The significance of the successfully developed GM food vaccine *

Wise Up Journal – By Gabriel O’Hara

A string of news articles on vaccines contained in GM food have hit the media over the last few days. The articles talked about research being carried out to see if it would work. But that is exactly what it is, re-search. Current scientists, on a lower level, re-doing the work that has been proven to work at an equivalent or higher level years ago. The New Scientist article below publicly reported in 2005 that Arizona State University’s re-search from 2003 successfully created “Genetically engineered potatoes containing a hepatitis B vaccine” which caused human volunteers to produce a “large number of extra antibodies”. The research shows that GM food can be used to pass genetic material to humans and cause changes in the human body.

New Scientist – By Andy Coghlan

Genetically engineered potatoes containing a hepatitis B vaccine have successfully boosted immunity in their first human trials.

But the newly-published study missed a moving target – drug developers are now abandoning their quest for vaccines contained in staple foods like bananas, tomatoes or potatoes.

developers have changed tack to avoid any possibility of vaccine-laden food straying into shops or markets. If this occurred, it could be unwittingly eaten by consumers, with unpredictable results.

Instead, developers are now focusing on making vaccines in the safely edible leaves of plants not on sale as food.

“We’ve not worked with potatoes for two years now,” says Charles Arntzen at Arizona State University in Tempe, US, who led the potato study and is a veteran of the decade-long bid to produce GM vaccines in foods. “We don’t say ‘edible’ vaccine any more – we say ‘heat-stable oral vaccines’.”

Despite abandoning the potatoes, Arntzen says he is proud of the results, and that they support the principle of oral vaccination.

In the study, the volunteers all ate finely-chopped chunks of raw potato. Some ate potatoes in which a major surface protein of the hepatitis B virus had been produced, while others received unaltered potatoes.

More than 60% of the volunteers who had three doses of the vaccine made a large number of extra antibodies against the viral protein, as did 53% on two doses. None of the volunteers eating ordinary potato generated new antibodies.

“We are very interested in the approach, and these results are very encouraging,” says Martin Friede at the World Health Organization’s Initiative for Vaccine Research.

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The highest levels of experiments has proven not to be in universities but on the military and corporate levels. Even so universities and other lower levels get funded by governments for research. On July 12th 2004 a BBC article titled “EU funding for GM plant vaccines” informed us that the EU had invested millions of Euro into the consortium Pharma-Planta to develop genetically altered vaccine plants.

Drugs and genetically engineered food, an obvious connection

Text from a Biotechnology Institute publication “Your World Biotechnology and you” (which looks and reads like it was designed for teenagers): “Researchers pinpointed part of the cholera bacterium that the human immune system can recognize […] Some scientists began to brainstorm about plants. Since plants naturally make a number of different compounds, could they be reprogrammed to make edible vaccines? Scientists found the genes that make that bacterial part […] they put those genes into potatoes to turn potatoes into a handy vaccine […] But there is a snag. People don’t eat raw potatoes. So scientists cooked them and found that some of the vaccine still survives.” – Your World Biotechnology and you, Volume 10, Issue 1, Page 12

Searle, a pharmaceuticals company, was acquired by the Monsanto corporation in 1985. Monsanto is the world’s leading genetically modified food corporation and the creator of the infamous chemical Agent Orange sprayed by the U.S. military across South Vietnam (which still causes debilitating birth defects today). When governments try to ban Monsanto’s GM food the corporation sues that government, as was the case last month with the German Government, reported by Reuters. Searle pharmaceuticals produced an infamous product called aspartame under the brand name NutraSweet, which is used today in sugar free products. With regards to the U.S. military: Donald Rumsfeld, 13th Secretary of Defense (1975 to 1977) and 21st Secretary of Defense (2001 to 2006), was the CEO of Searle from 1977 to 1985. Rumsfeld was credited as having an influential role in Monsanto’s acquisition of Searle.

It sure does make you feel safe knowing who is behind the GM maize in the public’s mini apple pies and all the other genetically altered food people eat without checking. In most countries, if someone bothered to check, it is impossible for them to know if they are eating genetically altered food as the ingredients legally don’t have to be labelled as GM. A wonderful world?

