When It Comes To Food, Do You Trust Science Or A Yogic Flying Instructor?
    By Hank Campbell | April 13th 2014 06:00 AM | 25 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

    View Hank's Profile
    Professional forester and writer Norm Benson recently got a healthy dose of anti-science environmentalism, because he wrote an article endorsing a vitamin-enriched bowl of rice that, nonetheless, is protested by Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists and everyone else who hates science more than they love children.

    Golden Rice defies every anti-science convention that left-wing activists throw in front of biology. It is not controlled by Monsanto or any other company, it cannot possibly express anything harmful in humans, and it can't have any effect on the environment. All it can do is save 18 million children from dying due to vitamin A deficiency and another 18 million from going blind. That's the number of kids that have been harmed while environmental groups have worked peasant hordes into a rage and gotten them to attack Golden Rice fields.

    Sputtering that evil biological tinkerers took a gene from corn and put it into rice and that turns it into Frankenfood just makes activists look dopey. They don't even know enough science to be wrong, they don't know any and don't want to know any. The critics of genetically modified food are a small cabal of crackpots like Jeffrey Smith, transcendental meditationist and yogic flyer, sprinkled with a few outlier scientists who should know better but intentionally misrepresent the technology to create cultural confusion.

    Expect them to put on their anti-science fête at the next American College of Nutrition Annual Conference, since the moderator is supplement guru Dallas L. Clouatre, who throws around terms like pleiotropy to sound science-y but also endorses known fraud and anti-GMO activist Gilles-Eric Seralini and makes his living selling alternative cures. As with the recent food conference in Ireland, the scientists invited will simply be stoic punching bags for the fear and doubt pandering of the falsely equivalent opposition.

    Benson rightly ridicules the "let them eat kale" mentality of progressive first world elites who raise money insisting poor people can buy organic food. He quotes Science 2.0 contributor Kevin Folta, who said, "It is easy to stand against a technology with a full belly and 20/20 vision."

    Indeed it is. If activists can do better science, do better science. If their plan will feed the world, stop spending donations on new fundraising campaigns and help feed people.

    Not everyone is on board with the kookier American and ridiculously anti-science European fundraising techniques, which consist of demonizing anything the left wing distrusts, like food, medicine and energy. David Ritter of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific is apparently quite reasonable for an environmentalist. He says he is pro-vaccine and flouride in water, hesitant on nuclear power (in Greenpeace-speak, that means against) but says that GM crops are not an issue that Greenpeace Australia-Pacific is campaigning about now. With those beliefs, he'd be thrown out of the gang here. Heck, he'd practically have to be a Republican in America.

    It's almost as if environmentalists in Australia are like American environmentalists were before 1960; sane, taking each issue on its own merits, and actually concerned more about the environment than endorsing social engineering positions to create a fundraising umbrella.

    Greenpeace long ago left normalcy behind, so tread cautiously, Mr. Ritter. One of their co-founders, Canadian ecologist Patrick Moore, said they are wrong on GMOs also and for that, they removed him from their history. 


    Thanks for the shout out.

    Hmmm...let's see.

    The "Science" use by the Oligarchical BioCHEMICAL Cabal is over forty years out of date, and therefore totally out of step with the current Science of Biotechnology who can create better, more stable XNA [You probably haven't heard of it, if you're still stupidly inserting material into cells with a bacteriophage based on modified E-Coli-who EVER thought THAT was a winning idea, anyway?], as well as analyze and manipulate expression on a QUANTUM[subatomic for you Science Tyros] Scale.

    So, I vote for the Yoga Instructor.

    umm, well first off is Agrobacterium tumefaciens that mediates the transfer into cells not "modified e coli". second do you think talking about XNA and saying the word quantum makes you seem intelligent? if people have an aversion to people using DNA im supposed to believe that even if this xeno nucleic acid technology could be readily utilized, that people would want a completely synthetic scaffolding in which to put genes into? Who do you think your kidding?

    i know i shouldnt feed the trolls but i just wonder if you know just how positively ignorant you sound.

    Well, Dom...yes it does, as the entire thrust of your-and I use the term loosely, "reply" indicate a dysfunctional level of cluelessness. I'd take time to provide the background knowledge to at least ask an intelligent question about what I ACTUALLY posted, but since I'M able to do that research, ergo, then so should you.

    The technology that exists has FAILED, and Monsanto seems to NOT want anything new IT doesn't understand:
    Is Big Ag squelching research showing its new RNAi GMOs may be dangerous?

