I don’t know whether my dog is a GMO wolf or a GMO dog but I hereby found an Academy for GMO k9s. If you think about it, every organism is genetically modified by its environment. Nature hedges her bets by throwing in some oddities on occasion. If they don’t work out, they don’t last. If they offer an advantage, they flourish, at least until the environment changes.
But when people use the acronym “GMO” what they mean is genetically influenced by man. I’ve never understood why humans are kept separate from nature, as if our choices are somehow above it all. So when people choose which other animals to care for, the genetic modifications are labeled artificial, as opposed to natural.
Lately, the term GMO has been linked to science experiments. I’ve heard that tomatoes were injected with DNA from fish!! Turns out, that never happened. But if it did, I might be afraid to eat that tomato. Not because of any rational information but because it’s creepy.
So at what point do we call our dogs GMOs? Well, scientists are still wavering about whether dogs are modified wolves or whether wolves and dogs shared an ancestor. It’s also still up for grabs how much influence on the dog to wolf relationship humans played, if any. Of course, we were instrumental in providing garbage and shelter that dogs used and wolves avoided but other than that no one agrees on whether it was nature or nurture.
It’s a little more obvious that humans played a role in genetically modifying the dog once there was a dog. The 300 or so recognizable families of dogs we call purebred, were selected by humans for reproduction because of their behavior and their appearance. Even if you have a mixed breed, your dog can be significantly modified from the proto dog if he comes from first or second generation GMO dogs. DNA tests can tell you just how much.
In any case, my mixed farm feist was selected for his size, interest in rodents and even his color. But I don’t find that creepy. Not even a little bit. His modifications have worked out quite nicely for me and for him. He’s great with kids, portable, generally compliant and super cute. But it’s not like he was planned. The farmer who dropped off his mother at the shelter delivered over 20 dogs within 4 years. Don’t worry, they’ve all been neutered with the help of low cost clinics that support the shelter mission.
But what about Lance, the Borzoi? He’s not only selected for his work ethic, elegance and color but also for a history of wolf and rabbit hunting with a human partner. He’s inherited some skills. Does that make people creepy for choosing when and to whom his mother would mate in order to influence his future? That’s a matter of opinion.
Planning puppies for qualified homes is instrumental to ensuring that all dogs get and keep their homes. As you all know by now, I work in an animal shelter and spend each day solving the problems that lost & found animals face. Even so, the idea that GMO dogs are somehow causing a problem for more randomly developed GMO wolves, has taken a fear of science, a little too far.
So if you have an heirloom or GMO dog, what can you do to help? Train your dog. Keep your dog. Don’t let your dog have puppies you don’t want. If you can all keep your dogs, I’ll have to change careers. And that will be great as long as I can find something that suits my current modifications.