Friday, March 28, 2008

Legalizing the Genetically Engineered Human Clone

Knock. Knock. Who’s there?
It is the Genetically Engineered Human

The reality of cloning genetically engineered human beings is an issue that is knocking at your door today. In fact, some members of the UK parliament are advocating the legalization of cloning human life. The offspring of these human clones will literally have 2 biological mothers and one biological father. One mother will provide the mitochondrial inherited DNA from the egg while the other mother and father will provide the nuclear inherited DNA. The argument for justification of this legislation is to enable women who have congenital mitochondrial disease to bear healthy children.

The current legalization of in vitro fertilization clinics has allowed the “natural” cloning of a human being in a test-tube using the egg and sperm from a man and a woman. This procedure produces a genetically conceived child containing DNA from both parents from an otherwise infertile couple. But today, using genetic engineering we have the technology to clone a human being from 1 person, multiple persons or from different sources of DNA. These advanced human cloning techniques produce genetic offspring that would be impossible to conceive naturally between a woman and man.

The public is not aware of the seriousness and significance of this potential new human cloning law in the UK. If this law is passed it would be the first step toward legalizing the production of human offspring from “unnatural” genetically engineered human cloning procedures. Scientists are pushing the legalization of human cloning procedures and masquerading them under the umbrella of “fertilization rights” and “alleviating human suffering” without any responsibility to first provide the public a fair understanding and review. Scientists are neglecting to address pertinent bioethical issues involved in human cloning that will impact human dignity, human rights and will affect us economically and culturally.

Some bioethical questions might be…
1. Is it a right for every woman to bear a child, even if that child is genetically engineered and not a true natural genetic product of a couple?
2. Is it a right for every woman to bear a genetically engineered child, only if it the child would be healthier? How about to bear a more intelligent child? Or to bear a better looking child?
3. Is it ethical for a child to be a genetic clone of three parents?
4. Which of the three genetic parents are legally responsible for the cloned child since each parent will contribute a significant amount of DNA to that cloned child’s progeny and inherited lineage?
5. What rights does a cloned child have prior to birth?
6. Should a genetically engineered human person have the same rights as a natural human being? (Do not exclude this as a silly question. Without laws on the books, you might envision the production of genetically engineered cloned males to purposely fight wars or to act as servants or slaves. Or on the other hand, scientists might engage in cloning a superior race with superior intelligence which may result in the “natural” population being discriminated against.)

The public had better take notice. Genetically engineered human cloning is a bioethics issue that is standing right at your front door. Can you hear it knocking? Are you informed enough to open the door? Or will scientists and policy makers force the door open without your knowledge or consent?


Secrecy in Biodefense & Dangers to the Public

Secrecy in Biodefense & Dangers to the Public

Below is a excerpt from author’s Stan Cox’s book, Sick Planet: Corporate Food and Medicine. Here he talks about the dangerous and controversial Bl-4 National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) that is being built in the US. Source:

Playing both defense and offense……
All of the nation’s bioweapons work is by definition “defensive”, but in the national-security realm, the mechanics of defensive and offensive research are often indistinguishable. Under both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the US has resisted any upgrading of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention by which 158 nations, including the US, agreed not to develop offensive capacity. Since 2001, US officials have moved forcefully to block any moves toward effective inspection protocols. A 2003 analysis by Nicole Deller and John Burroughs in World Policy Journal reported that “critics of the administration’s policy speculate that the main reason for the opposition to the protocol may be that the United States is reluctant to open its biodefense program-which includes activities kept secret for years-to public scrutiny.”
It’s no secret why the government doesn’t want public scrutiny: Its “biodefense” labs have stretched the definition of “defense” to include just about anything. In 2001, exactly one week before the attacks of 9/11, the New York Times‘ Judith Miller and two colleagues revealed that Pentagon researchers had developed plans to breed an extra-virulent strain of the anthrax bacterium; had built and tested a “germ bomb”; and had built a bioweapons lab in the Nevada desert out of materials bought on the open market. (Unlike Miller’s erroneous reports on nonconventional weapons in Iraq, this report was not debunked.) As one senior official told the reporters, the Pentagon “was pressing how far you go before you do something illegal or immoral.”
Given the thick curtain of secrecy that DHS will be allowed to draw around the proposed NBAF’s laboratories, its research could well be pushed far beyond those legal and moral boundaries, and no one would be the wiser — especially not the people who work or live in that unlucky neighborhood that finally wins the germ jackpot.
Stan Cox is a plant breeder and writer in Salina, Kansas. His book Sick Planet: Corporate Food and Medicine will be published by Pluto Press in April. They can be reached at:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jeremiah Wright's Words Are Timely