    By Caitlin Rockett,

    After nearly 30 years studying how plants use their genes to defend against viruses, Vicki Vance, a professor at the University of South Carolina, doesn’t see genetically modifying plants as a malevolent or arrogantly God-like endeavor.

    “There’s DNA in the world and it gets passed from one organism to another and it’s the natural thing. If that’s the problem you have with transgenic plants, that’s not a good reason to be against them,” Vance says.

    She does, however, have a problem with mega corporations allegedly using their money and power to hide the risks of new forms of genetic technology.

    “I didn’t use to be an anti-GMO person and I didn’t use to have strong feelings about Monsanto, but …,” she says, her voice trailing off.

    But that was before the Chinese research, before the calls from Monsanto, before she couldn’t get funding for work that she feels could change the way we treat cancer and other diseases. Her research put her at odds with one of the most powerful corporations in the world.

    Vance isn’t a nobody in the world of RNA research. At a June 2011 conference hosted by the nonprofit International Life Science Institute (ILSI), a group of academics, regulatory professionals from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Risk Analysis Program and members of the biotech industry gathered in Washington D.C. They came to evaluate the environmental risks of a promising new technique to protect crops against pestilent insects — a gene-regulating process called RNA interference.

    Vance wasn’t just an attendee at the conference; she provided the introduction for the event. She’s studied small interfering ribonucleic acid molecules, siRNA, in plants for most of her career. Her name appears often in academic papers and conference proceedings on the topic of gene silencing, the main function of so-called RNAi technology.

    At that time, views of Vance and the other attendees was relatively positive: “No plausible risk hypotheses were identified that can be considered unique to RNAi mechanisms when compared to other genetically engineered plants with similar traits.”

    “At the time I was like, ‘Hell yes it’s safe — how is this gonna be dangerous?’” says Vance. “The corn rootworm will take up these siRNAs, which turn off production of essential proteins in pests. Apparently it works really well. Otherwise you’d have to use pesticides, chemicals that are toxic.”

    But her stance on RNAi as a pesticide would change shortly after the conference.

    Controversial research

    RNAi has applications in both the medical world and in agriculture. But these two worlds are not after the same thing when it comes to RNA. While the medical community is trying to perfect processes that will cause the human body to accept modified RNA strands, agriculture corporations working in the GMO field are busy trying to prove that their RNA strands can’t be assimilated by the human body at all.

    For example, some microRNAs interfere with cell division and block cancer. These tumor suppressor RNAs are missing in cancer patients. If they can be replaced — an experimental treatment known as microRNA replacement therapy — then doctors could theoretically stop the proliferation of cancer cells. But in agriculture where RNA is being engineered as a pesticide designed to kill insects that feed on crops — such as Monsanto’s RNA efforts aimed at the Western corn rootworm, the most economically destructive pest in corn production — it is paramount that the RNA in and/or on the corn that is later eaten by humans doesn’t subsequently infiltrate our cells causing who knows what kind of unintended consequences.

    In short, the medical world needs the genetically modified RNA to be assimilated by our bodies and the agricultural world needs the opposite to occur.

    In September of 2011, three months after Vance gave her presentation on RNAi at the ILSI conference, a team lead by Chen-Yu Zhang of Nanjing University in China published a paper in the journal Cell Research claiming that mammals (mice, in the case of their study) take up small RNAs when they eat plants, and those plant RNAs regulate expression of mammalian genes — something the science world refers to as trans-kingdom gene regulation.

    The team reported finding small RNA molecules in the bloodstream and tissue of mice and humans. They found that one particular molecule of RNA from rice could inhibit a protein that supports removal of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol from the blood. If such a finding proved to also be true for humans, it would potentially indicate that eating foods contain ing modified RNA could have major implications for heart disease and other health issues tied to cholesterol.

    “That had never been reported before. Nobody had thought about that,” says Vance. “What the hell, I mean, you’re eating a plant and taking in plant RNAs and they are regulating the expression of your genes? I think that has to be considered. … There’s been a lot of resistance to that paper. When something really unexpected like that comes up, there’s always a lot of resistance.”

    Resistance was apparent even before the Chinese study was published. The team’s manuscript was rejected by wellknown journals Science, Cell and Molecular Cell. Zhang told The Scientist Magazine it was because their discovery was “too extraordinary.”

    “Most of the people [who speculate about our work] just don’t believe it because the concept right now, I have to say, is broken by my results,” Zhang told Boulder Weekly in a recent interview from Nanjing. “They don’t want to believe until I have new data or the other groups reproduce some of our data. And of course some other people, for whatever reason I don’t want to say … I don’t want to even touch … they are just against our discovery no matter what it is.”

