The Terrifying Implications of Gene Drives: a PSA

From, Feb. 22, 2018: ‘Movements of Millions Say No to Gene Drives as Brazil Attempts to Legalize Genetic Extinction Technology’

MONTREAL, MEXICO CITY, SÃO PAULO, February 22, 2018—The largest rural movements in Brazil, representing well over a million farmers, are protesting a new Brazilian regulation that would allow release of gene drives, the controversial genetic extinction technology, into Brazil’s ecosystems and farms.

On February 3rd and 4th, the National Coalition of Farmworkers and Rural, Water and Forest Peoples[1] met near São Paulo, Brazil and sounded the alarm about new Brazilian regulatory changes – a resolution passed on January 15th by Brazil’s National Technical Commission on Biosafety that would allow the release of gene drive organisms into the environment. [2] The effect of this change is that Brazil becomes the first country in the world to establish a legal channel for the release of gene drives into the environment. The new rule could potentially make it even easier to release a living gene drive organism than a GMO seed.

The farmers organizations are concerned about agribusiness giants spreading more transgenic seeds, but also attempts to directly change the nature of wild plants and animals.

Scientists and Peasant Movements’ Concerns About Gene Drives:

Brazil’s new “normative resolution” allows the Biosafety Commission to approve the release of products derived from what they called “Innovative Precision Breeding Techniques” without going through established biosafety risk assessment or requiring labeling, if the Biosafety Commission considers they are not “GMO.” Among the technologies enlisted for such exception are several new genetic modification techniques, including CRISPR technology and gene drives.

Gene drives are a controversial new technology that uses CRISPR-Cas9 to spread a specific genetic trait through an entire species or population – in some cases with the purpose of driving species to extinction. Current gene drives experiments have been conducted on insects, rodents and plants. If the inserted genetic trait results in only male offspring, as is being attempted for rodents and mosquitoes, a full wild population or even a species could go extinct. As far as is known, gene drives have never been released into the environment anywhere in the world.[3]

“Gene drives organisms pose unique threats to nature and livelihoods”, says Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America Director for ETC Group. “It is the first time that the biotech industry has intentionally designed GMOs to spread aggressively in the natural environment and contaminate wild species. It seems surreal that a decision to impose such great dangers to a mega diverse country such Brazil would be taken by a small technical commission, without even involvement of either Congress or civil society”.

[wd here: you’ll want to read the Gene Drives link above.  It goes to a Sept. 2016Reckless Driving: Gene Drives and the End of Nature, A briefing from the Civil Society Working Group on Gene Drives’ page.   To wet your whistle, it begins:

“Imagine that by releasing a single fly into the wild you could genetically alter all the flies on the planet—causing them all to turn yellow, carry a toxin, or go extinct. This is the terrifyingly powerful premise behind gene drives: a new and controversial genetic engineering technology that can permanently alter an entire species by releasing one bioengineered individual.

Gene drives can entirely re-engineer ecosystems, create fast spreading extinctions, and intervene in living systems at a scale far beyond anything ever imagined. When gene drives are engineered into a fast-reproducing species they could alter their populations within short timeframes, from months to a few years, and rapidly cause extinction. This radical new technology, also called a “mutagenic chain reaction,” [1] is unlike anything seen before. It combines the extreme genetic engineering of synthetic biology and new gene editing techniques with the idea that humans can and should use such powerful unlimited tools to control nature. Gene drives will change the fundamental relationship between humanity and the natural world forever.”

Then come sections on how gene drives work, examples of four sorts of gene drives, how they can be used: industrial ag, military, attacking disease, artificially ‘enhancing’ conservation, what are the environmental dangers, all five are in that section are breathtakingly horrifying, of course, but ‘radically altering the course of evolution, and the cui bono? possibilities/probabilities in the ‘dangers to society’ section seem to be the writing already on the wall, imo.]  But back to this exposé:

Concerns About Biological Warfare and Use by Agribusiness/Chemical Giants

At the gathering, the movements and organizations[4] signed an open letter stating that they “emphatically reject the CTNBio’s Normative Resolution 16/2018, which seeks to legalize and release without regulation, assessment or labeling new transgenic organisms which will have an impact on peasants, food sovereignty, health and the environment. We particularly denounce and reject the CTNBio’s intent to legalize ‘gene drives,’ i.e. transgenic organisms that can be used to drive species into extinction and as biological weapons…”[5]

Because of the technology’s power and inherent risks, Gene drive are considered a potential bioweapon. According to 1,200 emails released under access to information requests by a group of civil society organizations[6], the US Military has become one of the main funders of gene drives research at the global level. (They acknowledge the potential use as a bioweapon but allege that their interest is only defensive.[7]) The second biggest funder of gene drives is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which claims to be supporting the development of the technology to combat pests, such as the mosquitoes that carry malaria, by genetically eliminating their ability to reproduce.