The history behind the Tuskegee clinical trials could have influenced Jeremiah Wright’s belief in the HIV-conspiracy theory. It is not only from the history of these horrendous scientific trials, but in the present posture of our scientific community that may indeed point to Wright's fears and accusations as a timely subject.

For instance, look at Dr. James Watson, a renowned scientist noted for his Nobel Prize in discovering the DNA chemical structure. He went on a tour in the US speaking on the determination of intelligence through genetics. Unbelievably, he referred to specific races as having lower intelligence and advocated eugenics through genetic analysis of human DNA. His words and ideas reeked of racism and elitism, but colored with the sparkling lust and lure of scientific genetic advancements. When I saw Watson speak on these subjects in Connecticut in 2007, I was appalled and frightened not only at what Watson said, but by the reaction of the crowd. An estimated 500 people literally stood up and gave Watson a standing ovation. A few months later, I was relieved to hear of the public outcry from European community who had immediately cancelled Watson’s speaking tour upon hearing him. But it still disturbs me today at how the American people were fooled by Watson’s words, by his title, credentials and Nobel Prize.

And if some blacks believe (rightly or wrongly) that HIV was used or created purposely to reduce the black population, they would be even more frightened to know what racially targeted genetic technologies can now be created in a test tube these days. The scientific community, biomedical community and the US government, however, have intentionally downplayed the dangers associated with genetic technologies. A smoke screen of secrecy surrounding any form of scientific accident or abuse is protected by the institution of a self-policing policy without any laws to protect the public. Consequently, there are no legal remedies toward any unintentional or intentional atrocities that may have or will occur. Biotech workers rights for safety and health are also surprisingly non-existent. In fact, the United States government (OSHA) has even declared that “trade secrets” supersedes a worker’s right to biological exposure records which are necessary to obtain appropriate healthcare. This unprincipled scientific movement is consistent with keeping up the façade that current genetic technologies are safe and can do no harm. It provides assurance that the American public’s sight is limited only to the lust and attraction of scientific advancements and not to the serious dangers that they pose.

Our academic community, who has deeply embedded themselves in profit making industries all in the name of scientific advancement, has lost the equilibrium point with human rights, human dignity and public safety and no longer represent the public’s interest. Jeremiah Wright’s words may seem a bit controversial; but in fact, they are timely. The difference is, however, that today the inappropriate use of science affects us all, and not just the black population as seen in the shameful Tuskegee experiments.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Global Monitor for GM Crops

Here is an interesting website which attempts to provide a global monitoring system for GM crops

GM Contamination Register
“Because of this failure of national and international agencies, GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International have launched this joint initiative to record all incidents of contamination arising from the intentional or accidental release of genetically modified (GM) organisms (which are also known as genetically engineered (GE) organisms).” This site only records those releases that are on public record and does not include the releases from biotech companies to test their products (for example see “hot potato”…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Biological Dangers in Your Own Backyard

Release of Foot and Mouth Virus from Laboratory in UK and Dangers in Your Own Backyard

If the accidentlal biological release of a Foot-and-Mouth Virus came from a laboratory which has regulations in place, you can imagine how unsafe the UNREGULATED laboratories are around the world.