    The work was so controversial that another preeminent journal, Nature Biotechnology, made a rather unusual move: They published a letter from a team detailing negative findings. In other words, it was a study that presents no new conclusions, only an unsuccessful attempt to recreate Zhang’s findings.

    “[T]he new report, resulting from a collaboration between miRagen Therapeutics and Monsanto, clarifies what were controversial findings in [the Zhang study]. The latter study … sparked vigorous debate because it reported the presence of plant microR- NA in human blood plasma and suggested that one in particular, miRNA 168a, from ingested rice could traverse into the circulation of mice resulting in the modulation of miRNA target genes in the animal.”

    The editorial goes on to say that the miRagen/ Monsanto study which used three different groups of mice for control and comparison, found no evidence of miRNA 168a in the plasma and liver tissue of mice fed a rice diet, and they attributed altered LDL levels in the animal blood to differences in the nutrition available to mice in different groups.

    “One of the issues with eating rice alone without out any sort of protein source is you can get effects on metabolism that really have to do with lack of a balanced diet instead of the transit of microRNA and trans-kingdom gene expression,” says William Marshall, president and chief executive officer for the Boulder-based miRagen (pronounce mir-a-gin) Therapeutics. miRagen is a company researching RNA use in treating cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and fibrosis.

    Marshall says he thinks it’s important that Nature Biotechnology broke tradition and published the miRagen/ Monsanto study.

    “One general issue in science publications is that negative studies are not often published. It’s like the finding never gets reported because science journals want to report on innovations and successes,” he says. “But there’s this whole reproducibility initiative that Nature Biotechnology is part of to really attempt to highlight these results, because if you don’t report that, there are questions about the validity of the study, then the study becomes sort of de facto the truth. That’s how scientific literature works. And I think it’s important that we rethink this old system, and it’s becoming a really important theme in science today.

    Beyond that, however, Marshall says he was disappointed that the team was unable to recreate Zhang’s results.

    “[miRagen] got excited about this from the strict perspective of being able to develop microRNA drugs,” Marshall says. “The unfortunate outcome was that we could not observe that particular microRNA [miRNA 168a] was actually able to transit [from the gut and blood stream into cells]. From our perspective it was disappointing, because we saw this as a real opportunity to expand the horizon for all nucleic acid based drugs. This was going to be ground breaking and so far we’ve not been able to reproduce it. And in the absence of really showing a robust effect here, it’s very difficult contemplating taking it further.”

    Monsanto and miRagen weren’t the only team unable to reproduce the results from Zhang’s study. In May of 2012, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston were unable to detect levels of plant miR- NAs in the blood of healthy athletes who were fed RNA-laden fruit. The team also failed to find RNA traces in mice or bees.

    “We conclude that horizontal delivery of microRNAs via typical dietary ingestion is neither a robust nor a frequent mechanism,” wrote the authors.

    In June, a research team from Johns Hopkins University published a piece in RNA Biology saying that Zhang’s results were likely a false positive resulting from the technique his group used.

    In the Monsanto/miRagen study, the team suggested that Zhang’s results were skewed by environmental contamination of the sequencing equipment they used to detect plant microRNAs in humans.

    “That particular plant microR- NA had been used in the past to normalize these studies and so the issue is that it could have been a common contaminate that was used in a lab to do deep sequencing,” says Marshall.

    But the fact that miRagen collaborated with Monsanto on this report gives rise to legitimate questions about credibility — the agricultural powerhouse clearly has much to gain from using a genetic technology that will kill the costliest parasite to the world’s most produced grain, but what about miRagen?

    What’s at stake?

    Some scientists, such as Kevin M. Folta, an associate professor in the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, believe miRagen had nothing to gain by discrediting the Zhang study.

    “[MiRagen has] a vested interest in identifying mechanisms to orally administer miRNA and detect physiological outcomes,” Folta wrote in a blog piece in November 2013.

    “If [miRagen] repeated Zhang et al.’s work it would have been a positive finding for their company, as I’m sure they get plenty of criticism for the viability of their potential therapies,” Folta concluded.

    The Monsanto/miRagen study clearly states that Monsanto asked the Colorado-based therapeutics company to participate in the reproducibility study. Marshall says miRagen was in contact with Monsanto even before the study because of the ag company’s interest in RNAi technology — which included their interest in preventing trans-kingdom gene regulation.

    “So this [study] was a win-win scenario for both of us because essentially we would learn why this particular microRNA was able to transit and be orally bioavailable, and at the same time we would work with Monsanto to understand the rules for the ones that don’t,” Marshall adds. “And the idea was if you would want to engineer plants and prohibit any sort of transkingdom gene regulation then we would understand the rules behind that.”