The movements argue instead that it is giant agribusiness corporations who will benefit, as they will seek to manipulate herbicide-resistant weeds to reinstate their susceptibility to chemicals, and they “will be free to invade fields and markets with new genetically manipulated products, free from assessments, regulations or labels, thus expediting releases and hiking their profits.”

“Brazil’s move to include this technology in its legislation now is probably aimed at influencing the outcomes in the [current] discussion at the UN in a effort to preempt a decision on a moratorium. This is unacceptable,” said Toledo. “CTNBio never opened the space for consultations with civil society or independent researcher in its own country. They also choose to disregard the scientific debate at the CBD, which shows that there is not yet adequate capacity nor biosafety frameworks to evaluate the results and impacts of new biotechnologies, particularly gene drives.”

The biotech industry has attempted to exempt new biotechnologies from biosafety legislation in other countries, including at the European Union, the US, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. Argentina approved a similar normative resolution in 2015 – also in an administrative measure and without any discussion. However, the Brazilian resolution is the first to explicitly include gene drives in its scope.”

La Via Campesina Int’l Peasant’s Movement/English.

‘The project of deliberately exterminating species is a crime against nature and humanity… Developing tools of extermination in the garb of saving the world is a crime. A crime that must not be allowed to continue any further.

~ Dr. Vandana Shiva, India

“It’s fine to fool Mother Nature if we say so!”

The Ruling Class

 Even realizing that JtC will need to help me cross-post this at C99%, I’d like to catch up with some Tweets by the dedicated Colin Todhunter:

24 responses to “The Terrifying Implications of Gene Drives: a PSA

  1. Great heads up. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist has the Cliffs Notes here:

    Bioweapons creation will get easier and cheaper. And what happend with drones will happen with this technology.

    Global permanent warfare states on the one hand and lots of non-state actors using this technology easily on the other.

    The seduction of the military market for domestic businesses. A final stage of capitalism without a doubt.

    • them thar are cliffs notes? but yes, thanks. i just hadn’t heard of the consarned things, and they’d begun in 2016; even one vendana shiva revelation in the footnotes was from sept. 2016.

      oy, it will get dicey though, as you say. bio-terrorism extinction. i loved that the pentagon had said they were only funding them for ‘defense’ purposes though. ay yi yi, yes imperial capitalism’s hair is on fire.

      wonder how darpa fits into this? it sure wasn’t on their website last i’d looked a couple months ago. but: shhhhh.

      • I wonder how the 2001 anthrax attack fits into DoD’s “defense purposes”. The US was steadfastly maintain that it was not engage in BW research until that happened. Ooops. Try to scared two Democratic Senators and a bunch of media figures and wind up actually killing innocent American citizens. I suspect that Dick Cheney knows what a botch-up this was.

        • ha. well, doesn’t the DOD claim all weapons, military, ‘non-lethal’, are for ‘defense’ ? whether around the globe, exporting democracy™, or ‘in the homeland’? but srsly, i feel an snl dan rather sketch coming on. (i know i wouldn’t find it…) ‘this just in: senator __ ha contracted ANTHRAX! oh, now i’m hearing that the senator does not, i repeat, not: have ANTHRAX!’

          but lookit, they can say whatever the fuck they want, who’s gonna object to their obfuscations? for instance, jeff kaye’s tweeting that the foia’s about us/uk bio weapons on north korea are out. that gonna change anything save for a few who already know some of the history, and why whazzit jong doesn’t want to give up dprk’s nukes (if indeed, they have any).

