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.

The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming (and the Lives of Farmers)

“Control the oil, and you control nations. Control the food, and you control the people.” — Henry Kissinger

Monsanto’s talk of ‘technology’ tries to hide its real objectives of control over seed through genetic engineering.

“Monsanto is an agricultural company. … We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. … Producing more, Conserving more, Improving farmers lives.” — These are the promises Monsanto India’s website makes, alongside pictures of smiling, prosperous farmers from the state of Maharashtra. This is a desperate attempt by Monsanto and its PR machinery to delink the epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India arising from the company’s growing control over cotton seed supply — 95 per cent of India’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto.

Seed is the first link in the food chain because seed is the source of life. When a corporation controls seed, it controls life, especially the life of farmers.

Monsanto’s concentrated control over the seed sector in India as well as across the world is very worrying. This is what connects farmers’ suicides in India to Monsanto vs. Percy Schmeiser in Canada, to Monsanto vs. Bowman in the US, and to farmers in Brazil suing Monsanto for $2.2 billion for unfair collection of royalty.

Through patents on seed, Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” of our planet, collecting rents for life’s renewal from farmers, the original breeders.

Patents on seed are illegitimate because putting a toxic gene into a plant cell is not “creating” or “inventing” a plant. These are seeds of deception — the deception that Monsanto is the creator of seeds and life; the deception that while Monsanto sues farmers and traps them in debt, it pretends to be working for farmers’ welfare, and the deception that GMOs feed the world. GMOs are failing to control pests and weeds, and have instead led to the emergence of superpests and superweeds.

Recommended reading: Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation by F. William Engdahl

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth

The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, requiring the Government of India to deregulate the seed sector. Five things changed with Monsanto’s entry: First, Indian companies were locked into joint-ventures and licensing arrangements, and concentration over the seed sector increased. Second, seed which had been the farmers’ common resource became the “intellectual property” of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties, thus raising the costs of seed. Third, open pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. A renewable resource became a non-renewable, patented commodity. Fourth, cotton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure. Fifth, Monsanto started to subvert India’s regulatory processes and, in fact, started to use public resources to push its non-renewable hybrids and GMOs through so-called public-private partnerships (PPP).

In 1995, Monsanto introduced its Bt technology in India through a joint-venture with the Indian company Mahyco. In 1997-98, Monsanto started open field trials of its GMO Bt cotton illegally and announced that it would be selling the seeds commercially the following year. India has rules for regulating GMOs since 1989, under the Environment Protection Act. It is mandatory to get approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the ministry of environment for GMO trials. The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology sued Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India and Monsanto could not start the commercial sales of its Bt cotton seeds until 2002.
And, after the damning report of India’s parliamentary committee on Bt crops in August 2012, the panel of technical experts appointed by the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of transgenic crops.

But it had changed Indian agriculture already.

Monsanto’s seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides and agrarian distress which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in India. This systemic control has been intensified with Bt cotton. That is why most suicides are in the cotton belt.

An internal advisory by the agricultural ministry of India in 2012 had this to say to the cotton-growing states in India:

“Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”

The highest acreage of Bt cotton is in Maharashtra and this is also where the highest farmer suicides are. Suicides increased after Bt cotton was introduced — Monsanto’s royalty extraction, and the high costs of seed and chemicals have created a debt trap. According to Government of India data, nearly 75 per cent rural debt is due to purchase inputs. As Monsanto’s profits grow, farmers’ debt grows. It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto’s seeds are seeds of suicide.

The ultimate seed of suicide is Monsanto’s patented technology to create sterile seeds. Called “terminator technology” by the media, sterile seed technology is a type of Gene Use Restriction Technology, GRUT, in which seed produced by a crop will not grow — crops will not produce viable offspring seeds or will produce viable seeds with specific genes switched off. The Convention on Biological Diversity has banned its use, otherwise Monsanto would be collecting even higher profits from seed.

Monsanto’s talk of “technology” tries to hide its real objectives of ownership and control over seed where genetic engineering is just a means to control seed and the food system through patents and intellectual property rights.