    Vance is less convinced in the innocence of the partnership.

    “I think Monsanto was trying to get some legitimacy by bringing in these people from [miRagen] because they have some, what I would consider, establishment animal microRNA people — there are some highly thought of people on their scientific advisory boards,” she says.

    “But it’s Monsanto who’s spearheading this thing, and they have this company as first author and last author, whereas they’re all in the middle. That’s another thing that’s saying, ‘This isn’t really Monsanto. Pay no attention to the Monsanto people. First author and last author, that’s the important thing,’ and that is the important thing,” Vance says. “First author, that’s typically the one that did the most work. Last author, in [the microbiology] field, is the person usually who is the communicating author, the one who takes responsibility for the work. But is Monsanto driving this from behind?”

    Vance believes both companies have a financial interest in discrediting the Chinese paper.

    “On the other hand, I think [miRagen] has some interest in discrediting this Chinese paper. They are trying to use microRNAs therapeutically, and it’s hard to get them [through the blood stream to the cell], and so there’s all sorts of things you have to do to make them work and those things are expensive and they have their downsides. And so what this Chinese paper says is, “Well, you don’t have to do any of that stuff, all you have to do is make it in plants and then eat it. All you have to do is ingest it.”

    Such a finding would have major implications on drug industry research and development which desires to create expensive, profitable medicines that can be sold as opposed to developing foods that could fight certain diseases simply by being ingested.

    While Zhang declined to comment directly on Monsanto steering any research, he did say he felt slighted by Nature Biotechnology.

    Zhang published a response to the correspondence from Monsanto/miRagen critiquing Zhang’s study, and while Nature Biotechnology published the response immediately following the critique, Zhang says he’s disappointed that the journal didn’t mention his response in the editorial about the importance of reproducibility.

    “They did not mention at all our reply, they just said, ‘Well, somebody reproduced this study and they couldn’t reproduce our data.’ I cannot believe — it’s really unbelievable — that such a decent scientific journal had such unfair and unprofessional behavior,” says Zhang.

    “I just want to say,” he adds, “obviously something is going on. It’s not pure science. I just think something is maybe behind them.”

    He pauses, then adds quickly, “I don’t want to say anymore.” Zhang seems uncomfortable saying the word Monsanto, often calling it “the company.”

    “I don’t want to attach to them,” he says. “[When the paper came out] they contacted me, the Chinese office. I don’t want to have any relationship to them. Even right now I don’t want to say anything about transgenic or GM food.”

    Knock, knock? Who’s there? It’s Monsanto. Now show us your research.

    After the Zhang paper was published, Vance was so intrigued that she led her lab, without external funding, to design similar but distinctive experiments to test whether they could detect plant small RNA in animals simply by feeding them the plants.

    “We designed plants that make a cocktail of three human tumor suppressor RNAs and then fed those plants to mice,” says Vance. “We fed that to the mice once a day for 28 days. The tumor burden was significantly suppressed in the mice. We’re very excited about that. Seems like there’s huge potential here and our work suggests the Chinese paper was right.”

    “There’s no toxicity,” she says. “At least in our studies there’s no toxicity, it just has these amazing therapeutic effects.”

    But Vance found that scientific journals weren’t as enthusiastic about her research as she is.

    “We still can’t get it funded. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Reviewers always say the same things: it stems from work that can’t be replicated, how can you prove the plant small RNAs get in, the Chinese paper is controversial, no one believes it,” she says.

    Zhang also dealt with questions about proving that plant RNA was present in human blood and tissue. Skeptical researchers questioned how to differentiate between plant RNA and animal RNA. As miRNA are very short, only about 22 nucleotides long (in comparison to the millions found in DNA), there could be matching sequences between animal and plant.

    Despite skepticism from both the public and scientific community, Vance and Zhang continued with their work.

    Vance says it was about a year after the ILSI conference when Andrew Roberts, deputy director for ILSI’s Center for Environmental Risk Assessment, called her up to ask if she would be the last author — essentially a point-of-contact for inquiries — on a white paper about the conference’s conclusions.

    “That was when I said — the Zhang paper had come out by then — I said I didn’t want my name on the paper,” says Vance. “That’s when Monsanto started to call me.”

    A quick fall

    Prior to the release of the Zhang paper and Vance’s refusal to be listed on ILSI’s risk assessment paper, Monsanto had invited Vance to give a talk at the International Symposium of Biosafety of GMO Plants, a biennial international meeting organized by the International Society for Biosafety Research.

