Should we meet Xenopus again in iGEM ?

image not found            image not found

Our team introduced Xenopus tropicalis as a new model organism in the iGEM contest. We believe it is an interesting collaborator for synthetic biology, as it as quite well known and already used in biotechnologies. Working with Xenopus tropicalis larvae constitutes a progress in animal experimentation as long as we take care not to let the larvae turns into its adult form. Without being developed enough to feel pain (as far we know until now), the larvae is an interesting alternative to the use of more sensible beings. However some of us believe that animals (were they larvae or grown up) shouldn't be involved into animal experimentation dedicated to our comfort (for examples, cosmetics). Furthermore the animal should be recognized as a being and not reduced as a tool. This means keeping appropriate languages and practices and thus maybe avoiding the dangers of the metaphor. Maybe the language thing still seem quite a neutral for some of you. However keeping a simple vocabulary doesn't seem an objective too demanding.

As we said in intro, this article doesn’t reflect the opinions of the whole team, however those questions were debated and no consensus were fully accepted. His tone might be a bit provocative and in rupture with the enthusiasm characteristic of iGEM projects. However The dividing topic of the term "chassis" was represented by our T-Shirts: some of us believed that the term chassis should be maintain, as a mark of the identity of synthetic biology and it’s engineering methodology. Others believe that it should not be kept, for the various reasons said through this investigation: the term chassis does not seem epistemologically or ethically relevant. The evolution of technology may be going too fast regarding the human capacity to use it wisely. We think we live in excessive societies, blindly consuming natural goods and hardly mastering all the technology existing around us. In those conditions, the race to innovation and novelty is likely to bring new excesses creating new problems. Developing business dealing with the consequences of our excesses can’t be a sustainable solution... This human practice had for ambition to challenge the usual conception of beings in synthetic biology through the case of the frog Xenopus tropicalis. It was an occasion to deal with theories that rarely enters in the laboratory because they are mostly upheld by opponents to synthetic biology or revolutionary technoscience (the development of synthetic biology is quite similar in communication as the one of nanoscience, except for one remarkable thing: synthetic biology opened its doors to embedded humanities).

Should we meet again Xenopus tropicalis in the iGEM contest? The question is open, most of the team believe that it should be a good thing for synthetic biology to develop better tools for researches on vertebrates, two of us are more baffled... iGEM seems too much about "living machines", chassis, tools and living factories, to be a welcoming place to non-human animals as beings to be attentive to... but who knows, we might be wrong?