Category Archives: Genetic Engineering

MIT and Wilson Center receive NSF grant to develop “synthetic biology” agenda

phys.org | Jun 10, 2013

The MIT Center for International Studies and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars are collaborating on a $233,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help realize potential benefits and to address potential ecological effects of synthetic biology.

The grant is supported jointly by three units within NSF, the Division of Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Division of Environmental Biology, and the Engineering Directorate. The grant will fund development of an interdisciplinary research agenda to improve understanding of potential ecological effects of commercial uses of synthetic biology.

Worse Than GMO?: Urgent Action Needed!

The “New Bioeconomy”: Synthetic Biology’s Implications for the Environment, Health and Justice

The research agenda will be developed through consultations among synthetic biologists, evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists. It will be based on workshops that focus on near- and medium-term applications of synthetic biology, with scenarios based on the intentional and unintentional release of engineered organisms.

This project will be conducted jointly by the Program on Emerging Technologies of the MIT Center for International Studies and the Synthetic Biology Project at the Wilson Center. It will build on four previous workshops that brought together a wide range of scientists, regulators, NGOs, companies, and other stakeholders to discuss possible ecological risks associated with synthetic biology products and to identify sources of uncertainty over risks. These workshops were funded jointly by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the NSF Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. The project is expected to be completed in one year. A small board of advisors has been created to guide the design and execution of the workshops.

Provided by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

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GMO cows pushed as Frankensolution to milk allergies

naturalnews.com | Feb 23, 2013

LON_FrankenCow(NaturalNews) Milk from dairy cows contains the protein s-lactoglobulin (BLG) which is not present in human milk. As it is a major milk allergen, an attempt at decreasing BLG by genetically modifying cows has gained much attention recently. According to researchers in a recent study, “analysis of hormonally induced milk from [these calves] demonstrated absence of BLG and a concurrent increase of all casein milk proteins.” It is believed that if bred in sufficient numbers, this type of genetically modified cow could one day provide milk for allergic infants and adults.

When will the madness stop?

In what seems like an attempt to distract us from the true dangers of milk, popular media and scientific sources like the one above are focusing our attention on the rare condition of milk allergies in an attempt to justify genetically modifying cows. Yet, only four percent of people are allergic to cow’s milk and doctors claim that most babies eventually outgrow this allergy. It remains clear; however, that the complications of milk consumption continue well into adulthood. It is reported that nearly 50 percent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant after childhood and that symptoms include bloating, pain or cramps, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. If someone feels ill after consuming a dairy product once, they probably do not have lactose intolerance. However, if symptoms persist after continued dairy consumption, then the likelihood toward lactose intolerance is much higher. Humans do not have the enzymes to properly digest milk proteins like BLG and casein, it is no wonder why most people suffer after drinking milk.

In addition to these deleterious effects of drinking cow’s milk, it is important to note that all of American milk is genetically contaminated by bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase production unless it is clearly labelled “NO rBGH.” Monsanto Co., the manufacturer of rBGH, has influenced U.S. product safety laws permitting the sale of unlabeled rBGH milk. rBGH increases the rates of 16 different harmful medical conditions in cows, and there is substantial scientific evidence that it may increase antibiotic resistance and cancer rates in humans. The product is already prohibited in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the 27 countries of the European Union and the Codex Alimentarius, the U.N.’s main food safety body, concluded there was no consensus that it’s safe for human health.

Whether considering GMOs or undigestible proteins, the risks associated with drinking processed cow’s milk far outweigh any benefits that may be gained from consuming it. Years and billions of dollars have been spent to indoctrinate our nation into thinking that “milk does a body good” and that our main source of calcium should come from it. Yet, it is commonly recognized that the best sources of calcium are green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, okra, and collards. Culinarily speaking, cow’s milk can easily be substituted with coconut or almond milk; both of which provide a creamy texture and are usually quite tasty depending on the brand.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.cnn.com
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/42/16811
http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/general/milk.htm
http://www.organicvalley.coop
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com

About the author:
Eric is a peer-reviewed, published researcher. His work on heart disease and autism has been accepted internationally at various scientific conferences through organizations like the American Public Health Association and Australian-based Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. Visit his blog. Track his work on facebook. Read Eric’s other naturalnews.com articles.

