June 4, 2037
RACINE–Consumer chemical and health maintenance giant SC Johnson unveiled today a new gene-therapeutic version of its classic Off insect repellant. In place of the conventional topical or ingestible repellant, the new Off includes genes enabling the skin to produce a natural insect repellent of its own. “This is a real breakthrough,” notes company spokeswoman Linda Oat. “For all practical purposes this is a completely passive insect protection solution. Once you’ve had the Off treatment you’ll never have to worry about pests again; you’ll never have to remember to apply a topical again.”
Though many of the details concerning the new Off remain trade secrets, public filings by the company indicate that the treatment inserts proprietary ‘human-variant Bt’ genes based upon the venerable Bt anti-pest and anti-fungal genes widely incorporated in resistant crops. “The new Off is based on Bt,” explains Oat, “but the Off genes have been extensively evolved and adapted to produce a repellant very like traditional Off. This required not just modification of the skin, but also some tweaking of the renal and digestive systems in order to ensure that raw materials for the repellant were available in adequate supplies.”
The Off genes are delivered by a series of ingestible, color-coded tablets taken over a 72-hour period. Each tablet contains a mix of viro- and nano-mechanical delivery vehicles that bind to specialized receptor sites on target cells in order to spread the Off genes throughout the skin and other key systems. Within two weeks, the sweat and oil glands begin to produce repellant sufficient to ward off an array of pests, including mosquitoes, midges, gnats, ants, roaches, bees, flies, horseflies, and burrowing starlink weevils.
“Pests are no longer just annoyances,” notes Oat. “The increasing frequency of large-scale mosquito blooms, and a number of recent starlink weevil outbreaks, make it clear that pests are serious health risks. That’s why we’ve approached the redesign of Off with the best that medical technology has to offer.”
Though results of fast-track FDA approval are not yet available, environmental and consumer health groups are quick to point to disclaimers included with the new Off as an indicator of possible risks. “This is another example of chemical companies replacing public oversight with their own inadequate disclosure schemes,” exclaims ChemFree founder Donald Wrap. “The fine print on these disclaimers is very revealing, even though it often isn’t effective in protecting consumers. The label for the new Off, for instance, warns users not to ‘exercise near an open flame.’ What does that mean, really? What kind of risks are involved? We just don’t know.”
Critics also raise questions about the subscription price model announced for Off. Users will be able to purchase the initial treatment series for a nominal fee, but the Off genes include a special protein-based expiration lock that requires ingestion of special ‘subscription-renewing’ tablets sold separately in 7-day, 30-day, and year-long durations. “Is anywhere safe from IP licenses of this sort?” demands fair use activist Jill Terribly. “These companies won’t be happy until I have to pay a licensing fee for breathing and shitting!”
The new Off is scheduled for availability in drug and discount stores by the end of the month. Johnson plans to offer the repellant in three versions initially: unscented, CK One, and Lemon-Fresh Pledge.