GMO stingray leather shoes : a great swindle... exposed by Inf’OGM !
par , July 2012
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What wouldn’t fashion do in order to make the news? If we believe a piece of information publicized mostly by fashion websites, a Thai Company, RayFish Footwear, is alleged to have created the first bio-customizable « transgenic » shoes. Inf’OGM investigated... and exposed the swindle.
On May 25th 2012, a press release says that the Rayfish footwear Company launches a new range of shoes made from transgenic ray skin. This Company, specialized in shagreen production for many years, (see box below), decided to modernize. Now it proposes bio-customized sneakers, i.e. its shagreen would be chosen by the customer himself. According to the website , the Company owns a gene bank that allows to select models of skins, pattern, colors, of tens different species. The Company claims then to create the transgenic ray from these selected genes, and to make shoes with this GM ray skin. It would take around eight months for the required GM ray to be ready to be transformed in shagreen. ’’Rayfish Footwear harnesses the beauty and variety of nature to create the world’s first truly custom sneakers.’’ The Company slogan : ’’One fish, one shoe’’.
The Company launches its high-tech product with a great fanfare of publicity. All the communication tools the Company set up are impressive. An attractive website, videos, pictures of the bio-customized shoes that seems so real, an active presence on the Company twitter account, press releases... All this gives a general impression of something serious. But the mirage, in the digital era, is so easy to built... and the Internet sirens songs knows very well how to play it, ’’from fake to hoax’’, from media «shot» to swindle... The mirage was too perfect : we had to find, behind the scenes, the strings of this very incredible creation, so incredible that it’s legally dubious, scientifically impossible and morally intolerable.
When Inf’OGM questioned the different Thai government services in charge of GMO, they were unanimous  : genetically modified fish breeding and importation are not authorized in Thailand. According Mr Srirat Sodsuk : ’’They perhaps imported transgenic ray skin and only made the shoes in Thailand’’. But according to Mr Banpot, no country in the world authorized the genetically modified ray, and the database related to the Cartagena Protocol confirms it. In his answer to Inf’OGM, Mr Banpot underlines that the Company pretends that its ’’labs’’ are located in Chon Buri, 150 km east of Bangkok. But for him, ’’this area host some clandestine practices, maybe some mafia methods, and can refuge some foreign crooks’’. Intrigued by the announcement, he said he intended to alert the Office for Consumer Protection, and take legal action against this Company. According to him, ’’in Thailand, as far as I know, nobody has such a knowledge nor such a skill’’.
In an article published on the livescience website http://www.livescience.com/20705-tr... Randy Lewis, a biologist at Utah State University, said : ’’To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to do what they claim both in terms of the colors, as many of those colors on their website have no way to be expressed in the skin, and the ability to completely control the pattern that they imply has not been achieved for any animal".
On the web, there should be no confusion between redundancy and truth. As often the case, the craziest ads find their gullible audience. Thus, many people have spread the Company official communication on the social networks; without question, without perspective. Nevertheless, this has increased the Company’s website visibility and paradoxically increased its credibility. On the web, a rumor can reach unprecedented heights, very quickly... This run-away phenomenon ends up legitimizing non-proved informations. This method has been used intentionally for that purpose.
’’Shagreen is a type of rawhide consisting of rough untanned skin, formerly made from a horse’s back or that of an onager (wild ass). Shagreen is now commonly made of the skins of sharks and rays. (…) Shagreen has an unusually rough and granular surface, and is sometimes used as a fancy leather (…) Such skins are naturally covered with round, closely set, calcified papillae called placoid scales, whose size is chiefly dependent on the age and size of the animal. (…) This latter form of shagreen was first popularised in Europe by Jean-Claude Galluchat (d. 1774), a master leatherworker in the court of Louis XV of France. It quickly became a fashion amongst the French aristocracy, and migrated throughout Europe by the mid-18th century.’’
A priori these shoes could have been imported in France without any problem. The legislation does not specify anything about industrial products made from GMO’s... Questioned by Inf’OGM, the European Commission confirms that these shoes, if it did really exist, won’t have been labeled as a GMO. ’’In a nutshell, shoes are not submitted to the directive 2001/18 (that doesn’t concern derivatives) nor to the settlement 1829/2003 on labels (that only concerns products that are concerned by the directive and settlement above)’’, says the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers.
 Mr Srirat Sodsuk, of the Ministry of Fisheries and Mr Banpot Napompeth, ex-president (from 1993 to 2005) of the National Committee for Biosafety  ’’a disgusting concept’’, ’’shame on you!’’, ’’the product is shocking’  see ’’le bestiaire’’ dans le bimestriel Inf’OGM (bestiary, in Inf’OGM’s bimonthly newspaper, in french)
 Mr Srirat Sodsuk, of the Ministry of Fisheries and Mr Banpot Napompeth, ex-president (from 1993 to 2005) of the National Committee for Biosafety
 ’’a disgusting concept’’, ’’shame on you!’’, ’’the product is shocking’
 see ’’le bestiaire’’ dans le bimestriel Inf’OGM (bestiary, in Inf’OGM’s bimonthly newspaper, in french)