“As part of the process, they portrayed the various concerns as merely the ignorant opinions of misinformed individuals – and derided them as not only unscientific, but anti-science. They then set to work to convince the public and government officials, through the dissemination of false information, that there was an overwhelming expert consensus, based on solid evidence, that GMOs were safe.” — Jane Goodall, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth

A Monsanto representative admitted that they were “the patient’s diagnostician, and physician all in one” in writing the patents on life-forms, from micro-organisms to plants, in the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Stopping farmers from saving seeds and exercising their seed sovereignty was the main objective. Monsanto is now extending its patents to conventionally bred seed, as in the case of broccoli and capsicum, or the low gluten wheat it had pirated from India — which we challenged as a biopiracy case in the European Patent office.

That is why we have started Fibres of Freedom in the heart of Monsanto’s Bt cotton/suicide belt in Vidharba. We have created community seed banks with indigenous seeds and helped farmers go organic. No GMO seeds, no debt, no suicides.

The beauty of seed is that out of one you can get millions. The beauty of the pollinator is that it turns that one into millions. And that’s an economy of abundance. That’s an economy of sharing. To me that’s the real economics of growth — because life is growing. The economics and technology of hybridization, of genetic modification, is a deliberate creation of scarcity.

Genetic engineering has never been about saving the world, it’s about controlling the world.

Why GMOs are a death knell to biodiversity and farming

About the author:

Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist, and eco feminist. Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than 20 books and over 500 papers in leading scientific and technical journals. She was trained as a physicist and received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1993. She is also the founder of Navdanya.org, an organization dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity.

Harvard Scientists Say They Could Be Just 2 Years Away From Resurrecting Woolly Mammoth Genes

Scientists are working on an ambitious plan to resurrect the woolly mammoth from extinction using genetic engineering – more than 4,000 years after the species died out on Earth.

And according to the researcher leading the ‘de-extinction’ project, the team could be just years away from seeing the first mammoth-elephant hybrid embryos being developed.

The Harvard mammoth project started in 2015, with the researchers identifying several genes in the woolly mammoth genome that code for distinctive mammoth traits. The mammoth DNA was extracted from remains that had been frozen under the Siberian permafrost for millennia.

The team has already successfully spliced 45 of these mammoth genes into elephant cells to show that the technique works.

“We already know about ones to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood,” Church told Sarah Knapton from The Telegraph.

But they’re now moving towards creating the first hybrid embryo.

The plan is to take Asian elephant skin cells and then use gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to insert woolly mammoth genes into the genome.

The team will also take a fertile egg cell from a female elephant, and remove its nucleus – the part of the cell that contains all the genetic material.

The researchers will then splice the genetically modified skin cell with the no-nucleus egg cell, so that the egg takes on the modified DNA.

Those eggs will be artificially stimulated to develop into embryos.

“We’re working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits and basically trying to establish embryogenesis in the lab,” Church explained.

Once the team develops an early-stage embryo, the plan is to grow them in artificial wombs rather than transplanting them back into female Asian elephants to bring them to term.

“We hope to do the entire procedure ex-vivo (outside a living body),” Church told Devlin. “It would be unreasonable to put female reproduction at risk in an endangered species.”

But seeing as no mammals have been grown to term outside of the womb to date, it’s questionable whether the artificial womb technology will be ready as early as the hybrid embryos.

Still, Church is confident that they can pull it off, and says his team has already managed to use artificial wombs to grow mice embryos to halfway through gestation.

“We’re testing the growth of mice ex-vivo. There are experiments in the literature from the 1980s but there hasn’t been much interest for a while,” he said. “Today we’ve got a whole new set of technology and we’re taking a fresh look at it.”

Church will be presenting his work at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston this week.

His team’s ’embryogenesis’ technique hasn’t been tested or peer-reviewed as yet, so for now, we have to take his claims about the first hybrid embryo being just two years away with a big grain of salt.

But even if they can pull it off, there are ethical concerns about bringing back genes that have been extinct for thousands of years to consider.