    The meeting was, perhaps oddly enough, held in St. Louis that year, where the agricultural behemoth Monsanto is headquartered. According to Vance, Monsanto was in charge of the session on the safety of RNAi plants.

    “They asked me to give the same overview of RNAi that I had given at the [ILSI] meeting. They had already paid my way, made my hotel reservations, I had an abstract, I was listed on the schedule and everything. Then this fuss came up over the [Zhang] paper,” Vance says. “They called me and asked, was I going to talk about [the Zhang paper] at the symposium and I said, ‘Well yeah, that’s part of the story, it has to be discussed.’”

    Vance says Monsanto was adamant that she not mention the Zhang paper in her overview. Her insistence on bringing it up only made the situation more complicated.

    “I had to participate in a conference call and [Monsanto] had lawyers present. They eventually called me back and uninvited me from the [International Symposium of Biosafety of GMO Plants],” she says.

    But the calls didn’t end.

    “They kept calling me because I’d said [my lab] had data consistent with the Zhang paper, and they wanted to ‘help me with experiments’ because I had results that were in conflict with their results. They said they wanted to make sure I was doing the right controls on my experiments. I said, ‘I’ve been a scientist for 30 years, I think I know what I’m doing and when I publish the paper you can comment on it.’

    According to Vance, Monsanto representatives told her, “We were hoping to get to it before that happens.”

    After another series of phone calls in which Monsanto asked if they could send only two scientists instead of a team to Vance’s lab, Vance told them they were simply not invited.

    “I was really surprised that Monsanto took the time and effort to try to squash my research because it’s such a contrast — I’m a little old lady running a little lab in South Carolina,” Vance says.

    “Maybe I’m being paranoid,” offers Vance, “but I feel there’s an effort from a large company with a lot of money toward discrediting the work of this other group and keeping people from publishing their work.”

    She eventually received another call from Andrew Roberts, deputy director of ILSI’s Center for Environmental Research Assessment, who had invited Vance to present at the 2011 conference on RNAi environmental risks. She told Roberts about the recent experience with Monsanto. According to Vance, Roberts called Monsanto and asked them to stop contacting her — and she says the calls did stop.

    When BW called Roberts, he declined to comment on Monsanto’s possible interference with Vance’s work. When asked whether he requested that the company back off of the South Carolina researcher he said, “No comment — but I will say this falls in the ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ category.”

    More evidence

    Vance and Zhang aren’t the only researchers who claim to have promising results that indicate trans-kingdom gene regulation is possible. Eric Lam, a professor in the department of plant biology and pathology at Rutgers University, has been researching the transit of plant small RNA to animal cells for more than a decade.

    “The idea is to see if we can actually express small RNAs, which we call silencing RNAs or siRNAs, that target human pathogenic viruses, like the flu virus. Why we have to take flu shots is because viruses such as influenza have a very high neurogenic rate, meaning they can easily evolve new amino acid residues that allow them to escape new vaccines that [are] create[d] every year,” Lam says.

    His longest running project produces transgenic tomato plants that express RNA targeted at viruses such as influenza and Hepatitis C.

    But reviewers weren’t convinced in the reliability of Lam’s preliminary study, saying it wasn’t clear that the team’s sequencing methods — the process of determining the precise order of nucleotides of the RNA molecules — were actually detecting plant small RNAs in their rabbit test subjects.

    “These are small RNAs — they are like 21 base nucleotides long. That’s very small in terms of sequencing. You have to have many copies of those to be such that it’s not just a fluke, just an artifact of the sequencing,” Lam says.

    Lam says this is the same argument that the Monsanto/miRagen study made about Zhang’s work.

    “The problem that came out, the controversy, is if you only see a couple of variants of one small RNA, how much could be just error of sequencing?” Lam explains. “The argument is whether these are sequencing errors or whether these are bonafide transport of the plant microRNA into the animal system. That’s really the crux of the issue that I saw in [the Monsanto/miRagen studied that was published in] Nature Biotech.”

    Lam says his group has been able to produce a tomato plant that contains a 400 base pair fragment of the influenza virus.

    “We know which 21 base fragments are present. Now we’re doing the rabbit blood RNA sample to try to find out whether multiple siRNA that are now in food should appear in the blood if this is true. Not a single one, but multiple ones,” Lam says. “Because of this, I believe we have the potential system to resolve this controversy.”

    Lam doesn’t feel slighted that his research has come under scrutiny.

    “I accept the [preliminary] review — extraordinary claims need extraordinary data to back it up. This is how science is done in the States anyway,” Lam says, no trace of frustration in his voice. “I fully realize there could be a lot of controversy and discussion if this proves to be true, and it could potentially really change the way we do medicine and also understand how we interact with our food. So it is an important finding that needs really tight scrutiny.”

