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Wildcard: Genetically Modified Pets [Social Technologies]

Social ) Technologies
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 815
Washington, DC 20036
Main office: +1 202 223 2801 www.socialtechnologies.com
Email: Hope Katz Gibbs

WILDCARD: GENETICALLY MODIFIED PETS: From petri dish to pet store

Washington, DC, November 26, 2007 — Through advances in genetic modification, biotechnology labs could join kennels and animal shelters as a source for the perfect pet, according to Simeon Spearman and Natalie Ambrose, analysts at the Washington, DC-based futurist research and consulting firm Social Technologies.

In a recently released report, “Wildcard—Genetically Modified Pets,” Spearman explains: “Advances in genome mapping have begun to locate the source of health problems that result from pet breeding, and this knowledge could be applied by genetic engineers to avoid or fix such problems in future generations.”

Researchers have also discovered the gene that governs allergen production in cats, which has led to attempts to produce genetically modified hypoallergenic cats, potentially removing a barrier to ownership for millions of people, adds Ambrose, who is currently working on a book entitled, The Future of Pets.

Novelty could also drive acceptance of genetically modified pets by producing traits that would never occur in nature, she says, and trends in personalization could further drive demand for modified pets that reflect the owner’s individuality.


What is driving the trend? The analysts agree it is a better understanding of animal genomes, combined with demand from wealthy consumers in Worlds 1 and 2 who are seeking status by acquiring rare animals.

“Demand for luxury pet products and services, such as organic pet food and boutique pet clothing, are also increasing, making pets into a more obvious extension of their owners’ families and personalities,” Spearman says. “In fact, statistics suggest the US market for pet products and services is expected to grow to $52 billion by 2009, up from $44 billion in 2006.”

But there are obstacles.

“Approval of the GloFish in 2003 raised public concern over the efficacy of regulation of genetically modified organisms in the US,” notes Ambrose. “This could make future regulation of new genetically modified pets more stringent, to alleviate the concerns of animal rights activists and scientists.”

She also harkens back to 2005, when the Sausalito firm Genetic Savings and Clone successfully cloned the first kitten in the US. The owner was a Texas woman who paid $50,000 for the duplicate from her beloved “Nicky’s” stored DNA.

“Animal rights activists were outraged at the blatant commercialism behind the firm’s research, as well as the questionable ethics around cloning pets when millions of cats are abandoned or euthanized every year for want of adoption,” Ambrose shares, adding that since then, GS&C has closed its doors.


In their conclusion, Spearman and Ambrose offer these forecasts:

• Genetically modified pets may help the biotech industry if they can add a “cuddly” element to genetic science, but they could also damage public perceptions if the resulting creations are perceived as weird or cruel.
• Pet food and pet product companies could position themselves as specialists in the health and lifestyle needs of these new pets.
• The spread of hypoallergenic or flea-resistant pets could reduce demand for allergy and anti-flea products.

What else do futurists Simeon Spearman and Natalie Ambrose forecast for the future of genetically modified pets? To find out, set up an interview by sending an email to Hope Gibbs, leader of corporate communications, at hope.gibbs@socialtechnologies.com.

Simeon Spearman is a futurist and contributing writer for Social Technologies’ Technology Foresight and Global Lifestyles multiclient projects. He also contributes to custom client projects, and tracks emerging trends, values, and segments for the Futures Observatory, Social Technologies’ trend-feed program. Simeon’s professional interests include digital lifestyles, contemporary Japanese culture, and development in emerging markets. He is currently pursuing his MS in studies of the future at the University of Houston, and graduated with a BS in international affairs and modern languages from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He spent a year abroad in 2004–2005 as an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

Natalie Ambrose is an experienced futurist who leads Social Technologies’ Futures Expeditions program. She has worked as director of emerging issues and strategic planning at the Council on Foundations in Washington DC, as marketing director for SkyTel International in San Juan, and at the AT Cross Company in Providence, RI, where she was responsible for marketing and sales of Cross writing instruments in Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Natalie holds an MBA in international marketing from Thunderbird Graduate School, and a BA in political science and international relations from Duke University. Areas of expertise: Business strategy, foreign policy, the future of philanthropy

Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world’s leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. A holistic, long-term perspective combined with actionable business solutions helps clients mitigate risk, make the most of opportunities, and enrich decision-making. For information visit www.socialtechnologies.com, the blog http://changewaves.socialtechnologies.com, and the newsletter www.socialtechnologies.com/changewaves.



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