  2. Thanks for this. An indication of how things are headed is that when I first read your title, I thought, ‘genocidal warfare’, then with the photo and opening paragraph actually thought, ‘Oh, it’s only that…’ because I had quickly categorized it as big agribusiness as usual. Aside from that hasty mis-assessment, the indication involved is the fact that even I — one whose pet-peeved high horse had been riding me along this topic since I became aware of some of its seedier elements at the dawn of the 90s — was ready to ho-hum this news to the backest of pages.

    Still, having said that, nevertheless, as it were, if you will: Sigh.

    • seriously prescient you were then, davidly. i wasn’t until i’d kept digging into it that the bio-weaponry emerged. but even w/o that, ‘genes of extinction’ is so vastly dangerous that it’s insanity and evil combined. mid 90s. hmmm, i live in quite a time warp, but i’d mentioned that industry flacks would sometimes get on my monsanto, et. al. diaries and try to tell me i was anti-science. that would have been about the time josh marshall closed the reader’s diaries at tpm, maybe that was in the 90s.

      a commenter over yonder said something he’d found poring thru the links, a simple and elegant demand treatise, and i found a couple diaries i’d written around the ‘peoples summit’ side meetings at the rio 20 sustainability conference at my.fdl, and had quoted from the cochabama accords and la via campesina’s as well.

      ““It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings. We propose to the peoples of the world the recovery, revalorization, and strengthening of the knowledge, wisdom, and ancestral practices of Indigenous Peoples, which are affirmed in the thought and practices of “Living Well,” recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship.
      * harmony and balance among all and with all things;
      * complementarity, solidarity, and equality;
      * collective well-being and the satisfaction of the basic necessities of all;
      * people in harmony with nature;
      * recognition of human beings for what they are, not what they own;
      * elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism;
      * peace among the peoples and with Mother Earth.

      that’s from june 4 2012

      the other’s longer, but from june 21; and man, did they rawk! gave me shivers reading them again this morning. ‘This Is What Indigenous Activism for Mother Earth Looks Like: The Shadow People’s Summit at Rio+20’, june 21, 2012

      “The Teotihuacan, Bolivians (bearing their Cochabamba document), The International Peasant Movement (La Via Campesina), and other global Indigenous groups are in attendance, fighting against “The Carbon Cowboys” and other multinationals posing as ‘Eco-friendly’ pushing false notions of ‘sustainability’.

    • What happens when big agribusiness sees a military market space?

      • In my best Tennessee Tuxedo voice: I give up. What happens when big agribusiness sees a military market space?

      • ha ha. can i make you the straight man for a quasi-comedy routine to posit an answer? oh, good, thanks.

        THD to bigAg: ‘What happens when you see gene drive bio-weapons in a military market space?

        BIG AG, BIG PHARMA: booyah! bring it! just collateral damage!!!

        but srsly, i got waylaid by life, an hunting down a lot of leads on other subjects, including the actual history of the US institute for ‘peace’, as well as other things i’d wanted to dig up, dig out, including things i’d written long a go on the zapatistas.

        but i finally read your atomic scientists link more closely, said ‘meh’ to myself, poked around more, but ended up at the new york slimes. the byword, of course was carefully, cautiously, yada, yada:

        “‘Gene drives spread a trait through a population by ensuring that it is passed to virtually all of an individual’s offspring as it reproduces, rather than the usual half. In laboratory experiments, the desired change has appeared in nearly 100 percent of the offspring of flies and mosquitoes. So far, gene drive research has focused largely on mosquitoes that transmit infectious diseases to humans. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped pay for the N.A.S. report, has spent some $40 million on a gene drive project aimed at eradicating the species of mosquitoes that spread malaria.
        Anthony James, a mosquito researcher at the University of California, Irvine, who is among those advocating the use of gene drive to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits the Zika virus, called the report “reasonable.’’

        “The key thing is there’s no moratorium,” he said.
        But environmental watchdog groups argue that the report should have recommended that research be halted. Jim Thomas, the program director of the ETC Group in Montreal, said the panel gave short shrift to how to prevent commercial and military interests from misusing the technology, which he said should be placed under the control of the United Nations.

