By F. William Engdahl
(This article was first published on 11 April 2018)
The Trump Administration is backing a new technology for the genetic manipulation of plants and even animals with no intend to supervise or regulate against possible dangers. If left unchecked, it could open a Pandora’s Box of dangers to human health for generations. Yet very little debate is taking place on this dramatic development. Here are some things to consider .
The new development is being called “genome editing,” or simply gene editing. It’s being promoted as a “new, improved” method of altering genetic expression of plants and even animals and humans. In 2015 London TED conference geneticist Jennifer Doudna presented what is known as CRISPR-Cas9. This is an acronym for “Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats.” It’s a revolutionary and highly controversial gene-editing platform using a bacterially-derived protein, Cas9. It supposedly allows genetic engineers to target and break the DNA double strand at a precise location within a given genome for the first time.
Genetic Editing Proliferation
In effect CRISPR is a highly precise way to alter genes, genes in plants, in animals and even humans. Quite different from the older Monsanto “gene cannon” or other techniques of changing a plant’s genetics by bombarding it with a foreign substance to (hopefully) make the soybean or GMO corn resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, a highly sophisticated and highly costly procedure that is patentable and that is so complex as to be limited to a handful of company actors around the world, gene editing is relatively cheap, kits available for around $500. And relatively easy to use. As one analyst described it, CRISPR is “a very precise not to mention extraordinarily cheap and easy to use tool which can locate, cut, deactivate, activate or rewrite any sequence of DNA that they want in a living cell.” Note the words, “cheap and easy to use…can locate, cut, deactivate or rewrite any sequence of DNA that they want…”
And the cost of buying CRISPR and related genome editing materials is alarmingly cheap ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand. The equipment is available online from scientific equipment makers and on one site an ad reads, “CRISPR-Cas9 editing made easy:…Our easy-to-use, optimized, and validated solutions span the entire cell engineering workflow, making genome editing accessible to anyone at any level. “ As one critic put it, “anyone can buy some CAS9 for a few hundred bucks, any halfway decent lab can use it to alter the DNA of anything…”
National Security Issue
DARPA, the Pentagon R&D arm is spending millions on developing gene editing. In 2016 James Clapper, Obama Administration Director of National Intelligence added gene editing to the list of threats posed by “weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.” In July, 2017 the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded $65 million in four-year contracts to seven teams of scientists to study gene-editing technologies. The commitment officially made DARPA the world’s largest government funder of “gene drive” research.
Gene Drive is the next major development in the new gene editing world. The idea of gene drive is to force a genetic modification to spread through an entire population in just a few generations. One of the leading gene drive researchers, Omar Akbari at University of California Riverside gets DARPA gene drive research money. He works with what is supposedly the world’s deadliest creature: the Aedes aegypti mosquito. His work involves gene editing the deadly mosquito, re-engineering them with “self-destruct switches.”
This sounds noble, a boon to mankind saving maybe a million lives annually. Like selling earlier GMO “golden rice” as a solution to infant blindness, gene editing however is not as perfect as it is made out to be. The scientist who first suggested developing gene drives in gene editing, Harvard biologist Kevin Esvelt has published a paper warning that development of gene editing in conjunction with turbocharged gene drive technologies have alarming potential to go awry. He notes how often CRISPR messes up and the likelihood of protective mutations arising, making even benign gene drives ruthlessly aggressive. He stresses, “Just a few engineered organisms could irrevocably alter an ecosystem.” His computer gene drive simulations calculate that a resulting edited gene “can spread to 99 percent of a population in as few as 10 generations, and persist for more than 200 generations.”
It takes little imagination to conceive a scenario in which malevolent actors intent on wreaking destruction unleash destructive gene edited plants or animals, or even humans. Earlier GMO was so complex and costly it was limited to a very few actors who grabbed patents on their GMO seeds. Now with gene editing readily available and becoming widespread, Pandora’s Box is being opened wide.