World’s richest men aid GMO-promoting ‘Green Revolution’ center

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Associated Press/Eduardo Verdugo – From left, Chair of the International Center for Improvement of Corn and Wheat (CIMMYT) Sara Boettiger, Mexico state Gov. Eruviel Avila, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Enrique Martinez, Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim and CIMMYT Director General Thomas Lumpkin cut the ribbon at inauguration of the new research center for the CIMMYT in Texcoco, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Gates and Slim teamed up to to fund new seed breeding research which the CIMMYT says aims to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat systems to ensure global food security and reduce poverty. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

By MARK STEVENSON

Associated Press | Feb 13

TEXCOCO, Mexico (AP) — The research center largely responsible for launching the “green revolution” of the 1960s that dramatically raised crop yields is getting support from the world’s richest men to develop genetically-modified seeds to help farmers in the developing world grow more grain in the face of a changing climatic conditions and increased demand.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim donated a total of $25 million to build a new cluster of biotechnology labs at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

The facilities include hothouses “with high-efficiency air particle filters and a water treatment plant to prevent pollen and genetically modified material from escaping to the outdoors,” according to a statement by the billionaires’ foundations.

Both of the philanthropists were on hand for Wednesday’s inauguration of the new labs at the research center, known as CIMMYT, located just east of Mexico City.

Bill Gates is Funding GMO Food – giving billions to the biotech industry

Bill Gates Dodges Questions on Why He Owns 500,000 Shares of Monsanto

Bill Gates, Monsanto, and eugenics: How one of the world’s wealthiest men is actively promoting a corporate takeover of global agriculture

Bill Gates added $7billion to his wealth in 2012 alone (and that’s AFTER he gave away $28million)

Billionaires Try to Shrink World’s Population

The Meat Industry Now Consumes Four-Fifths of All Antibiotics

It was yet another coming of age moment for GM crops, because the nonprofit CIMMYT has become known over the last 50 years for providing low-cost, improved seeds through hybridization efforts, using its vast stockpiles of native corn and wheat genes from across the world to cross-breed the best attributes, like drought-resistance.

But increasingly, genetic splicing is joining the older technique of cross-pollination as “one of the tools in the toolbox,” said CIMMYT Director Thomas Lumpkin.

While Lumpkin claimed that even hybridization represents a sort of genetic modification by selective planting and breeding, he noted that CIMMYT hasn’t shipped any true GM seeds yet, and acknowledged that some countries might have concerns.

“We want to facilitate the movement of those (genetic) traits to the countries of the developing world that request them, that want them,” Lumpkin said. “Nothing is being pushed, nothing is being forced, and CIMMYT will not profit.”

Gates noted there are “legitimate issues, but solvable issues” around wider GM crop use, and that solutions could include distributing GM crops that are patented but require no royalty payments.

That alone would be a big change in the spread of GM crops, which up to now have been largely controlled by a few big biotechnology and agricultural companies that charge steep rates for GM seed and sue any farmer who uses, even accidentally, their patented GM traits, like pest resistance.

CIMMYT, with its ties to farm agencies throughout the world, could be a conduit to deliver GM benefits to the developing world, which has largely been locked out of them.

GM traits could be developed by the center and donated, or they could be bought cheaply. That’s where Gates and his foundation could come in. With his help CIMMYT, which is known for charging farmers as little as possible, could pick up some of the older traits for low prices.

“Some of these traits are getting near the end of their patent life or are available from multiple entities, so that there’s even some competition there,” Gates noted.

Lumpkin said farmers may be scared by the legal risks of GM crops, noting “you can have a law suit of a million dollars” for unauthorized use of patented crops.

“So CIMMYT is primarily focusing on getting tried and true GMO traits that are widely used around the world and bring them to the poor farmers of the developing world, so that the women of the developing world don’t have to spend the entire cropping system pulling weeds in the field … when there is such a simple modification used by all of the farmers in the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, South Africa.”

“Why can’t these poor farmers have these same traits that have been used for 15 years in the developed world?” he asked.

Still national sensitivities in Mexico, where the CIMMYT was founded in 1963, are still strong. Mexico is the birthplace of corn, and concern that GM crops might displace or contaminate genetically-valuable native strains have so far held up large-scale planting of GM corn in Mexico, even as the country has been forced to import about half of its basic grain consumption.

“Under the guise of philanthropy, what they are doing is promoting the use of transgenetic crops, with rhetoric about ending hunger in the world,” said Aleira Lara, of Greenpeace Mexico. “Those things are myths.”

“These (GM) seeds are not any kind of magic wand for increasing production, and they bring new problems to the countryside,” like developing resistance among pests and weeds, Lara said.

Lumpkin noted that CIMMYT is already doing some GM corn research in Africa, but not in Mexico.

“We are doing some research here with wheat, which is not such a sensitive issue in Mexico,” he said.

Lumpkin warned that the world could face a recurrence of the kind of crisis that CIMMYT was able to stave off 50 years ago, this time brought about by new plant diseases, climate change, water shortages and increasing consumption of grain-intensive foods, like meat.