        And Kevin Esvelt, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology evolutionary biologist who has also pioneered the technology, said the report failed to adequately flag its key risk. “They assume you can safely run a contained field trial,” he said. “But anytime you release an organism with a gene drive system into the wild you must assume there is a significant chance that it will spread — globally — and factor that in.”

        paying for science? sure wouldn’t be the first time, as we saw clearly post deepwater horizon blowout. but on the right side bar also from 2016 was:
        Scientists Announce HGP-Write, Project to Synthesize the Human Genome’, which tech i’d thought was already in play. iirc, growing pig parts for organ transplants, etc. maaaaybe even more (hybridizing humans with other animal dna), but i’ll hush so as not to be a conspiracy theorist. ;-)

  3. it’s tempting to read this crap & throw one’s hands up & say fuck it, let’s go bowling. species extinction: who decides? I have vague recollections of reports of the IDF working on stuff to target the genes of only non-Jewish Semites. eh, put it in the water. what’s the worst that could happen? since everything that is done in this country is driven by solely profit & military imperatives, we can safely assume that the only reason this kind of research is being done & tested is for military use, human species extinction. that we can also fuck up all the mosquitos is a two-fer. capitalist imperatives do demand that military technologies be deployed for commercial uses. if it’s good for killing stuff, it’s good for making money off of. same difference.

    yeah, give it to Bayer. i’m sure that’ll work out good. all Dawkin’s selfish gene needs is a little boost and we’ll make it all all right.

    this also illustrates the obvious meaninglessness of the concept of private property. the effects of ownership are never private, like the mechanisms of ownership, namely, state authority & social violence. what is meaningful is the class oppression behind the concept.

    b/c there were some earlier comments about how dumb the idea of people as sheep is, this is from Ezekiel 34 (the chapter, I think, that Jules Winfield/Samuel Jackson misquotes twice in Pulp Fiction):

    17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, rams and he-goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

    20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will save my flock, they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep…

    31 And you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture,[d]
    (footnote d: the Hebrew text adds here: “you are men.”)

    • you’ll need to understand the ezkiel as allegoric to me, j; i’m not getting it. lol, might be cuz around here, it’s sheep who fould the water (giardia, liver flukes, and so on).

      but it’s a key distinction you’re making here: “this also illustrates the obvious meaninglessness of the concept of private property. the effects of ownership are never private, like the mechanisms of ownership, namely, state authority & social violence. what is meaningful is the class oppression behind the concept.”

      as to military research and species extinction, they may be synonymous even w/ rogue plant and critter gene drives spreading to wild species and blowing the biosphere to virtual smithereens.

      dunno that genetically modifying food and frankenfish began as a military project, but it sure is epic now. i as musing about folks like colin todhunter, vendana shiva being called ‘anti-science’. it’s so ironic if one considers what ‘science’ has done globally in the past, as well as ‘in the quest for science’. i reckon you could name 30 off the toppa your head.

      but when you have a chance, read my comment below that hadn’t taken before your comment, for some reason. it’s a pip.

      • Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must foul the rest with your feet?

        that’s what’s called envy, invidia, the evil eye. pure malice toward what is simply given in nature and/or what, in some sense, “belongs” to someone else or is part of the “commons”. b/c it can’t be commercialized, weaponized, etc., it must be destroyed.

        getting back on the black panther for a moment, i’d bet any amount of money that giving the superweapon to the CIA will turn out to have been some kind of “mistake” in a sequel. it’s a set up. b/c, for whatever reason, conscious or unconscious, the makers of these superhero movies can’t hide that the USG is the enemy. the ability to make up a remotely believable super secret criminal org/villain that is outside the existing dominant power structures of society is not possible b/c it would never be credible (this also makes the notion of a Wakanda offensively stupid). in James Bond, it’s the mole, as it is in the Dark Knight Returns, turning the state against itself. the Green Goblin works for the DOD, as does Iron Man, etc., etc. the best example is Capt. Murka: the Winter Soldier, where it’s revealed that the Nazi group Hydra *is* SHIELD (=DOD), b/c of infiltration by Hydra moles and the good guys have to gang up to destroy SHIELD. and in Avengers: Ultron, Iron Man creates the villain w/his scientific hubris.

        yeah, getting harder and harder to believe that Uncle Sam is the good guy, ain’t it? good intentioned, but woefully “mistake” prone? our napalm comes with the best intentions.

        • ta for the ezekiel as allegory explanation, and the comparative similarities rundown on all those other superhero films. i’d never seen any bout…bond, james bond. but ‘as a mistake’ sequel made me almost crow with delight.

          yes, napalm, and monsanto 2-4 d plant poison, based on agent orange. but i signed up for the newsletters from the independent science folks and geoengineering monitor, as so glad to have learned of one day i reckon jay dyer will did into black panther, too.