Laboratories in every major research center and private pharmaceutical company in the United States are developing dangerous infectious genetically engineered (GE) microbes for research purposes. These laboratories are essentially unregulated and are not legally responsible to safely contain GE agents nor report that they are working with them. Don’t be surprised if one of these unregulated biological research laboratories operates near your home or your community without your knowledge.

Dangerous GE microbes that are created in the lab do not have to be communicable to cause disease. If you see increases in the prevalence of mystery illnesses, neurological disorders or cancers in your community, don’t discount a potential biological releases from your favorite major research institute as the cause. Laboratories which work on embryonic stem cell technologies can be especially precarious. Embryonic stem cell labs are frequently involved in developing dangerous genetic technologies to make disease-state cellular and animal models without appropriate oversight and safety controls.

You would shake in your boots if you really knew what type of GE organisms scientists are creating in test tubes these days without appropriate regulations or ethical responsibility. And they essentially are right in your own backyard.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wheat Fungus Virus Causing Havoc

Virulent fungal wheat virus spreads to Iran putting other major producers at risk.
Among the emerging risks that the world is facing is the threat to food security. The World Economic Forum’s report, Global Risks 2008 reported that
“in 2007, prices for many staple foods reached record levels. The price of corn in late 2007 was 50% higher than 12 months previously. The price of wheat was double. Global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years and, as a result, world food supply is vulnerable to an international crisis or natural disaster. “
One such disaster that may have dire consequences for many nations that are already struggling to feed their populations, is the news today that a new and virulent wheat fungus, previously found in East Africa and Yemen, has moved to major wheat growing areas in Iran. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations reported today that the fungus is capable of wreaking havoc to wheat production by destroying entire fields.
Countries east of Iran, like Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, all major wheat producers, are most threatened by the fungus and should be on high alert, FAO said.
In fact the FOA estimates that as much as 80 percent of all wheat varieties planted in Asia and Africa are susceptible to the wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis). The spores of wheat rust are mostly carried by wind over long distances and across continents. This development comes at a time when inflation is hitting the price of food as countries divert land for crops to biofuels and emerging nations like China are using more grains for the production of meat. It has the potential to push a crisis that will hit the world’s poorest.
Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division was quoted as saying:
“The fungus is spreading rapidly and could seriously lower wheat production in countries at direct risk. Affected countries and the international community have to ensure that the spread of the disease gets under control in order to reduce the risk to countries that are already hit by high food prices.”
In late February the price of US wheat went up by 22 per cent, to nearly $27.00 a bushel while big exporter, Kazakhstan, said it was imposing export tariffs to keep supplies at home. The scarcity of wheat has come about because crops in Australia, Canada, China and Europe have seen damage from bad weather conditions, and all of this as the cost of seed and fertilizer is increasing and soil fertility is declining in some places. All these factors impinge on the world’s ability to meet the growth in demand.
The news of a new virulent fungal agent with the potential to wipe out wheat crops and in doing so add to the scarcity of supply and increase prices even further is really bad news. Control and surveillance procedures are even more important if the spread is to be contained. Lives in the poorest countries are being lost already due to the food crisis and this will certainly be another blow.

Monday, March 3, 2008


The article "U.S. Mishandling Dirty Germs" points to biological accidents and releases from labs that are only under stringent regulatory control since they are under biolevel-3 containment practices. The majority of research institutes, however, also work with other dangerous genetically engineered (GE) microbes that fall under biolevel-2 containment practices. BL-2 laboratories are not under the same stringent reporting practices or regulatory oversight even though these agents are capable of causing disease. Accidents in these labs are kept from the public’s eye since it is not in the best interest of the research institute to report them and they in fact are not mandated to do so.

