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.

SCUBA DIVERS’ HAUNTING PHOTOS SHOW DEVASTATING IMPACT OF OCEAN TRASH ON MARINE LIFE


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Many of us know about the staggering levels of ocean pollution, but not all of us have seen a giant sponge sliced through by fishing line or have tugged back armfuls of trash lurking deep underwater.

Now, through a striking photo campaign, Beneath The Waves, from the Project AWARE Foundation—a global community of scuba divers who are working toward trash-free oceans—we get to see how our oceans are treated like trash dumps up close and personal, and why action must be taken immediately.

For the past month, divers from around the world have been uploading photos of marine debris onto Twitter, Instagram and Project AWARE’s website to bring attention and urge for solutions to this transnational issue.

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Why scuba divers? Well, few people know the scourge of ocean pollution better than they do.

“We’re citizen scientists, educators, philanthropists and advocates. We’re united together under a common passion, respect and desire to protect our ocean,” Project AWARE said in a statement from the campaign.

“Divers see firsthand the devastating impact rubbish can cause on ocean wildlife,” the foundation continued. “With more than 1 in 10 species affected by marine debris threatened with extinction, our actions to protect are more urgently needed than ever before.”

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In the photos below, divers share their unique and haunting view of underwater life affected by pollution. Some of the most devastating photos are of marine life such as whales, rays and crabs trapped in discarded fishing line, bottles and other debris.

The efforts from this 30-day campaign led to the second Our Ocean 2015 conference, which was held in Chile Oct. 5-6, in which topics such as illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution,ocean acidification and climate change were discussed. The first conference was held last June in Washington, DC, as an initiative of Secretary of State John Kerry.

You can see more photos of marine debris as well as upload your own at this link here. You can also participate on social media using the hashtag #BeneathTheWaves.

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Marine Life Needs Protection from Noise


An international group of scientists is calling for stricter regulations to protect marine wildlife from noise pollution. In a study published last week in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, researchers argue that action is needed to tackle excessive ocean noise from industrial activities such as shipping and seismic surveys, which use loud sound pulses fired from compressed air guns to explore the sea floor and find natural resources.

Nature asked two authors of the study, conservation ecologists Douglas Nowacek at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina, and Howard Rosenbaum at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City, why this is such an urgent problem. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How does noise pollution harm marine life?

Douglas Nowacek (DN): One concern is hearing damage in animals. That can happen either with very loud sounds or over longer periods of exposure to lower levels of noise. Also, with air guns, the reverberations raise the background noise level and so risk masking animals’ communication and navigation signals. A final concern is stress. Short-term stress is not that big a deal, but long-term stress is really detrimental. It causes physiological and reproductive problems; and we don’t know a lot about how sensitive marine animals are to it.

Howard Rosenbaum (HR): Effects have been documented across a range of species, from bowhead whales in the Arctic and sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico, to herring in the North Sea. There are still questions out there about what these impacts mean in the long term for individual animals or populations, but there’s an increasing body of evidence.

Don’t industries already have to take measures to limit possible damage to marine life?

HR: The requirements vary from region to region. In many places around the world, surveyors must slowly ramp up the air-gun strength at the beginning of a survey, to warn off animals in the area, but we really don’t know how effective this practice is. Surveyors might be required to limit their operations in areas where endangered animals are present or have been previously observed, and shut down if animals enter a certain zone. The overall benefits from many of these measures are still really unknown. We feel that more needs to be done to safeguard marine species and their most important habitats.

What do you suggest?

DN: First, we are calling for restrictions on activities in biologically sensitive habitats, based on data. In an ideal world, you would want to have a good inventory of data on the marine animals present in a region and when these animals breed, spawn and feed. Then you would use that information to decide when to survey, and check afterwards whether there had been any unforeseen outcomes. Second, we want overall noise limits based on monitoring that counts cumulative contributions to noise. The Australian Ocean Data Network Portal is a good example of this kind of data collection. The European Union has proposed putting limits on overall noise, but the United States doesn’t consider the cumulative impact of all activities when giving out survey permits.

HR: Third, there are already new techniques that use steady streams of energy at lower levels than air guns and which might help to reduce risks to marine species. Fourth, we think that intergovernmental science coordination is critical because it’s a transboundary problem. Finally, we want to see the effects of cumulative noise incorporated into environmental-impact assessments.