One of the hailed advantages of genetically modified food consumed by the public is that they are engineered to be toxic to pests that eat them and are genetically altered not to die from being sprayed by advanced patented Monstanto plant killing chemicals. Farmers are led to believe that these little biological weapons (to pests only is the corporate mantra) will save them money. Another one of the many problems is that they cross pollinate with crops thought not to be GM.

Daily Mail – By Lucy Elkins

Why are so many adults suddenly getting allergies?

An allergy occurs when the body over-reacts to the presence of something harmless and produces antibodies and chemicals such as histamine in response.

It is the body’s way of trying to get rid of the perceived invader as rapidly as possible.

Typically, allergies start in childhood, when the immature immune system is more likely to over-react, but often improve in time. So why are adults now being affected for the first time?

‘No one truly understands what prompts allergies in later life,’ says Isobel Skypala, a specialist allergy dietician at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital.

‘Hormonal fluctuations also have an effect on the severity of allergies’

‘In the case of food allergies, it may be partly due to the wide range of foods available these days. But we are also seeing more severe reactions in adults to plant foods that have long been part of the UK diet, such as lettuce,’ she says.

Adults who already have an allergy are also increasingly developing further allergies (’multiple allergies’).

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All agenda’s from new taxes to one child policies are jumping on the CO2 bandwagon as a vehicle justify and accelerate them. The genetically modified food agenda is no different. Biotechnology Institute: “Many other foods – potatoes, wheat, oats – also use CO2 inefficiently. Rice belongs to an old line of plants that developed when our atmosphere had more carbon dioxide (CO2) than today. Newer plants, such as corn, evolved when the atmosphere had less CO2. They use CO2 more efficiently by using a kind of “CO2 pump”. Researchers put the genes for the ‘pump’ proteins in rice.” – Your World Biotechnology and you, Volume 10, Issue 1, Page 11

Brain scanning may be used in security checks

Owen Bowcott – guardian.co.uk

Distinctive brain patterns could become the latest subject of biometric scanning after EU researchers successfully tested technology to verify identities for security checks.

The experiments, which also examined the potential of heart rhythms to authenticate individuals, were conducted under an EU-funded inquiry into biometric systems that could be deployed at airports, borders and in sensitive locations to screen out terrorist suspects.

Another series of tests fitted a “sensing seat” to a truck to record each driver’s characteristic seated posture in an attempt to spot whether commercial vehicles had been hijacked.

Details of the Humabio (Human Monitoring and Authentication using Biodynamic Indicators and Behaviourial Analysis) pilot projects have been published amid further evidence of biometric technologies penetrating everyday lives.

The Foreign Office plans to spend up to £15m on fixed and mobile security devices that use methods including “Facial recognition (two and/or three dimensional), fingerprint recognition, iris recognition and vein imaging palm recognition”.

The biometric sensors and systems, it appears, will primarily be deployed to protect UK embassies around the world. The contract, about which the FCO declined to elaborate further, also mentions “surveillance” and “data collection” services.

The Home Office, meanwhile, has confirmed rapid expansion plans of automated facial recognition gates: 10 will be operating at major UK airports by August.

Passengers holding the latest generation of passports travelling through Manchester and Stansted are already being checked by facial-recognition cameras.

Biometric identity checks are also becoming more common in the world of commercial gadgets. New versions of computer laptops and mobile phones are entering the market with built-in fingerprint scanners to prevent other people running up large bills and misusing pilfered hi-tech equipment.

Among security experts there is a preference for developing biometric security devices that do not rely on measuring solely one physiological trait: offering choice makes scanning appear less intrusive and allows for double-checking.

The holy grail of the biometrics industry is a scanning mechanism that is socially acceptable in an era of mass transit and 100 per cent accurate. Researchers are eager to produce ‘non-contact’ biometric systems that can check any individual’s identity at a distance.

