Tag Archives | Genetic Engineering

Researchers Turn Mosquitoes Into Flying Vaccinators

MosquitoesThanks scientists for taking mosquitoes from an “annoying” level to now a plot line for a super-villain. Martin Enserink writes on ScienceNOW:

Here’s a study to file under “unworkable but very cool.” A group of Japanese researchers has developed a mosquito that spreads vaccine instead of disease. Even the researchers admit, however, that regulatory and ethical problems will prevent the critters from ever taking wing — at least for the delivery of human vaccines.

Scientists have dreamed up various ways to tinker with insects’ DNA to fight disease. One option is to create strains of mosquitoes that are resistant to infections with parasites or viruses, or that are unable to pass the pathogens on to humans. These would somehow have to replace the natural, disease-bearing mosquitoes, which is a tall order. Another strategy closer to becoming reality is to release transgenic mosquitoes that, when they mate with wild-type counterparts, don’t produce viable offspring.

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Ex-Pfizer Worker Cites Genetically Engineered Virus In Lawsuit Over Firing

By Edmund H. Mahoney for the Hartford Courant:

Medical experts will be watching closely Monday when a scientist who says she has been intermittently paralyzed by a virus designed at the Pfizer laboratory where she worked in Groton opens a much anticipated trial that could raise questions about safety practices in the dynamic field of genetic engineering.

Organizations involved in workplace safety and responsible genetic research already have seized on the federal lawsuit by molecular biologist Becky McClain as an example of what they claim is evidence that risks caused by cutting-edge genetic manipulation have outstripped more slowly evolving government regulation of laboratories.

McClain, of Deep River, suspects she was inadvertently exposed, through work by a former Pfizer colleague in 2002 or 2003, to an engineered form of the lentivirus, a virus similar to the one that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Medical experts working for McClain believe the virus has affected the way her body channels potassium, leading to a condition that causes complete paralysis as many as 12 times a month.

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Genetically-Engineered Human Have Already Been Born

Kirk Says KhanHere is another chapter from Russ Kick's classic bite-size Disinformation book 50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know, published in 2003.

For more on Russ Kick, check out his website, The Memory Hole.

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The earthshaking news appeared in the medical journal Human Reproduction under the impenetrable headline: “Mitochondria in Human Offspring Derived From Ooplasmic Transplantation.” The media put the story in heavy rotation for one day, then forgot about it. We all forgot about it. But the fact remains that the world is now populated by dozens of children who were genetically engineered. It still sounds like science fiction, yet it’s true.
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Criticising GM Crops May Land You In Jail

Imran Khan for express buzz:

BANGALORE [India]: Criticising Genetically Modified (GM) products could land you in jail — if the draconian draft Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAB) of 2009, which will be tabled in the current session of the parliament by the UPA government, is passed.

In an unprecedented muzzle on the right to freedom of speech of the citizen, Chapter 13 section 63 of the draft bill says, “Whoever, without any evidence or scientific record misleads the public about the safety of the organisms and products…shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or with both.” The BRAI Bill drafted by the department of bio-technology under the Ministry of Science and Technology comes on the heels of a moratorium on Bt Brinjal announced by the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

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The Scary World Of Synthetic Biology Goes DIY

A few months ago I posted a New Yorker story about synthetic biology. Now the New York Times reports that the stakes are getting higher, and scarier:

…The first thing to understand about the new science of synthetic biology is that it’s not really a new science; it’s a brazen call to conduct an existing one much more ambitiously. For almost 40 years, genetic engineers have been decoding DNA and transplanting individual genes from one organism into another. (One company, for example, famously experimented with putting a gene from an arctic flounder into tomatoes to make a variety of frost-resistant tomatoes.) But synthetic biologists want to break out of this cut-and-paste paradigm altogether. They want to write brand-new genetic code, pulling together specific genes or portions of genes plucked from a wide range of organisms — or even constructed from scratch in a lab — and methodically lacing them into a single set of genetic instructions.