“On one hand, there is rapidly increasing demand … on the other hand, conditions for producing this food are deteriorating rapidly,” he said.

Without new research avenues, he warned, “we have all of the ingredients for a new global food crisis.”

 

3D-Printed Human Embryonic Stem Cells Created for First Time

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Scientists used 3D printing to form these aggregates of embryonic stem cells, shown here at 24 hours (left) and 48 hours (right) after printing.

LiveScience.com | Feb 6, 2013

By Tanya Lewis

Imagine if you could take living cells, load them into a printer, and squirt out a 3D tissue that could develop into a kidney or a heart. Scientists are one step closer to that reality, now that they have developed the first printer for embryonic human stem cells.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Edinburgh have created a cell printer that spits out living embryonic stem cells. The printer was capable of printing uniform-size droplets of cells gently enough to keep the cells alive and maintain their ability to develop into different cell types. The new printing method could be used to make 3D human tissues for testing new drugs, grow organs, or ultimately print cells directly inside the body.

Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are obtained from human embryos and can develop into any cell type in an adult person, from brain tissue to muscle to bone. This attribute makes them ideal for use in regenerative medicine — repairing, replacing and regenerating damaged cells, tissues or organs. [Stem Cells: 5 Fascinating Findings]

In a lab dish, hESCs can be placed in a solution that contains the biological cues that tell the cells to develop into specific tissue types, a process called differentiation. The process starts with the cells forming what are called “embryoid bodies.” Cell printers offer a means of producing embryoid bodies of a defined size and shape.

In the new study, the cell printer was made from a modified CNC machine (a computer-controlled machining tool) outfitted with two “bio-ink” dispensers: one containing stem cells in a nutrient-rich soup called cell medium and another containing just the medium. These embryonic stem cells were dispensed through computer-operated valves, while a microscope mounted to the printer provided a close-up view of what was being printed.

The two inks were dispensed in layers, one on top of the other to create cell droplets of varying concentration. The smallest droplets were only two nanoliters, containing roughly five cells.

The cells were printed onto a dish containing many small wells. The dish was then flipped over so the droplets now hung from them, allowing the stem cells to form clumps inside each well. (The printer lays down the cells in precisely sized droplets and in a certain pattern that is optimal for differentiation.)

Tests revealed that more than 95 percent of the cells were still alive 24 hours after being printed, suggesting they had not been killed by the printing process. More than 89 percent of the cells were still alive three days later, and also tested positive for a marker of their pluripotency — their potential to develop into different cell types.

Biomedical engineer Utkan Demirci, of Harvard University Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has done pioneering work in printing cells, and thinks the new study is taking it in an exciting direction. “This technology could be really good for high-throughput drug testing,” Demirci told LiveScience. One can build mini-tissues from the bottom up, using a repeatable, reliable method, he said. Building whole organs is the long-term goal, Demirci said, though he cautioned that it “may be quite far from where we are today.”

Others have created printers for other types of cells. Demirci and colleagues made one that printed embryonic stem cells from mice. Others have printed a kind of human stem cells from connective tissues, which aren’t able to develop into as many cell types as embryonic stem cells. The current study is the first to print embryonic stem cells from humans, researchers report in the Feb. 5 issue of the journal Biofabrication.

Military Must Prep Now for ‘Mutant’ Future, Researchers Warn

lockheed
Lockheed Martin tests its Human Universal Load Carrier exoskeleton. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Wired | Dec 31, 2012

By David Axe

The U.S. military is already using, or fast developing, a wide range of technologies meant to give troops what California Polytechnic State University researcher Patrick Lin calls “mutant powers.” Greater strength and endurance. Superior cognition. Better teamwork. Fearlessness.

But the risk, ethics and policy issues arising out of these so-called “military human enhancements” — including drugs, special nutrition, electroshock, gene therapy and robotic implants and prostheses — are poorly understood, Lin and his colleagues Maxwell Mehlman and Keith Abney posit in a new report for The Greenwall Foundation (.pdf), scheduled for wide release tomorrow. In other words, we better think long and hard before we unleash our army of super soldiers.

If we don’t, we could find ourselves in big trouble down the road. Among the nightmare scenarios: Botched enhancements could harm the very soldiers they’re meant to help and spawn pricey lawsuits. Tweaked troopers could run afoul of international law, potentially sparking a diplomatic crisis every time the U.S. deploys troops overseas. And poorly planned enhancements could provoke disproportionate responses by America’s enemies, resulting in a potentially devastating arms race.