    Jonathan Lundgren, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s North Central Agriculture Research Laboratory, Lundgren agrees that RNAi needs more scrutiny, especially when used as a pesticide.

    “Most of our experiences with RNAi and the risks that it poses have been done in a petri dish or on a sick person. With pesticidal RNA, the scale that we’re talking about, in terms of deployment …” he pauses to collect his thoughts. “Genetically modified crops are planted on 9 percent of the terrestrial land surface of our country. That scale elevates the importance of understanding the risks that are imposed by RNAi technology. It may be safe, it may not, but we should understand that before large deployment is realized,” he says.

    Vance still believes in the potential of transgenic plants. Unlike many people, she doesn’t see genetic modification of plants as “playing God,” and in fact sees the process as natural.

    “A lot of good things can come from transgenic plants, but I do take objection that [Monsanto] are doing things I can see have a potential risk when they could avoid it. I’m a scientist and I make transgenic plants and I don’t feel like I’m playing God. If it’s a useful thing, we should do it. If a new risk comes up you shouldn’t fight it — if new data shows this is a possible risk, address it.”

    A simple step, in Vance’s opinion, would be to engineer corn plants to only express specific RNA in the roots of the plant where the corn rootworm will feed, avoiding consumption by humans.

    “Why do they have to express their RNAi in corn seeds? They don’t have to. They could just put it in the roots – it wouldn’t be hard to do. Why don’t they just fix their freaking plants so they won’t be dangerous to people? Even if there’s some small chance it’s dangerous,” Vance pauses as she has many times during conversations about Monsanto, clearly frustrated.

    “I just don’t understand the mindset,” she sighs.

    Originally published: Boulder Weekly.

    thanks for posting the entire body of an article ive already seen. duely noted. i think sane people with points to make general use links, or at the very least summaries. Atleast I do not appear nearly as clueless as the person who doesnt know that the technology hes railing against uses agrobacterium tumefaciens to introduce genes and not "modified E. coli" or what ever it was your were claiming. If you cant get even the basics rights how can you even truly say your against it, since you appear to not know what it is or how its done.

    So. Interesting paper on XNA from 2012 titled" Xenobiology: A new form of life as the ultimate biosafety tool"!po=85.4167
    it interesting but to suggest that people are anywhere close to being able to develop xeno-organisms is deceptive on your part. The argument that creating a biological firewall is an interesting one, as it would take the wind right out of your sails, but the technology is nowhere near ready and it initself poses some questions. In so far as its applications to genetic engineering and agriculture, is the idea that we could create xeno-crops that contains all the same information encoded in the base pairs but with a different backbone? thats an awesome idea if so. but can it be done. that remains to be seen, I know that recent work has been done concerning yeast that has had a synthetic chromosome inserted into it. But dealing with single celled organisms is an entirely different matter than creating complex multicellular life. I welcome what advances this may have regards to genetic engineering and synthetic biology, but its no reason to give up on DNA based manipulation.

    is that more or less the kind of research you imagined i should be able to do?

    my apologies. if your talking about modifying bacteria, then yeah your probably using bacteriophages, but since we're talking about plants my impression is that agrobacterium mediated transformation and biolistic methods are the standard methods. Hence is the need for specificity in these discussions i suppose. So now your just mostly wrong rather than being totally off base.

    also i dont get your assertion that the technology has failed. RNAi based crops arent commercialized yet so i dont reaally get how your long post provides evidence theyre technology has failed. If anything that article suggests that the technolllogy works just fine, hence people concerns. As far as Bt and RR, pest developing resistance doesnt indicate failure of the technology, it indicates that pest populations evolve with sufficient selection pressure. Only anti-gmo activists make claims that "GMOs were supposed to be perfect, but see they arent".

    If the technology has failed someone better hurry up and tell the 275,000 farmers that trial it, choose it, and depend on it.

    If you'd like to tell them personally I'd be glad to set up that conversation on a Google Hangout... Just let me know. I'm sure you'd be happy to tell them that they have been duped, they are fools and that you could do it better.

    Or maybe they aren't the ones that have been fooled...

    I try to post the articles, because honestly, most folks never follow the links. The point of the article was the Scientists involved wanted to perfect their research, as they felt they could create a resistance factor in the roots without it being part of the edible plant, removing the entire "it's GMO-ph no!" factor for consumers using MicroRNA. I would think this would be the kind of crowd pleaser that should have given Hugh Grant wet dreams of avarice.