“The proposed ‘de-extinction’ of mammoths raises a massive ethical issue – the mammoth was not simply a set of genes, it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant,” Matthew Cobb, a zoologist from the University of Manchester who isn’t involved in the project, told The Guardian.

“What will happen when the elephant-mammoth hybrid is born? How will it be greeted by elephants?”

Others are more excited by the prospect – Edze Westra, a CRISPR expert from the University of Exeter in the UK, told The Telegraph. “What George Church is doing in trying to revive particular species I think represents a massive opportunity.”

“One can also use this technology for engineering the DNA of rapidly declining species or those that are becoming too inbred to increase their chance of survival,” he added.

But it’s not just about bringing a species back from the dead. Church told the media that their project has two goals – securing an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant, and helping to combat global warming.

That last point might sound weird, but mammoth-elephant hybrids could actually play an important role in preventing tundra permafrost from meltingand releasing huge amounts of greenhouse has into our atmosphere.

“They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in,” said Church. “In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.”

This video perfectly explains why CRISPR really will change the world forever.

We’ve heard a lot about genetic engineering over the past two decades – and, lately there’s been even more hype about a new molecular tool called CRISPR, which acts like a cut-and-paste tool for our DNA.

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/jAhjPd4uNFY

But what many of us don’t realise is that, after years of talking about it, we’re on the verge of a major change for society – one where we can edit genes as easily as we give medication today.

As the latest episode of Kurzgesagt so brilliantly explains, just like no one in the ’80s believed computers would ever take over everything, most of us today don’t really think that genetic editing won’t change everything.

And we’re wrong, because of CRISPR.

So what exactly is CRISPR? After all, humans have been genetically engineering other species for millennia, by breeding food and pets to have more of the traits we like, and less of the traits we don’t.

Once we discovered DNA, we’ve been figuring out ways to tinker with this process on the back end, too.

Fast forward a few years, and we have genetically engineered mice, genetically engineered humans, and, of course, genetically engineered food.

But while genetic engineering has played an important role in medicine, the existing techniques available up until now have been expensive, slow, and incredibly complicated.

Now, that’s all changing. Thanks to CRISPR, the costs of genetic engineering have shrunk by 99 percent basically overnight, Kurzgesagt reports.

Although we’re now using CRISPR in humans and other animals, the system was originally found inside bacteria – where it’s used as a genetic weapon to stop bacteria being infected by viruses (yes, even microbes get infected, too).

As the video above explains much more beautifully than we can, after a virus has infected a bacteria once, the bacteria keeps a little portion of its DNA locked in a genetic archive called CRISPR.

If it ever gets infected again, this viral DNA is turned into RNA, and is fed into a secret weapon called Cas 9 – an enzyme that hunts down any DNA that matches the one in the archive, and then expertly cuts it out of the bacteria.

“It’s almost like a DNA surgeon,” Kurzgesagt explains.

So far, so good. But a few years ago, scientists discovered that the CRISPR system is actually programmable, which means that you can tell it any piece of DNA you want removed, put the system into a living cell, and it’ll cut that DNA right out of the genome.

Researchers are already using CRISPR to treat disease in animal models, and, as of this month, in humans.

But what we see happening now is – just like the supercomputers of the ’80s – nothing compared to what’s coming. And that’s not just hype.

To fully comprehend exactly what a future with CRISPR might look like, how the system works, and what it all means, you really need to check out the video above, because it’s not only fascinating, it’s also incredibly important.

What we will say, without giving too much away, is that, if the idea of designer babies makes you uncomfortable, then get ready, because that’s a world we’re already living in.

The Price We Pay for Fighting Pests With Chemicals and Genetic Engineering

As noted in a recent article by The Atlantic,[1] history is rife with pest control experiments gone terribly wrong. Today the stakes are higher than ever, as scientists are increasingly turning to genetic engineering to affect environmental change.

The Price We Pay for Fighting Pests With Chemicals and Genetic Engineering 1

Earlier this year, the Zika virus, which is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, was declared a worldwide public health threat.[2],[3] Besides calling for increased use of chemical sprays against mosquitoes, focus quickly turned to the idea of releasing genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes to control populations.