“With military enhancements and other technologies, the genie’s already out of the bottle: the benefits are too irresistible, and the military-industrial complex still has too much momentum,” Lin says in an e-mail. “The best we can do now is to help develop policies in advance to prepare for these new technologies, not post hoc or after the fact (as we’re seeing with drones and cyberweapons).”

Case in point: On April 18, 2002, a pair of Air Force F-16 fighter pilots returning from a 10-hour mission over Afghanistan saw flashes on the ground 18,000 feet below them. Thinking he and his wingman were under fire by insurgents, Maj. Harry Schmidt dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.

There were no insurgents — just Canadian troops on a live-fire exercise, four of whom were killed in the blast. The Air Force ultimately dropped criminal charges against Schmidt and wingman Maj. William Umbach but did strip them of their wings. In a letter of reprimand, Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson accused Schmidt of “willful misconduct” and “gross poor judgment.”

Schmidt countered, saying he was jittery from taking the stimulant Dexedrine, an amphetamine that the Air Force routinely prescribes for pilots flying long missions. “I don’t know what the effect was supposed to be,” Schmidt told Chicago magazine. “All I know is something [was] happening to my body and brain.”

The Food and Drug Administration warns that Dexedrine can cause “new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility.” (.pdf) But the Air Force still blamed the pilots.

The Canadian “friendly fire” tragedy underscores the gap between the technology and policy of military human enhancement. Authorities in the bombing case could have benefited from clearer guidelines for determining whether the drugs, rather than the pilots, were to blame for the accidental deaths. “Are there ethical, legal, psycho-social or operational limits on the extent to which a warfighter may be enhanced?” Lin, Mehlman and Abney ask in their report.

Now imagine a future battlefield teeming with amphetamine-fueled pilots, a cyborg infantry and commanders whose brains have been shocked into achieving otherwise impossible levels of tactical cunning.

These enhancements and others have tremendous combat potential, the researchers state. “Somewhere in between robotics and biomedical research, we might arrive at the perfect future warfighter: one that is part machine and part human, striking a formidable balance between technology and our frailties.”

In this possible mutant future, what enhancements should be regulated by international law, or banned outright? If an implant malfunctions or a drug causes unexpected side effects, who’s responsible? And if one side deploys a terrifying cyborg army, could that spark a devastating arms race as nations scramble to out-enhance each other? “Does the possibility that military enhancements will simply lead to a continuing arms race mean that it is unethical to even begin to research or employ them?” Lin, Mehlman and Abney wonder.

The report authors also question whether the military shouldn’t get give potential enhancement subjects the right to opt out, even though the subjects are otherwise subject to military training, rules and discipline. “Should warfighters be required to give their informed consent to being enhanced, and if so, what should that process be?” the researchers ask.

The ethical concerns certainly have precedent. In a series of experiments in the 1970s aimed at developing hallucinogenic weapons, the Pentagon gave soldiers LSD — apparently without the subjects fully understanding the consequences of using the drug. During the Cold War U.S. troops were also exposed to nerve gas, psychochemicals and other toxic substances on an experimental basis and without their consent.

Moreover, it’s theoretically possible that future biological enhancements could be subject to existing international laws and treaties, potentially limiting the enhancements — or prohibiting them outright. But the application of existing laws and treaties is unclear, at best. ”Could enhanced warfighters be considered to be ‘weapons’ in themselves and therefore subject to regulation under the Laws of Armed Conflict?” the researchers write. “Or could an enhanced warfighter count as a ‘biological agent’ under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention?”

Lin, Mehlman and Abney aren’t sure. To be safe, they propose the military consider several rules when planning an enhancement. Is there a legitimate military purpose? Is it necessary? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Can subjects’ dignity be maintained and the cost to them minimized? Is there full, informed consent, transparency and are the costs of the enhancement fairly distributed? Finally, are systems in place to hold accountable those overseeing the enhancement?

Whether following these guidelines or others, the Pentagon should start figuring out a framework for military human enhancement now, Lin and his colleagues advise. “In comic books and science fiction, we can suspend disbelief about the details associated with fantastical technologies and abilities, as represented by human enhancements,” they warn. “But in the real world — as life imitates art, and ‘mutant powers’ really are changing the world — the details matter and will require real investigations.”

Agenda 21 – GMO Poison Documentary: Deteriorating health of Americans linked to Genetically Modified foods

When the US government ignored repeated warnings by its own scientists and allowed untested genetically modified (GM) crops into our environment and food supply, it was a gamble of unprecedented proportions. The health of all living things and all future generations were put at risk by an infant technology.

After two decades, physicians and scientists have uncovered a grave trend. The same serious health problems found in lab animals, livestock, and pets that have been fed GM foods are now on the rise in the US population. And when people and animals stop eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their health improves.