    Instead, he and the board shit-canned it. WHY?
    Beats the hell out of me.

    thats not AT ALL what that article says. Did you even read it? Vance throws that "they should just put it in the roots" thing at the end. Thats not the focus of her research.

    Name the involved scientists and what their research entailed would you.

    Ill Help you out by giving you a couple names of the scientists whos work was directly mentioned your article.

    Chen-yu Zhang
    Vicki Vance
    Eric Lam

    now you reread the article and tell me what their research is about. This should be like elementary level reading and science comprehension. I believe in you.

    The title is bad--one never trusts science, but considers evidence, including literature derived from scientific inquiry. One may also consider other sources, including popular opinion and even yogic flying instructors. All of these information sources together, and form your own opinion.

    If the only genetic alteration of golden rice is the gene that produces Vitamin A, then this golden rice may not be directly harmful. However, people are rightly cautious because it could contain other genetic modifications, such as producing BT toxin, or being Roundup resistant. Even if it does not, golden rice could open up a legal framework to other GM product s that do. A further element of golden rice opposition is that Asians view amber-tinted rice as old and rancid.

    So consumers are justified to seek information about these new products and to require appropriate testing and labeling.

    The title is bad--one never trusts science, but considers evidence, including literature derived from scientific inquiry. One may also consider other sources, including popular opinion and even yogic flying instructors. All of these information sources together, and form your own opinion.
    That's just relativistic rubbish. Gravity does not care about your opinion.
    Yes, what I mean is that science is evidence-based--there are assumptions in models, but there is no "trust." Trust is the realm of religion. Yes, it is an understatement that the evidence is strong for gravity.

    No one will ever learn anything meaningful if yogic flying instructors, astrologers, psychics, homeopaths and whatever else are falsely considered equivalent to Newton.

    We have a body of knowledge precisely so that charlatans cannot exploit 'you can't prove my pseudoscience can't be real' logical fallacies to adopt a veneer of legitimacy. We don't make people reinvent a wheel and learn all of physics before they can drive a car.  That yogic flying instructor has made no models and has done no science, he is in the 'promote fear and doubt to sell supplements' business, not the science one. 
    Thanks for this one Hank,

    I love the golden rice issue because it shows the insanity of the anti-GM movement, as you accurately point out. It is about a political stance against some company, no matter how many people they kill, and even if the company is not involved!

    It is the Achilles Heel of the movement. When one child gets relief from Vitamin A deficiency, their whole scam is over. The need labels and a fear campaign before people start getting access to life saving technology.

    I always say that if I walked into my office and there was a bag of Golden Rice seed I'd smuggle it into VAD parts of Asia and plant it everywhere. I'd go to jail, probably die there, but we must consider how to stop millions of deaths from ignorance, science denial, and putting a rampage against a biotech company ahead of the needy.

    Josh Bloom
    Great piece. From the comments, there seems to be considerable concern about undigested RNA from golden rice making it into the blood, where it could conceivably weave its way into our genome.
    A couple of obvious points:
    1) Nucleic acids and proteins are rapidly degraded in the gut. If this was not the case, why would scientists be banging their head against the wall TRYING to figure out how to deliver genes to treat various diseases (and this isn't even orally) ?
    Because it's really hard. How's that oral insulin working out?
    2) So, if it is true that genes from golden rice can survive, get to, and alter your genome, why is this not the case for *all* foods we eat? Am I missing something? Do they not contain RNA? Is there a risk from a banana, which was made seedless by mutation of the genes of bananas with seeds by exposing them to radiation/carcinogens?  Same for seedless watermelon. And a lot more.

    This sounds like hypothetical scare mongering to me, but I'm willing to listen. 
    Josh Bloom
    The most perplexing thing about this to me is why golden rice is bad but brown rice is good and white rice is ok?  All food eaten that comes from agriculture has been engineered by humans already.  (Especially corn....the plant it was domesticated from did not even have a cob and looked totally different than Maize does.)   
    So far it has only resulted in longer life spans, less disease, less starvation, more free time to invent technologies which overwhelmingly lead to longer life spans, less starvation, less disease .... and so on.  The way I see it let those who do not like GMO's and advanced tech not use it.  Let them consider how their descendants will live in 100,000 years from now. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Josh Bloom
    Couldn't have said it better
    Josh Bloom
    I can but HOPE everyone who thinks the current pathetic spate of GM "food-like" products is just fine to eat IS actually eating it[Monsanto serves ORGANIC FOOD in the Corporate Lunchroom...AHEM!] THEN, you'll be culling your own herd, while encouraging Big AG/Chem and Food to stay the course. Sooner or later, the bribe money will thin out along with it's supporters, the new Bio-Science will emerge-likely in the EU, as it's also likely Bayer is "setting Monsanto up", along with the EU Elite to take the fall once THEY'RE ready to deploy the "solution" products based on the new science, wiping Monsanto AND American Corporate Farming out in one fell swoop.