The male transgenic mosquitoes, which are released to mate with females in the wild, carry a “suicide” or “self-destruct gene” that gets transferred to the offspring, killing them before they reach breeding maturity.[4] To achieve this, protein fragments from the herpes virus, E. coli bacteria, coral and cabbage looper moth were inserted into the insects. Biotech company Oxitec refers to their GE mosquitoes as a “non-chemical insecticide,” and these controversial creatures are now another step closer to being released on U.S. soil.

Florida Keys Community is the Latest Testing Ground for Transgenic Mosquitos

With the Florida Keys community slated as the next testing ground for genetic engineering, meetings for Key Haven residents have already been held to discuss Oxitec’s proposed GE mosquito trial in the area.[5] In early March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft of its environmental impact study[6] of the GE mosquito, declaring it will have “no significant impact” on the health of residents or the environment in this Florida Keys’ community.[7]

According to CNN, Zika wasn’t the original reason Oxitec’s transgenic mosquitoes were considered. The Aedes aegypti mosquito also carries the dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya virus, and outbreaks of dengue fever in the Florida Keys in 2009 and 2010 prompted local mosquito control officials to look for more effective options to control the non-native insect.

According to Oxitec, field tests in Piracicaba, Brazil, led to an 82 percent decline to the mosquito population over an eight-month period.[8] In the Cayman Islands, 96 percent of native mosquitoes were suppressed in a 2010 field trial.

The Cayman Islands recently approved full deployment of the Oxitec GE mosquito, starting in June, with weekly releases of hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes scheduled to continue for at least nine months.[9] However, while the FDA has given the transgenic mosquito the thumbs up, Key Haven residents are not particularly keen on being guinea pigs — especially since neither dengue, Zika, or any of the other diseases spread by Aedes aegypti pose a threat to health in the Florida Keys.[10]

Mila de Mier, who lives in the small community of Key Haven, told CNN:[11]

“Less than a mile from the release site is a senior center and a local school. That area was not one that was affected by dengue. Not a single case ever. So why does the FDA want to do an experiment here when they can do this all over the world? …

There has been no acceptance from community members. If the local and federal government fail to protect us and our wishes, our last option will be to trust the judicial system and bring it to the court. A legal battle is an option at this point.”

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

While decimating Aedes aegypti populations may sound like a good solution to eliminate transmission of disease, there is always the potential for unforeseen side effects when a small part of a broad, interconnected ecosystem is manipulated.

A 2011 article in The New York Times[12] brought up a number of concerns, including the possibility that these genes might infect human blood, not through insect bites, but by finding entry through skin lesions or inhalation. According to the Institute of Science in Society,[13] such transmission could potentially create “insertion mutations” and other unpredictable types of DNA damage in the host.

Alfred Handler, Ph.D., a geneticist at the Agriculture Department in Hawaii, has also pointed out that mosquitoes can develop resistance to the lethal gene. If such mosquitoes were to be released, the resistance could spread to the offspring. According to Todd Shelly, an entomologist for the Agriculture Department in Hawaii, 3.5 percent of the insects in a laboratory test actually survived to adulthood, despite carrying the lethal gene.[14]

Another factor that could make the GE mosquito backfire is the fact that Oxitec’s mosquitoes were designed to die in the absence of tetracycline. Tetracycline is introduced in the lab in order to keep the mosquitos alive long enough to breed, however tetracycline and other antibiotics are showing up in the environment, in both soil and surface water samples. The mosquitoes were genetically engineered under the assumption they would NOT encounter tetracycline in the wild, but with environmental tetracycline exposure now impossible to avoid, these insects could potentially thrive.

Last but not least, by employing so-called gene drive technology (which ensures that all offspring end up with the GE gene), concerns arise over the impact on biodiversity and the ecosystem as a whole. Some argue that the extinction of the Aedes aegypti would hardly result in ecosystem collapse, and this may well be true. However, the Aedes aegypti is certainly not the only insect being genetically altered and released into the wild.

