Editor’s Notebook

Editor’s Notebook: Rats—Finally Foiled?

By Greta Belanger deJong

This month’s CATALYST feels dense and juicy to me. We’re having more fun these days; I think it shows. One caveat: The page with the Table of Contents went to press before most of the rest of the magazine; changes were made. Please forgive us for that not being a less than 100% dependable document.

The “How to Foil a Rat” piece (pp. 18-19) was conceived over a series of rodent-related incidents that gave me my first unmistakable experience of PTSD. I don’t want to talk about it. But it did inspire me to adopt a fierce little dog who, considering her raccoon-treeing skills, would certainly be victorious in an encounter with a mere one-pound rodent.

The interesting part of this story, though: We asked Evan Teng to write it in August of 2015. He did a good job. The most fascinating part was when he told of a trial run in the parks and alleys of New York City of a proposed new product: birth control for rats. It seemed rather pie-in-the-sky, but something every animal-loving person jokingly wishes for. Yeah, sure. Birth control for both male and female rats.

Through a series of events unrelated to his story, the rats piece kept getting bumped, till now. This is an unusual length of time for us to hold a story.

In the course of fact-checking for updates, however, I ended up in late-night conversation a few days before our press date with Ali Aplin, vice president of business development for SenesTech, the company that conceived of and developed the birth control product.

The Flagstaff, Arizona company, founded by two women scientists and animal lovers, is a primarily women-run company (19 out of 25). One founder, an MD, had previously been involved in studying heart disease in meno­pausal women—an area slim on research.

After test trials on the rat contraceptive were complete, the product received EPA approval way faster than the company expected: In fact, they received it just last month, just one year after applying.

“But now we’re starting to seek state-by-state approval,” Ali said. I asked when Utah might be onboard.

“Utah…” she was checking her records, “…was approved yesterday.”

This humane, nontoxic, biodegradable product could do far more good to alleviate world hunger than GMOS have ever purported to do for, in addition to being disease vectors, rats pose one of the most serious threats to food production worldwide.

And, starting this fall, Utahns can hire a pest control professional who may have a humane means of calming our city’s ever-growing rat tribe.

I’ll admit I’m feeling a bit smug about my creative procrastination skills. This story, previously informative, now also conveys some seriously interesting—and possibly game-changing—news for the future of world health.

Check it out, along with all the other stories herein. Let me know what you think.

Greta Belanger deJong is founder, editor and publisher of CATALYST. Greta@CatalystMagazine.net

This article was originally published on September 1, 2016.