Giant Mice from Genetic Engineers, Giant Fungus from Washington State, and More

Scientists breed real-life rodents of unusual size, a fungus covering over two square miles in Washington is found to be a single organism, the National Turkey Federation announces the winners of their recipe contest for teens, and fertilizers from cricket, elephant, and rhino droppings are on the market.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
October/November 1992
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Cricket droppings as organic fertilizer is a surprisingly lucrative market.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/EPANTHA


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Genetic Engineering Creates Giant Mice

Picture a nervous mouse scampering across your kitchen floor. Only this is not a wee creature you see out of the corner of your eye. This guy is two and a half times the size of a regular mouse. Now how are you going to catch it?

According to Dr. Michael W. Fox's book, Superpigs and Wondercorn (Lyons & Burford), researchers have already created mighty mouse recipes. Ohio State researcher J. Mintz created the giant mouse by inserting rabbit growth genes into mouse embryos. Interesting work to be sure, but why?

For one thing, biotechnologists believe livestock species could be engineered to enhance weight gain or growth rates, reproductive performance, disease resistance, and coat characteristics. Genetic engineering could also be directed to develop vaccines and improve crops.

Biotechnologists argue that genetic engineering is "simply an extension for selective breeding; since mutations (spontaneous genetic changes) occur naturally, there is nothing morally wrong with altering animals through genetic engineering." If nature can create giant pigs, why can't we?

With all due respect to the scientific community, MOTHER suggess that this is a multi-dimensional question at best. What right do humans have to control evolution? Is it moral to try to "improve" upon nature? And what right do we have to make "improvements" for ourselves at the expense of the natural environment?

For our part, we could wait forever before seeing 12-foot-long, five-foot-high pigs. Fox says they are within the realm of possibility in the next 10 to 20 years. Or maybe when pigs fly (which could be tomorrow).

Single Fungus Covers Two-and-a-Half Square Miles in Washington State

A two-and-a-half-square-mile fungus roaming Washington State? Sounds like a bad science fiction plot, but it's true. It's not exactly news, though, to Terry Shaw of the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Experiment Station in Fort Collins, CO. He and other foresters have been studying the fungus since the 1970s. What is news is the recent confirmation that the fungus is indeed one whole organism.

Don't be alarmed. The organism is not some huge blob sweeping across the state. But DNA fingerprinting shows that if you compare opposite edges of the fungus, you will find the same genetic material in both sections. It's one entire beasty.

This humongous fungus thrives along tree roots, preys off of the root's nutrients, and—aaaahhh!—sprouts mushrooms in the fall. Armillaria solidipes (formerly Armillaria ostoyae), as this fungus is affectionately known, lives for 500 to 1,000 years. So, if you feel you need to see it, you've got plenty of time.

Winners of National Turkey Federation Recipe Contest Announced

Thanksgiving is just around the bend—along with two monotonous months of turkey leftovers. However, there are those who strive for more creative concoctions, and now there's a forum for youngsters to showcase their recipes.

The National Turkey Federation (bet ya didn't know there was one) came up with the "National Turkey Lovers' Recipe Contest for Teens." Students, age 12 to 18, were asked to come up with original recipes using at least one pound of fresh-cooked turkey meat.

You may be surprised to know that over 540 entries were received. Recipes were judged by a panel of professional home economists, who the picked the top ten turkey treats. And the grand prize went to…Matt McHargue of Kentucky. His "Lemon Turkey Stir-fry With Pasta" won this 15-year-old $2,000. Other prizes went to Sylvia Massenburg for her "Turkey Gyro Sandwich," to Tony Jacobson for his "Tasty Turkey Roll," and to Maribel de los Santos for her "Mexican Turkey Stew:'

Cricket Droppings Available as Fertilizer

It seems all things exotic are destined for greatness. Even dung.

Horticulturist Bill Bricker, of Georgia, maker of "Kricket Krap" fertilizer, is the first to agree. The guy is raking it in.

Right now cricket droppings are being swept off farms where crickets are bred to make fish bait—450,000 defecations to the pound to be precise. Bricker admits "people think that we're a bunch of wee little people with wee little shovels" (dung elves, if you will.) Bricker insists that Kricket Krap is the best organic fertilizer in the United States. And he has 10,000 customers to prove it. If you wish to order, visit the Bricko website.

Also big on the market (bigger than you know) are elephant and rhino droppings. Gardeners like it because it's twice as rich in nitrogen as cattle or horse manure.

According to Pierce Ledbetter, founder of Zoo Doo, a compost company in Memphis, "People just get a real kick out of using rhinoceros doo." Swept from a Memphis zoo, the manure costs $10 for a 15 pound bag, enough to cover 750 square feet of garden. For more information, visit the ZooDoo website.


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