The larger problem lies in the fact that population scale ecosystem engineering is taking place without proper regulatory oversight, transparency, or public discussion. Decades’ old regulations are being relied on for these novel technologies, and they are sorely inadequate for the task.

GE Diamondback Moths Being Field Tested

For example, Oxitec is also currently field testing a GE version of the diamondback moth,[15] a known agricultural pest. The diamondback moth was the first crop pest to become resistant to DDT, and they’re rapidly developing resistance to other chemical pesticides as well, which is why Oxitec began working on a GE version of the moth.

It’s similar to their GE mosquitoes in that they pass on a genetic trait that kills the offspring before reaching maturity. Eventually, the entire species will die out from lack of reproduction.

The GE moths have already been laboratory tested in the U.K. and “caged” field trials took place the summer of 2015 in New York. Open field trials may take place as early as this summer. Many have opposed the field trials, including GeneWatch UK, the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. According to The Washington Post:[16]

“We’re worried about what the effects of these trials outside of the cages [will be],’ said Liana Hoodes, policy adviser at the Northeast Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), citing concerns that the GE moths could spread beyond their trial sites and begin appearing on private growers’ farms.

Hoodes said NOFA-NY would like to see an impact analysis on the possible effects of GE moths on non-target species — that is, organisms besides diamondback moths — in case they happen to be eaten by birds or other animals or even accidentally consumed by humans.”

GE Bollworm Moths and Fruit Flies

Oxitec is also the creator of GE pink bollworm moths, which have already been unleashed over the fields of Arizona in an effort to overtake natural bollworm populations, as well as GE fruit flies. These also contain genes that prevent the species from reproducing. In Australia, where the Mediterranean fruit fly is one of the most common pest species, the Department of Agriculture and Food plans to conduct an indoor trial assessment on the use of GE fruit flies as a means of pest control.

So we’re seeing this creeping trend where pests of all kinds are being addressed by altering and eradicating the entire species. Subsequently, you cannot limit the conversation to any one species of insects. The question is, is it wise to eradicate pests by using gene drive technology that more or less assures extinction of the entire species?

Just how many pests can safely be vanished before the ecosystem is altered in some devastating way? There are all sorts of questions that are currently not being addressed in any comprehensive way.

Australia to Address Invasive Carp Problem With Herpes Virus

In related news, southeastern Australia is also planning to address the problem of overpopulation of invasive carp by unleashing the herpes virus on the fish. According to Newsweek:[17]

“Carp are a huge problem in Australia. They were first introduced to fish farms in the country in the 1850s, but escaped en masse into the wild in the 1960s, and their populations have exploded ever since … The virus they plan on using is specific to carp, and kills up to 80 percent of the animals … It attacks their skin, kidneys and gills … killing them in a little over a week …

“[T]he virus appeared in carp farms in Southeast Asia in the 1990s, and hasn’t been shown to harm farmers and other people there … While the plan may sound a bit dodgy at first, research has shown that the carp herpesvirus (cyprinid herpesvirus 3) [18] doesn’t harm native fish species, eels, frogs, turtles, chickens, mice or water dragons (a type of lizard) …”

The irony here is that if it wasn’t for fish farms, they wouldn’t have this invasive species problem in the first place. Yet today, when concerns are brought forth about the dangers of GE fish escaping from farms and decimating the ecosystem, proponents insist that escapes would be “impossible.”

Aerial Application of Mosquito Killer Linked to Higher Rates of Autism

Up to this point, the warfare against pests has involved chemicals, and this too has been shown to have devastating side effects. According to recent research,[19] higher rates of autism are found in areas exposed to annual aerial spraying of pyrethroids, a type of larvicide that kills mosquitoes, compared to areas where mosquito control is done primarily through pellets distributed on the ground.

“The authors report that kids living in zip codes where the spraying was done each summer had around a 25 percent higher risk of an autism diagnosis or developmental problem compared to kids living in areas without the aerial spraying,” Time Magazine writes.[20]

According to Dr. Steve Hicks, assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine:”Several studies have previously reported links between pesticide and autism risk. Our data suggests the way in which pesticides are applied might play some role.”