Should some seismic surveying be banned?

DN: No. For the foreseeable future, seismic is a tool being used to find oil and gas at sea and, at lower amplitudes, to site wind farms, but you need to use it wisely. In the United States, the issue of redundant surveys is ridiculous. I can tell you from my experience of being out on the water in the Gulf of Mexico—on any given day, there may be 6, 8, 10 or 12 surveys going on nearby.

For the Atlantic, the US authorities are considering whether to permit multiple companies to carry out exploratory seismic surveys off the coast. One of the affected regions near Cape Hatteras happens to be the most diverse and richest area for cetaceans in the northwest Atlantic. To go out there and survey the same piece of water over and over again is ridiculous. Norway has instituted multi-client surveys, in which companies that are interested in seismic data from a particular area get together so that only one survey is done.

How will you persuade the international community to agree on regulations?

DN: The EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive is trying to limit overall noise to a certain level, taking into account all sources. They are currently taking an inventory of shipping noise in many areas, with plans to then seek methods to reduce the noise, particularly in biologically sensitive areas. We are earnestly looking for a forum, or a way to start talking about this and to create some standards internationally. One possible way of creating a legally binding instrument to restrict noise pollution to an acceptable level is to add an annex for noise pollution to MARPOL [the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships], similar to the newly added annex on air pollution.

Do you think industry and regulatory authorities will agree with your recommendations?

HR: We are presenting peer-reviewed science that shows the extent of the issue. Industry or governments may not fully agree with what we suggest is a responsible way forward, but it’s something that we feel could be very beneficial for industry and regulators as well—especially a standard set of ‘best practices’ for mitigating impacts on marine species and their habitats.

Super trawlers and bycatch: the true story.


As the super trawler Margiris steams towards Australia’s shores, a series of concerns have been raised. One is the impact on marine life, like dolphins and seals, that invariably are caught in the vessel’s enormous nets. Although according to the operators, this issue has been solved. So has it?

This week, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke added his voice to the concerns about the unwanted bycatch that the Margiris may scoop up while taking 18 million kilogrammes of fish out of Australian waters. He has a point. The risk for bycatch is a very real one on these big trawlers.

When I was on board Greenpeace vessel MY Arctic Sunrise earlier this year, campaigning against the plundering of African waters by super trawlers like the Margiris, we regularly came across large herds of dolphins playfully chasing schools of fish. Images similar to these posted on the Daily Telegraph were a common sight. Often this joyful experience was overshadowed by the image of a trawler in the background chasing after the same fish as the dolphins do. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that these trawlers accidentally scoop up these dolphins when fishing.

The evidence of bycatch is not only anecdotal. Scientists have been doing extensive research on this issue specifically focusing on Dutch super trawlers like the Margiris for 4 years, which has been published in a peer reviewed journal . These scientists have also come up with devices to mitigate bycatch, such as exit hatches in nets. The research showed that these devices can be effective for certain species, but certainly not for all of them, and they are definitely unable to prevent all unwanted bycatch. No dolphin was, for example, released by these devices. Scientists argue that because of claustrophobia, dolphins do not use the exit that was offered to them.

Installing these escape tools for bycatch comes with an operational cost. Their functionality results in a lower catch. An operator therefore has to find a balance in how much catch he is prepared to give up to save the lives of dolphins and seals.

This research was produced in 2006. The owners of the Margiris, Parlevliet and Van der Plas have had plenty of time to have these bycatch devices fully operational and optimised by now. Yet no follow up research has been conducted on the effectiveness of exit tools, and the company is unwilling to give us any information about their use.

When I was in Mauritania tracking and confronting the Margiris and other super trawlers in March this year, I had several discussions with super trawler crew about the bycatch issue.   They all said there is no problem. They could not ‘however’ forward me research to prove it. And when I asked them to go onboard so they could show me how they prevent bycatch, I wasn’t permitted. You would expect a company would be proud to show how they solve the problem of bycatch in order to get critics off their back. Apparently they are not. Or would the real reason be that they have not yet solved the problem like they say they have?

It will be up to Tony Burke to find out the real truth before accepting this super trawler ruining Australian ecosystems.
No super trawlers. Not here. Not anywhere.
http://bit.ly/no-supertrawlers

 

Source: Greenpeace International