    You and the spin doctors will, of course, be "looking for the reason this happened" and won't even whisper my name, but that's okay.

    I'll be laughing my a@# off, just the same, and the smarter folks?

    They will be already pulling their investment monies out of Monsanto and into the new Research companies and Bayer Crop Science.

    They're coming' for you, Pilgrim.

    You're not doing yourself any favors by either (a) not knowing what you are talking about or (b) being intentionally deceptive though you know the truth. Of course Monsanto serves some organic stuff in its cafeteria, just like every other company with a cafeteria. You think that is justification for putting warning labels on biology but it is instead the free market putting a special label on a process some people - including Monsanto employees - like.

    What we don't do is putting WARNING: CONTAINS GLUTEN labels on food or WARNING: CONTAINS SUGAR on food, instead anyone who wants to promote their advantage puts "Gluten-free", just like people at Whole Foods may want to believe their organic produce has never been genetically modified or used no pesticides.

    So make valid points if you have them - but misrepresenting things to try and create an emotional argument on a science site is silly.

    And check your conspiracy theory at the door. No one here has ever heard of your name and we are unlikely to remember it based on your comments.

    Josh Bloom
    Perhaps they didn't round up every member of the Manson family after all.
    Josh Bloom
    You WILL remember this day...tick tock. Either the "Biotech" Industry embraces the NEW Science and Technology in the US, or the EU and Bayer will eat its lunch-that's NOT "Conspiracy Theory" you useless drone-that's called REALITY. The smart money is already leaving Monsanto, In the last couple of years Monsanto's Market Hegemony has been reduced to the old British Commonwealth nations and Argentina-and Argentina is getting "restive". I warned a pair of key Corporate Board Members at some big Biotech Corporation[I wonder which one?] over 3 1/2 years ago EXACTLY what would happen if they didn't "get back to the lab" and fix their "Traitorous Traits" and scripted it perfectly. What I've warned are developments to be expected, not theories.

    Enjoy your "Round-Up" soaked Cornflakes, Nuncle.

    So, how many bowls of this rice will be required daily to save these children from starvation? Will the price of the seed be affordable for those who so badly need it? How many years has this been 'in the development' phase, while other, less 'nutritionally beneficial' crops have advanced through the process and into the fields?
    If GE foods were not OWNED by corporate interests, if they had been developed outside of a veil of secrecy, if the companies involved were not protected by legislation, if studies 'proving' effectiveness and 'safety' were truly independent, perhaps there would be less skepticism.
    One cannot blame the public for being skeptical and suspicious of multi-national corporations that exercise their power by eliminating competition through acquisitions, and whose sole purpose is profit, not 'saving' either the planet or its population. The refusal to label the goods leads to the conclusion that something is being hidden. This attitude has done more to advance the 'anti' argument than any number of protests could have.
    So, thank you to Monsanto and others for being secretive, and to governments for aiding and abetting. Thank you, too, to grocers and food processors for being so unwilling to risk sales by labelling. If those in affected industries will not stand up and support these crops, why should anyone else? Thanks to the greed of some, and the 'fear' of others, the public is more aware than they would be otherwise.
    GE has been with us twenty years. People are still starving.

    You can't conflate Golden Race with Monsanto. Golden Rice is in the public domain. Golden Rice has been in development for a long time, precisely because environmentalists raise money and keep 'moving the goalposts'.

    18 million children have gone blind while activists have insisted this needs more testing. That people are still starving is precisely why environmental corporations should either (a) do better science than everyone else or (b) stop hurting kids by promoting fear and doubt.

    That Greenpeace Australia no longer raises money demonizing biology is a good sign - but American and European environmental corporations are too far gone, they can't suddenly embrace any GMO at all, no matter how beneficial it is, because they have a lot more of their income at stake percentage wise in GMOs than Monsanto does.
    The conservatives, like the author of this post, have finally come full circle. ,
    So, now it's their turn to "blame America first" for the decisions that the Chinese government and others make. Apparently if Americans say "no", then the rest of the world just follows their lead. It's a shame that that doesn't happen when it matters, but now it's all America's fault for the choices these countries are making.

    You're blaming Republicans for yoga? I guess so, I got no dog in that fight, I blame them for plenty of things. I'd have to see at least a weak observational study before I accept it, though; an fMRI image, a psychology survey of college students, any weak observational study, really. But something.