Previous research has found that pregnant women who are exposed to pyrethroids in their third trimester are more likely to give birth to autistic children, and animal studies suggest it causes neurological, immune, and reproductive damage. Some pyrethroids also act as endocrine disruptors by mimicking estrogen. Such hormone-disrupting chemicals can raise your levels of estrogen, thereby promoting the growth of estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer.

Besides the occasional aerial disbursement by your local mosquito control, there are more than 3,500 commercial products containing this insecticide. This includes items like roach sprays, flea bombs, and dog flea or tick collars and medicated shampoos. (Compounds that end in “thrin”, such as bifenthrin, permethrin and cypermethrin, are all pyrethroids.)

Biological Warfare Endangers Everyone, Everywhere

All of this begs the question, are we doing the right thing by waging war against pests with toxic chemicals and genetically engineered insects? It needs to be understood that there’s a price to pay, and increasingly, that price is human and environmental health. We’re poisoning our world, and ourselves, in the name of protecting the environment and public health. There’s something inherently wrong with that position.

Some are quick to say we have no other options. But this isn’t necessarily true. What’s lacking is the political and societal will to make the necessary changes, which involve decimating the chemical industry and fully embracing ecologically sound regenerative methods of agriculture. When nature is in balance, pests fail to gain the upper hand. They still exist, but they’re kept in check naturally.

Once the soil microbial population is rebuilt, everything else falls into place much easier. Not only are the plants significantly healthier and more nutrient dense, they’re also more resistant to plant diseases and pests. Certain plants, such as marigolds, can also work as pest repellents by giving off a fragrance that bugs do not like.

It may not be as effective as releasing a GE insect designed to decimate the entire species, or a potent toxin, but if we keep going the way we’re headed, we’re just going to encounter more of the same problems. I have no immediate answers to these dilemmas, but I believe we must begin a more open discussion about what we’re doing, and what the options are. We also need to implement more farsighted solutions rather than thinking mere weeks or months ahead. Our children’s futures depend on these decisions.

Monsanto Pesticides To Blame For Birth Defects In Argentina.

Argentina has become one of the worlds largest soybean producers, with the majority of its crops being majorly composed of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Agrochemical spraying in the country has mushroomed over the last several years, in 1990 roughly 9 million gallons of argochemical spraying was needed, compared to today’s requirement of roughly 84 million gallons. Included in that was the use of over 200 million liters of herbicides containing poisons such as glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. The country’s entire soybean crop, along with nearly all of its cotton and corn crops, have become genetically modified over the last decade. Along with the increase in GMO crops and pesticide use, the country has seen a disturbing and alarming growth in the prevalence of birth defects, cancer rates, and other negative health ailments. This has lead many of its citizens, including medical professionals, to assert the notion that pesticides, GMOs, and biotech giants are the ones to blame.


Two year old Camila Veron [pictured above], was born with multiple organ problems and severely disabled, the doctors had told her family that the agrochemicals might have been to blame. And dozens of other similar cases have been witnessed in the area. It is firmly believed that the herbicide used on the genetically modified crops, may over an extended period of time after consumption, cause brain, intestinal, and heart defects in fetuses. In Ituzaingo, a district comprised of roughly 5,000 people [and surrounded by many soy fields] has seen over the past eight years, more than 300 documented cases of cancer associated with fumigations and pesticides have been experienced, they have reported cancer rates that are 41 times the national average.

Sergio H. Lence, "The Agricultural Sector in Argentina: Major Trends and Recent Developmebts," 2010Monsanto has [unsurprisingly] denied the claims that their GMOs have contributed in any way to the increased occurrence of experienced birth defects in the nation. Even though dozens of cases have been exposed which illustrate the misuse and illegality of pesticide application, pesticides are showing up in alarming rates in the soil and drinking water. Disturbingly, 80% of children surveyed in one area were found to have pesticides in their blood. Studies have demonstrated that low concentrations of pesticides [such as glyphosate] is understood to harm human cells and cause cancer.