This seminal documentary provides compelling evidence to help explain the deteriorating health of Americans, especially among children, and offers a recipe for protecting ourselves and our future.

Youtube | Nov 9, 2012  by DocumentaryFeast

Agenda 21 – GMO Poison (Full Documentary) (1/2)

Agenda 21 – GMO Poison (Documentary) (2/2)

Brazil Embarks on Cloning of Wild Animals

Inter Press Service | Nov 6, 2012

by Alice Marcondes

The jaguar is one of the first three species that Brazilian scientists will attempt to clone. (Photo courtesy of the Brasilia Zoo.)

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian scientists are attempting to clone animals in danger of extinction, like the jaguar and maned wolf, although the potential impact on the conservation of these threatened species is still not clear.

The cloning initiative is being undertaken by the Brasilia Zoological Garden in partnership with the Brazilian government’s agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA, and is now in its second phase. The research is aimed at adapting cloning techniques to wild animal species as a means of contributing to conservation.

The first phase involved the collection of samples of genetic material, or germplasm, in the form of blood, sperm, somatic cells and umbilical cord cells.

“We already have 420 germplasm samples stored in our bank and are going to continue collecting,” EMBRAPA researcher Carlos Frederico Martins told Tierramérica*.

Eight animals have been chosen for the initiative, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the black lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus). Most are on the Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The samples were gathered over the course of two years. In addition to the three species mentioned above, the bank has also been stocked with germplasm from the bush dog (Speothos venaticus), coati (genus Nasua), collared anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla), gray brocket deer (Mazama gouazoubira) and bison (genus Bison).

The researchers harvested the genetic material primarily from dead specimens of animals native to the Cerrado, the vast tropical savannah biome that stretches across central Brazil.

The next phase will be the training of researchers at the zoo.

“At EMBRAPA we have already cloned cows. What we are going to do now is to transfer our knowledge to the researchers so that they can conduct studies to adapt the technique to wild animals,” said Martins.

EMBRAPA was responsible for the birth of the first cloned animal in Brazil, a calf named Vitória, who was born in 2001 and lived until 2011.

After Vitória, many other animals have been cloned, mainly cows and horses who now add up to over 100 living specimens.

A bill that has been making its way through the Brazilian senate since 2007 would establish regulations for the practice of cloning, since the current legislation does not set very clear rules.

“Research can be freely conducted, but there is little monitoring and control. Any laboratory can clone cows, so it is impossible to precisely say how many clones exist,” explained the EMBRAPA researcher.

This is Brazil’s first attempt at cloning wild animals. Martins noted that “countries like the United States and South Korea are already working on similar research.”

The lack of prior experience makes it difficult to foresee how long it will take to produce the first clone, he said. But “we can predict that it will probably be a maned wolf, since this is the species for which we have many samples of genetic material,” he added.

Martins stressed, however, that the goal is not to release the clones into the wild. “The zoo wants to increase the number of specimens for its own use. The idea is to keep these animals in captivity. The use of clones would prevent the impact caused by the removal of these animals from their natural setting,” he said.

“From the point of view of conservation, the ideal approach is to preserve and multiply the number of wild animals where they are found,” he emphasised. Since cloned specimens contain the exact same genes as the animals they were cloned from, “they do not have the genetic variability that would make it beneficial to release them in the wild,” he explained.

Cloned animals would only be released in extreme cases, Martins said.

“If a certain species was in a state of drastic decline, at risk of total extinction, and it was possible to provide reinforcement, we will have the capacity,” Juciara Pelles, the head of conservation and research at the Brasilia Zoo, told Tierramérica.

“We are still in the phase of developing the technology, so we still don’t know if it will be possible to rescue a population in the wild, but we could potentially make it viable again,” she added.

The current technique has a five to seven percent rate of effectiveness. According to Martins, this percentage is within the average range achieved worldwide.

“It’s a low number, which makes the technology more costly, but it is average. The research underway is also aimed at raising it,” he noted.

For Onildo João Marini Filho, a biologist at ICMBio, the cloning of horses and cows is justified by its commercial purposes. But the cloning of wild animals needs to be handled with caution.

“There has to be a very tangible benefit for conservation. If there is something to be gained, it is valid. It might be possible, for example, to increase the number of animals to help with a breeding programme,” he told Tierramérica.

In order for the second phase of the research to effectively begin, the Brasilia Zoo is waiting for legal authorisation from the relevant agencies. It is hoped that the initial steps towards the creation of the first clone can be taken in approximately one month. “This is a long-term project,” said Pelles.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.