U.S. Navy to release genetically engineered organisms into the ocean, unleashing mass genetic pollution with devastating consequences


Image: U.S. Navy to release genetically engineered organisms into the ocean, unleashing mass genetic pollution with devastating consequences

(Natural News) No longer content to tinker with the genetic design of crops and humans, scientists – at the behest of the U.S. Military – are now turning their attention to the world’s oceans. As reported by Defense One, the Pentagon is looking at various ways in which to genetically engineer marine microorganisms into living surveillance equipment capable of detecting enemy submarines, divers and other suspicious underwater traffic.

The Military is also looking at using genetic engineering to create living camouflage in which creatures react to their surroundings to avoid detection, along with a host of other potentially nefarious applications.

While such modifications might appear to offer benefits to national security endeavors, there will be a price to pay – as is always the case when scientists interfere with genetic design. What will the effects of mass genetic pollution be on our oceans, and what irreversible and devastating results may be unleashed? (Related: First GMO ever produced by genetic engineering poisoned thousands of Americans.)

Unleashing engineered organisms without knowing the consequences

Military officials, who insist that this type of research is still in its infancy, are being supported in their endeavors by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

Defense One explained the research in more detail:

You take an abundant sea organism, like Marinobacter, and change its genetic makeup to react to certain substances left by enemy vessels, divers, or equipment. These could be metals, fuel exhaust, human DNA, or some molecule that’s not found naturally in the ocean but is associated with, say, diesel-powered submarines. The reaction could take the form of electron loss, which could be detectable to friendly sub drones.

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“In an engineered context, we might take the ability of the microbes to give up electrons, then use [those electrons] to talk to something like an autonomous vehicle,” explained NRL researcher, Sarah Glaven, who was speaking at an event hosted by the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab. “Then you can start imagining that you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment.”

Researchers have already proven, in a laboratory environment, that the genes of E. Coli bacteria can be manipulated to exhibit properties that could prove useful for submarine detection. However, this type of research is limited because it may not necessarily be replicable in marine life found in the areas where you need them to be in order to detect unfriendly subs.

Nonetheless, Glaven believes that the team can make these types of mutated marine organisms a reality in just a year.

“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she noted. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.” (Related: Genetic pollution harms organisms through 14 generations of offspring, stunning scientific study reveals.)

Part of a wider “synthetic biology” military program

This marine modification research forms part of a greater $45 million military program which encompasses the Navy, Army and Air Force platforms, and has been labeled the Applied Research for the Advancement of Science and Technology Priorities Program on Synthetic Biology for Military Environments. The program aims to provide researchers in these branches of the military with whatever tools they deem necessary to engineer genetic responses in a way that could be manipulated by the Military.

It is not difficult to imagine that this large-scale genetic manipulation program could create disastrous effects – effects which our children and grandchildren will be left to deal with, and which may prove irreversible.

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Scientists Have Discovered a Brand New Species of Giant Octopus Hiding in Plain Sight


Next-level camouflage.

Octopuses are masters of camouflage, but have you ever heard of an octopus that is so good at disguising itself as another octopus that marine biologists didn’t even know it was a separate species?

 

What scientists are now calling the “frilled giant Pacific octopus” has been right under our noses the whole time – mistaken for the giant Pacific octopus, Enteroctopus dofleini. It’s just that we didn’t have enough evidence for a separate species, until now.

It doesn’t have a scientific name, and it hasn’t been fully described yet, but the frilled giant Pacific octopus has been confirmed using genetics.

The existence of a separate species has been suspected since at least 2012, when researchers found DNA evidence of a genetically distinct Enteroctopus in the waters of Prince William Sound in Alaska.

However, the two octopuses they tested were released without being photographed, so there was no visual evidence to confirm.

So researchers Nate Hollenbeck and David Scheel from Alaska Pacific University set out looking for that visual confirmation – for an octopus that was similar to, but nevertheless morphologically different from, Enteroctopus dofleini.

And where better to look than a place that seems irresistible to the cephalopods – shrimp traps, where the giant Pacific octopus is common bycatch in Alaska, climbing in to feast on the trapped shrimp, or simply out of curiosity to investigate some new crannies.

Hollenbeck and Scheel retrieved 21 octopuses this way – a full seven of which could be visually identified as distinct from the giant Pacific octopus.

frilled giant pacific octopus frill(Hollenbeck and Scheel/BioOne)

The new octopus was defined by a frill of merged papillae – raised fleshy bumps on its skin – running the length of its body and two white spots on its head, where the great pacific octopus only has one spot.

They all also had one long, thin, major papillae over each eye, a trait that occurs only rarely in the giant Pacific octopus.

Some also had three smaller raised papillae under the eyes, like eyelashes; compound major papillae over the eye; or long, branched, antler-like papillae over the eyes.

All of the new octopuses had at least one of these traits; none of the giant Pacific octopuses did.

Then came the big test: whether the DNA matched the visual differences. And it did – all seven octopuses were genetically distinct from Enteroctopus dofleini, and the researchers identified them as a genetic sister clade using mitochondrial genes, nuclear genes and microsatellite loci.

The two researchers even tested a new technique for DNA sampling, swabbing the skin of the octopus rather than taking a sample from one of the tentacles. This is because skin swabbing is less invasive and harmful to live octopuses. The swab results matched the tissue sample results – demonstrating that the method is viable.

But it’s the visual identification cues that will allow field identification of the new octopus, which will help determine its range and population numbers – and the impacts of fishing on the two species.

The impact on the giant Pacific octopus may be very different from what previous studies have estimated, now that we know its numbers have been skewed by the presence of the frilled giant Pacific octopus.

The octopus is yet to be fully described and named, but the research so far has been published in the journal BioOne.