Unfortunately for the Monsanto public relations department, the Associated Press has documented numerous cases within the country where poisons are being, and have been, applied in ways which are prohibited by existing law, or unanticipated by regulatory science. Medical professionals in the area have also been advising their clients that pesticide application within the country may be to blame. Not only is the rise of Roundup-saturated crops a potential health risk to residents of the area, but it’s a danger to the environment, and other animals that will eat these crops. In the ongoing battle against genetically modified foods and biotech [government-protected] corporate giants like Monsanto, it is crucial to remember that genetically engineered foods have never been proven safe for consumption over an extended period of time. One only hopes that corporations such as Monsanto, who destroy lives and communities, be held responsible for their carelessly negligible actions.

Chinese Boy with Ability to See in the Dark Stuns Medics.

A young Chinese boy who was born with beaming blue eyes has stunned medics with his ability to see in pitch black darkness.
Nong Yousui from Dahua, China has eyes that reflect neon green when light is shined on them. Doctors have studied Nong’s amazing eyesight since his dad took him to hospital concerned over his bright blue eyes. “They told me he would grow out of it and that his eyes would stop glowing and turn black like most Chinese people but they never did”, his Dad said.

Nong enjoys playing outside with his schoolmates but experiences discomfort when in bright sunlight, however can see completely clearly in pure darkness. To test his abilities, a Chinese journalist prepared a set of questionnaires which he was able to finish while sitting in a pitch black room. The tests show Nong can read and write perfectly without any light and can see as clearly as most people do during the day.

According to the World Record Academy (the leading international organization which certify world records), Nong has even set the world record for the first human who can see in the dark. In animals, night vision is made possible by the existence of a thin layer of cells, called the tapetum lucidum. And like a Siamese cat, Nong’s sky-blue eyes flash neon green when illuminated by a flashlight.

Nong’s night vision has sparked interest around the world by vision scientists, evolutionary biologists, and genetic engineers. And this is good news for science as we may eventually be able to use genetic technologies to deliberately create such a condition ourselves.

A new and growing generation of extraordinary and gifted children are springing up across our planet.

Source: whydontyoutrythis.com

Microbes ‘cheaper, fairer’ for boosting yields than GM.

Speed read

  • Microbes may offer a more equitable choice for smallholder farmers
  • Improvements in technology must continue to get them from the lab to the field
  • Melon yields in Honduras have already benefited from microbes.

Adapting microbes that dramatically increase crop yields while reducing demand for fertilisers and pesticides through selective breeding or genetic engineering could be cheaper and more flexible than genetically modifying plants themselves, says an author of a report.
Microbes, such as beneficial bacteria, fungi and viruses, could be produced locally for smallholder 
farmers to significantly improve food security and incomes in developing regions, believes Ann Reid, director of the American Academy of Microbiology and co-author of a report published by the organisation last month (27 August).
“Genetic modification of crop plants, which has seen a huge investment, is closed to all but the biggest agricultural companies,” she tells SciDev.Net.
“Optimisation of microbes could be done at the level of the local community college and is much more obtainable for a smallholder farmer.”
Her comments echo the findings of the report — the product of an expert meeting in 2012 — which underscored the significant impact microbes could have on food production by increasing crops’ absorption of nutrients, resistance to disease and environmental stresses, and even improving flavour.

“Optimisation of microbes could be done at the level of the local community college and is much more obtainable for a smallholder farmer.”

