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A Lamb-Jellyfish Hybrid Lab Animal Was Accidentally Sold for Meat in Paris

Oops, a French research lab accidentally sold a lamb with glow-in-the-dark jellyfish genes to a slaughterhouse and it was then sold and eaten. Sorry, guys.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
Photo via Flickr user emmajane

The GMO argument is thoroughly inescapable these days. You'll see "GMO-free" on boxes at organic food stores, then read a diatribe from Monsanto about how their modified seeds are feeding some of the most impoverished corners of the Earth. We're entirely wary of GM foods, and yet we continuously downvote attempts to label them.

Does genetic modification help our food supply, or harm it? Does it open the possibilities for healthier meats and more robust crops, or is it playing God and making a freak show of species that don't belong to us?


Would you eat soybeans that have been spliced with Brazil nuts? Would you eat a mutton chop from Dolly, the infamous cloned sheep from the 90s?

READ: This GMO Scientist Plays God with Your Corn

How about some lamb-jellyfish hybrid meat?

Oh wait, that wasn't supposed to be there. But some unfortunate Parisian, unbeknownst to him or her, has already eaten it. Truth, in this case, is definitely stranger than fiction.

Poor Rubis. Rubis (also known as "Ruby"), you see, was a lamb living at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris until late last year. But she was no ordinary lamb—her genes had been modified to incorporate a jellyfish protein that "makes skin transparent and glow in the dark," according to the UK's Telegraph.

Now, the institute is utterly freaking out after realizing that she was sold to a butchery—some say "accidentally," while others have their suspicions about foul play. Apparently, Rubis, along with some non-genetically freaky sheep, was sold to a slaughterhouse in August of last year. Then, her meat was inadvertently sold to one or more consumers in October, but the situation was only made public today after Le Parisien leaked the story.

"Who ate it? No one knows," Le Parisien gleefully wrote. Rubis, dear Rubis, who ate you?

Understandably in crisis mode, the institute released a statement today confirming that all of the above absurdity actually took place. It's like an adorable horror movie is unfolding before our very eyes!


"A female lamb born to a sheep that was genetically modified as part of a medical research programme was sold to a person in the Parisian region in October 2014," the statement reads. "Although this ovine does not present any risk to humans or the environment, the institute has just informed local prosecutors about this breach of environmental regulations."

The statement also explains that the GFP (green fluorescent protein) derived from the jellyfish is nontoxic and "is commonly used in research protocols in oncology." The statement also features some concerning notes about "tensions and dysfunctions within the structure where the lamb was kept, as well as individual behaviors incompatible with the tasks within the public service of research." Did someone purposely steal Rubis and sell her to be murdered and eaten?!

It kind of sounds like it. Le Parisien cites a rivalry between two men in the lab that possibly may have culminated in the sale of dear Rubis. What a bunch of sickos, right?

Apparently, in early August, an employee who was in charge of managing the lab's sheep and goat herds appears to have intentionally added Ruby to a group of sheep that were being sent to a slaughterhouse for non-GM animals. The employee then convinced the team leader of the project to unknowingly sign off on the delivery of the animals without knowing that dear Rubis was within.

When he was later confronted by the team leader—who was concerned about her disappearance—the employee urged him not to tell any superiors for fear of punishment. Nevermind the person who would eat a rack of lamb that glows in the dark. Now, the two men could face a year in prison as well as a €75,000 fine.

READ: We Spoke to a Monsanto Exec About Solving the World's Food Crisis

"Faced with this unprecedented incident, the Institute, by all the steps and procedures involved, acts transparently in accordance with the values ​​it stands for almost 70 years," the National Institute's statement says.

And yes, no one knows where the hell Rubis's meat went, other than that it left an abbatoir sometime in October. A Parisian public health court is currently investigating.

Well, this has turned out to be quite the mess; a mess that only just now has transparent skin.