In addition, since there is no specific safety training required to work with these BL2 agents, many scientists and technicians are handling dangerous biologics without knowledge of proper biocontainment and decontamination. This unfortunately could lead to an exposure to an unsuspecting and unprotected person or to the public resulting in no knowledge of an exposure but coming down with an illness. Since these GE microbes are man-made and their pathogenicity uncharacterized, their presence will be impossible to detect without appropriate exposure records and genetic sequence from the research institute. Unfortunately, even if one did know he had been exposed to a biological agent from a lab, the laws are so slanted toward biotech, that he would have no rights to exposure records for healthcare. This unfortunate scenario of inadequate regulations and oversight and no rights to exposure records continues to perpetuate the façade that biotech is safe. It creates ignorance such as that stated by Mr. Raleigh above.

Although the article, "U.S. Mishandling Dirty Germs" makes gain in reporting the serious safety problems in the biotech industry, the majority of biological accidents will continue to not be reported. We, therefore, will have to look to other indicators to assess the harm done by the biotech industry from the release of biological hazards. Two such “harm” indicators will be an increase in the rate of evolution and an increase in the numbers of new emerging diseases in individuals and in small populations. And of course, an epidemic may eventually occur if these issues are not addressed.

Bioethics Issue

Cystic Fibrosis Babies Aborted?
By Arthur Allen 02/28/2008 05:12PM
In 2001, the National Institutes of Health and other groups recommended that ob-gyns and family practitioners screen pregnant women and their mates for genes that cause cystic fibrosis. In what appears to be the first evidence that decision has made an impact, a state registry in Massachusetts reported today that the births of babies with cystic fibrosis were declining in their state. The report in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the numbers of babies born with cystic fibrosis in the 1999-2002 period with those in the years 2003-2006. The number born with the disease dropped by about 50 percent. The decline was even stronger in the population of babies who had the genes that are tested for in the most common cystic fibrosis genetic test. About 10 were born each year in Massachusetts in the first period; about 5 per year in the second. Since most couples get testing after the woman is pregnant, these results indicate that many people are choosing to abort fetuses that might be born with the disease. Cystic fibrosis is a systemic disease that causes lung, liver and other problems. It was fatal in childhood in the past, but better treatments now allow many patients to live into middle-age.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Emerging Disease

Pediatric Deaths Under Investigation by IDPH
by: Lynda Waddington
Friday (02/29) at 10:53 AM
Iowa parents of young children are being asked by the Iowa Department of Public Health to take extra precautions to help prevent the spread of respiratory disease. The suggestions come as the department launches an investigation of a cluster of approximately 20 deaths since December of children under the age of four.
Most of the affected children had mild to severe respiratory symptoms prior to death. Multiple viruses have been isolated in laboratory tests, including influenza A and B, adenoviruses and respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV). However, it is unknown at this time if these viral infections were the principal cause of death. This number of deaths is higher than expected for this time of the year, which is why health officials are investigating.
"Some of the children have died at home, without ever making it to the hospital," said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk in a phone interview Friday. "So, in some cases, this has been a very sudden illness and death. That just makes it more concerning. Right now we really just want to make parents aware of the steps they can take to help protect their children from contracting respiratory viral illnesses."
Quinlisk added that the IDPH is working with other states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL) in this investigation. Roughly three of the laboratory tests in conjunction with the cases have shown the influenza virus. Several more have shown RSV. Other tests, most of which are done during autospy, have not shown any of the respiratory viral illnesses.
To help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses to young children, the IDPH has recommended the following:
Keep children away from people with respiratory diseases or symptoms.
Keep ill children home from child care or school.
Maintain good hand hygiene when caring for young children.
Wash your hands frequently, especially if you are ill.
Avoid situations where large numbers of people gather, because some may be ill.
Vaccinate all children with the flu vaccine.
Although this year’s vaccine is not a perfect match to the circulating viruses, according to state officials, it still provides some protection against the three strains of influenza virus circulating this year in Iowa.