Ann Reid, American Academy of Microbiology

As well as to accentuate naturally occurring traits such as the secretion of pest-killing toxins or nitrogen-fixation, the modification of microbes is often needed to allow them to be grown in large numbers out of their natural environment.
For example, researchers in Colombia could only produce large quantities of a fungus that improves the nutrient absorption of cassava once they bred a strain of that fungus that was capable of growing on carrot roots.
Recent technological developments in rapid DNA sequencing, imaging and computer modelling can help provide further solutions, as well as building a greater understanding of the complex environment that microbes themselves need to flourish, the report says.
These advances raise the possibility that, within two decades, microbes could increase food production by a fifth and reduce fertiliser demands by the same proportion, it finds.
But to achieve this ambitious goal, the research community must engage in curiosity-driven basic research, develop even cheaper sequencing techniques, and establish a process to move discoveries from the lab to the field, it says.
Reid adds that, unlike genetic modification, which requires farmers to regularly buy improved seeds, microbes may be able to stay in the soil indefinitely.
But larger universities are still needed to drive more-complex areas of investigation, which inevitably requires funding, she says. “We wanted to get the word out that this could be a big-bang-for-your- buck area for funding agencies.”
Matteo Lorito, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Naples, Italy, agrees that sophisticated research centres must be involved in identifying and selecting suitable microbes and techniques.
But once this groundwork has been done, growing microbes will require as little as a fermenting tank, he says.
The impact of this approach is already being seen in areas such as Honduras, where melon yields have been improved by 15 per cent by applying a fungus that boosts the plants’ defence mechanisms.
Other crops such as maize, tomatoes and wheat could see rises in production of more than 50 per cent from such techniques, he believes.
But Ken Giller, professor of plant production systems at the Netherland’s Wageningen University, says that much more work needs to be done, particularly on how to get the microbes into the soil, before farmers will benefit, he says.
“Molecular biology has been incredibly important in understanding biology in general, which has helped when thinking about solutions [for food production],” he tells SciDev.Net.
“But in terms of the manipulation of these processes to make an impact in the field, we have yet to make any great inroads

Evaluating Paratransgenesis as a Potential Control Strategy for African Trypanosomiasis

Genetic-modification strategies are currently being developed to reduce the transmission of vector-borne diseases, including African trypanosomiasis. For tsetse, the vector of African trypanosomiasis, a paratransgenic strategy is being considered: this approach involves modification of the commensal symbiotic bacteria Sodalis to express trypanosome-resistance-conferring products. Modified Sodalis can then be driven into the tsetse population by cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) from Wolbachia bacteria. To evaluate the effectiveness of this paratransgenic strategy in controlling African trypanosomiasis, we developed a three-species mathematical model of trypanosomiasis transmission among tsetse, humans, and animal reservoir hosts. Using empirical estimates of CI parameters, we found that paratransgenic tsetse have the potential to eliminate trypanosomiasis, provided that any extra mortality caused byWolbachia colonization is low, that the paratransgene is effective at protecting against trypanosome transmission, and that the target tsetse species comprises a large majority of the tsetse population in the release location.

Source: PLOS

The TomTato: Plant which produces both potatoes and tomatoes launched in UK.

Plant can grow sweet cherry tomatoes while producing white potatoes.

A plant which produces both potatoes and tomatoes, described as a “veg plot in a pot”, has been launched in the UK.

The TomTato can grow more than 500 sweet cherry tomatoes while producing white potatoes.

Horticultural mail order company Thompson & Morgan, which is selling the plants for £14.99 each, said the hybrid plants were individually hand-crafted and not a product of genetic engineering.

Grafted potato-tomato plants have already been produced in the UK, but Thompson & Morgan says this is the first time they have been successfully produced commercially.

The company says the tomatoes are far sweeter than those available in supermarkets.

Paul Hansord, horticultural director at the company, said he first had the idea for the plant 15 years ago in the US, when he visited a garden where someone had planted a potato under a tomato as a joke.

He said: “The TomTato has been trialled for several years and the end result is far superior than anything I could have hoped for, trusses full of tomatoes which have a flavour that makes shop tomatoes inedible, as well as, a good hearty crop of potatoes for late in the season.

“It has been very difficult to achieve the TomTato because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work, it is a very highly skilled operation.

“We have seen similar products, however on closer inspection the potato is planted in a pot with a tomato planted in the same pot – our plant is one plant and produces no potato foliage.”

The plants can be grown either outside or inside, as long as they are in a large pot or bag.

A similar product, dubbed the “Potato Tom”, was launched in garden centres in New Zealand this week.