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DNA 2.0: A New Operating System for Life is Created

DNALinda Geddes writes in New Scientist:

A new way of using the genetic code has been created, allowing proteins to be made with properties that have never been seen in the natural world. The breakthrough could eventually lead to the creation of new or “improved” life forms incorporating these new materials into their tissue.

In all existing life forms, the four “letters” of the genetic code, called nucleotides, are read in triplets, so that every three nucleotides encode a single amino acid.

Not any more. Jason Chin at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have now redesigned the cell’s machinery so that it reads the genetic code in quadruplets.

In the genetic code that life has used up to now, there are 64 possible triplet combinations of the four nucleotide letters; these genetic “words” are called codons. Each codon either codes for an amino acid or tells the cell to stop making a protein chain.

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Can We Engineer Immunity on Demand?

Immune_responseCaltech scientists have already engineered stem cells into B cells that produce HIV-fighting antibodies – and an NIH researcher engineered T cells that recognize tumors which has already had promising clinical trials again skin cancer. Now a microbiology professor now asks: could we just genetically engineer all the antibodies we need?

Describing “Immunity on demand, he writes “…there’s a good chance this system, or something like it, will actually be in place within decades!”

“Our best hope may be to cut out the middleman. Rather than merely hoping that the vaccine will indirectly lead to the antibody an individual needs, imagine if we could genetically engineer these antibodies and make them available as needed?”

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Monsanto: The #1 Most Unethical Company In The World

Grace Kiser writes on the Huffington Post:
Can ethics be quantified? Or, better yet, can a lack of ethics be quantified? This week, the Swiss research firm Covalence released its annual ranking of the overall ethical performance of multinational corporations. The idea behind the Covalence research is that there's value — both for companies and consumers — in measuring corporations against an ethical standard. (We're hoping this idea also applies to Wall Street firms.)

Monsanto

Monsanto, the Missouri-based agriculture giant, ranked dead last in the Covalence ethical index. The company, which leads the world in the production of genetically-engineered seed, has been subject to myriad criticisms. Among them: the company is accused of frequently and unfairly suing small farmers for patent infringement.
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More Herbicide Use Reported On Genetically Modified Crops

By Julie Masis for the Christian Science Monitor:

A report has found that farmers are using more herbicides on genetically engineered soybeans, corn, and cotton because of resistant weeds.

A report has found that farmers are using more herbicides on genetically engineered soybeans, corn, and cotton because of resistant weeds.

A report released by the Organic Center found that the amount of herbicides used on genetically engineered crops has increased in the past 10 years, not decreased as might be expected. Since many genetically engineered crops were modified so that farmers could spray Roundup, or Glyphosate, to kill the weeds in their fields but not the crops themselves, the expectation was that less herbicide would be required. But the new report found that this is not what happened.

The authors of the report, entitled “Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use,” used US Department of Agriculture data to look at America’s three largest genetically engineered crops – soybeans, corn, and cotton.

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93% of Soybeans, 80% of Corn Grown from Genetically-Modified Monsanto Seeds

MonsantoRainPeter Whoriskey reports in the Washington Post:

For plants designed in a lab a little more than a decade ago, they’ve come a long way: Today, the vast majority of the nation’s two primary crops grow from seeds genetically altered according to Monsanto company patents.

Ninety-three percent of soybeans. Eighty percent of corn.

The seeds represent “probably the most revolutionary event in grain crops over the last 30 years,” said Geno Lowe, a Salisbury, Md., soybean farmer.

But for farmers such as Lowe, prices of the Monsanto-patented seeds have steadily increased, roughly doubling during the past decade, to about $50 for a 50-pound bag of soybean seed, according to seed dealers.

The revolution, and Monsanto’s dominant role in the nation’s agriculture, has not unfolded without complaint. Farmers have decried the price increases, and competitors say the company has ruthlessly stifled competition.

Now Monsanto — like IBM and Google — has drawn scrutiny from U.S.

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