  4. hell’s bells;id tried to add this earlier, but it didn’t take some how. bingling for monsanto and gene drives i’d found:

    oh, fer crissake: Gates Foundation Secretly Paid “Experts” to Manipulate UN Over Gene Drives’, independentscience news. org

    now the link to the emails mean nuffin’ to me, but let’s assume they may have done their homework, okay? well, no…we shouldn’t assume, but i sure do hope so. so can we rewrite the joke with EMERGING AG answering? but they seem to feature a few of them.

    at the end, tada!: “Despite the public perception that conservation and public health are what motivates gene drive research, it is known that, besides the contribution of the Gates Foundation, most gene drive funding comes from the DARPA, the technology foresight arm of the US Dept of Defense

    safe genes, yanno, cuz we’re the good guys.

    sorry j; i’m done for the night. tomorrow,

  5. ya gotta love teh ya-yas outta this:

    ‘Iowa State University (ISU) researchers have attempted to use the current anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S. to attack the Russian media over their coverage of GMOs, in research released this week’

    “The research was carried out by ISU assistant sociology professor, Shawn Dorius, and associate professor in ISU’s departments of agronomy and genetics, development and cell biology, Carolyn Lawrence-Dill, whose laboratory is partly funded by the pro-GMO U.S. National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

    Turning the U.S. or world against GMOs “would have a clear negative effect on an industry in the U.S. and could advantage Russia,” Dorius told the Des Moines Register.”

    • oh god. i just note that as these corporate lackeys masquerade as scientists, that walking turd bucket FBI dude Chris Wray reports to Congress that the Chinaman is taking over the US university system with its moles & infiltrators abusing academic freedom blah blah blah.

      so much good, i.e., deeply disturbing & depressing, info here. fuck it. i’m gone bowling.

      • yup, the chris ray paranoia’s almost too funny, isn’t it? get them slants to prison quick quick! deport em!

        and maybe you hadn’t had time to click into the link, but this was major surprise to me:

        “The ISU research seems to have been carefully timed to coincide with Russia’s antitrust regulator’s review of the $ 64 Billion Monsanto-Bayer mega-merger, which is reported to not be going well for the two companies.

        Earlier in February Reuters reported that Bayer had taken Russia’s antitrust regulator to court over the watchdog’s investigation into Bayer-Monsanto merger. A Bayer spokesman said the German company was petitioning the court in Russia to be given more time to discuss demands made by the regulator about the deal, which would create the world’s largest seeds and pesticides company.

        Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS), has yet to issue a ruling on the takeover, but they will almost certainly not allow the merger to go ahead in the form Bayer and Monsanto would like, which would strike a huge blow to both companies as Bayer is a growing force in Russia.

        In November the FAS conditionally approved the merger but stated that they will require the companies to share certain agricultural technologies and data with others to ward off competition concerns.”

        dinnae know they had any but local control over the merger, and i’m not so bullish on the final anti-monopoly paragraph, either, if it’s so.

  6. as Lorenzo saint dubois, LSD sang, you don’t care about no little flowers, all you care about is guns. you hurt the flowers just like everything else.

    turning flowers into guns.

    • dunno lsd, but that’s a good un. glad to know you’re ‘still alive and kickin’, though. hoe to hear from you soon. if you’re interested, there’s a zapatista diary above your head. my head?

      the moon is full tonight, she rose here about an hour and a half ago under a bank of clouds. they just parted, and oh, she is bella! sweet dreams, if you can manage them.

      tonight’s lullaby:

  7. i’m working on some performance street art. gonna set up a table, like the girl scouts do, & do a “Monsanto(tm) Gene Drive to End Homelessness.” put the bill & Melinda gates face all over it. “help Boner & Blair meet the millennium goals!” see how much money I can raise by suggesting that, yeah we want to help all the poor & shit, but at some point, like for all the planet, all of us, all of our rates of reproduction have to be slowed down, esp theirs. (everyone already believes that already anyway.) I will be raising funds for this endeavor, to convince Monsanto to wipe out the poor & homeless gene, like they are about to do the malaria-carrying mosquito.

    any bets on how rich i’ll get?

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