The US government’s secretive IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) is seeking development proposals to enhance such technologies. Insisting that it is not interested in ‘contact-type’ biometrics, it asks for ideas that will “significantly advance the intelligence community’s ability to achieve high-confidence match performance … [for] high fidelity biometric signatures”.

The Humabio project, based in Greece, is involved more in blue-sky scientific thinking than in intelligence work. Its research, highlighted in the latest issue of Biometric Technology Today, is at a “pre-commercial, proof-of-concept stage”.

How we are emptying our seas

From The Sunday Times

Human exploitation of the seas has changed them forever, writes Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at York University.

Imagine sitting on the cliffs of Dover contemplating the sea on a crisp spring day. Today your eye would be drawn by the crawling shapes of cargo vessels, ferries and fishing boats.

Wind back the clock to the seventh century, however, and the scene would be very different. Instead of shipping, you would watch the passage of great whales on their northward migration from African wintering grounds to Arctic feeding areas. At the season’s peak, over a thousand whales might pass in a day.

Today few whales are sighted in the English Channel, because we have decimated their numbers by hunting.

The slaughter began in the Bay of Biscay and English Channel around the ninth century and, by the early Middle Ages these abundant animals sustained a vigorous whale fishery that was conducted from coastal bays and inlets along their migration routes. Records suggest that numbers were declining as long ago as the 12th and 14th centuries.

The depletion of those stocks offers a good explanation for why Basques whalers were so quick to exploit newly-discovered Arctic and Canadian whale populations in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Over the following centuries – in Scotland right up until after the second world war – whales were pursued relentlessly. Those left are a small fraction of former numbers.

By the 18th century, for example, the Atlantic grey whale had been driven to extinction. Nowadays, despite being protected, the northern right whale is down to the last few hundred animals and faces the same fate.

How do we know how big whale populations once were? Whaling records, historians and others all describe the abundance of these beautiful creatures. One 16th century writer reported how whales were “ever present, familiar guests” around the coasts of Scandinavia.

Nowadays we also have DNA studies, showing a level of genetic diversity that could only have been achieved by huge numbers of animals.

How different the seas must have been then, in both spectacle and ecology, but it is not just whales that have dwindled over the centuries.

Our propensity to pursue marine wildlife extended beyond whales to porpoises, dolphins, basking sharks, angel sharks, tunny, skate and halibut and a host of other ocean megafauna.

Bone remains from medieval times tell of a Humber Estuary population of bottlenose dolphins that disappeared for good over a hundred years ago.

In the 18th century, porpoises were described as so common they sometimes darkened the sea as they rose to draw breath. Large predators were sustained by populations of prey fish, pilchards, herring, sprat and others, far greater in abundance than those present today.

In the United States, an unexpected consequence of the depletion of large sharks, like tigers and hammerheads, has recently been uncovered. When the big sharks disappeared one of their former prey items, cownose rays, flourished, in turn munching their way through any bay scallops they could find. Few would have predicted that shark fishing could cause the collapse of a lucrative scallop fishery.

Grey whales are submarine bulldozers, feeding on clams and other animals buried in the seabed. In the Pacific, historic populations of grey whales numbering near 100,000 animals once raised as much sediment in the Arctic as is dumped today by the equivalent of 12 Yukon Rivers.

Steve Palumbi of Stanford University estimates that nutrients in this sediment would have fuelled plankton blooms that would feed a million seabirds. There are no Grey Whales left in the Atlantic, but their role as ecological engineers has been replaced by prawn trawls that raise millions of tons of sediment as they sweep back and forth in chilly northern seas.

It is difficult to know in how many other ways the ecology of our seas has been restructured as a result of hunting and fishing. Historical ecologists will argue over this subject for years to come. For the rest of us, the loss of the seas’ spectacular megafauna is a matter for sadness and regret.

Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation, Environment Department, University of York, York, YO10 5DD. Email: cr10@york.ac.uk

More information on historical losses of marine megafauna

http://www.york.ac.uk/res/unnatural-history-of-the-sea

The Wildlife Trusts marine megafauna campaign

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/?section=marinebill:seaso