets (by decade) since 1950.

Species currently in the worst shape are chinook, chum and sockeye, which were depressed or very depressed in more than 70% of runs (2000-2005; 85%, 72% and 73% respectively). While specific to the north and central coast, this is likely true coast wide.

After the collapse of Canada’s east coast cod fishery, cynics noted that the policies which led to that collapse were being followed on the west coast. In any event, adjustments of some kind will have to be made whether that means going without fish or eating transgenic fish or some other alternative.

ETA Sept 21, 2010: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is holding a hearing about transgenic salmon. Christopher Hickey (at offers a roundup of comments and opinions.

3 thoughts on “Bacteria as couture and transgenic salmon?

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