USDA Gov Gives Green Light
Rather than approach such a potentially disruptive technology as gene editing with utmost caution and control, the US Government, and US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, are opting for no regulation, a laissez faire permissiveness that treats the resulting gene edited plants as identical to conventional plants, therefore needing no special regulation. In a March 28 Press Release, Purdue stated, “USDA does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques…This includes a set of new techniques that are increasingly being used by plant breeders to produce new plant varieties that are indistinguishable from those developed through traditional breeding methods… such as genome editing…”
So we have at the same time the US intelligence community treating gene edited organisms and related technologies as potential weapons of mass destruction, while at the very same time the agencies of the US Government responsible for food safety, the USDA, EPA and FDA seem content to turn a blind eye to all. As critics have noted, “We might be able to wipe out entire species on a whim …We might be able to do that — to any species — that we’ve decided we’d rather not deal with anymore …” Even “undesirable” groups of human beings?
Is Gene Editing the New Name for Eugenics?
By F. William Engdahl
(This article was first published on 21 June 2018)
A major new technology known as Gene Editing has gained significant attention in recent months. Its advocates claim it will revolutionize everything from agriculture production to disease treatment. None other than Bill Gates has just come out in an article in the US foreign policy magazine Foreign Affairs in praise of the promise of gene editing. Yet a closer investigation suggests that all is not so ideal with Gene Editing. New peer reviewed studies suggest it could cause cancer. The question is whether this technology, which is highly controversial, is little more than a stealth way to introduce GMO genetic manipulation by way of another technique.
The scientific magazine, Nature Studies, has published two studies that suggest that gene-editing techniques may weaken a person’s ability to fight off tumors, and “could give rise to cancer, raising concerns about for the safety of CRISPR-based gene therapies.” The studies were done by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and by the pharmaceutical firm, Novartis. Cells whose genomes are successfully edited by CRISPR-Cas9 have the potential to seed tumors inside a patient the studies found. That could make some CRISPR’d cells ticking time bombs, according to researchers from Karolinska Institute and, in a separate study, by Novartis.[i]
The CEO of CRISPR Therapeutics, Sam Kulkarni, admitted that the results are “plausible.” He added, “it’s something we need to pay attention to, especially as CRISPR expands to more diseases.” [ii]Given the stakes that is a notably nonchalant response.
Genes out of the bottle
The issue of gene editing to cut or modify DNA of a plant, animal or potentially human beings is by no means mature let alone fully tested or proven safe as the two new studies suggest. CRISPR, far the most cited gene editing technology, was developed only in 2013. In 2015 at a London TED conference geneticist Jennifer Doudna presented what is known as CRISPR-Cas9, an acronym for “Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats.” It’s a gene-editing platform using a bacterially-derived protein, Cas9 that supposedly allows genetic engineers to target and break the DNA double strand at a precise location within a given genome for the first time.
The technique also has significant problems. It has been shown repeatedly that only a small minority of cells into which CRISPR is introduced, usually by a virus, actually have their genomes edited as intended.
In China scientists used human embryos given by donors of embryos that could not have resulted in a live birth, to edit a specific gene. The results were a bad failure as the tested cells failed to contain the intended genetic material. Lead researcher Jungiu Huang told Nature. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.” [iii]
A newer form of gene editing known as gene drive, as I noted in an earlier article, has an alarming potential to become a Frankenstein monster. Gene Drive gene editing, which is being heavily funded by the Pentagon’s DARPA, aims to force a genetic modification to spread through an entire population, whether of mosquitoes or potentially humans, in just a few generations.
The scientist who first suggested developing gene drives in gene editing, Harvard biologist Kevin Esvelt has publicly warned that development of gene editing in conjunction with gene drive technologies have alarming potential to go awry. He notes how often CRISPR messes up and the likelihood of protective mutations arising, making even benign gene drives aggressive. He stresses, “Just a few engineered organisms could irrevocably alter an ecosystem.” Esvelt’s computer gene drive simulations calculated that a resulting edited gene “can spread to 99 percent of a population in as few as 10 generations, and persist for more than 200 generations.” [iv]
Despite such warnings and problems, the US Department of Agriculture has endorsed gene editing, without any special testing, for use in agriculture crops. The Department of Agriculture has decided that genetically edited plants are like plants with naturally occurring mutations and thus require no special regulations and raise no special safety concerns, despite all contrary indications. And the Pentagon’s DARPA is spending millions of dollars to research it. [v]
Enter Bill Gates
Most recently the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, a long-time advocate of eugenics, population control and of GMO, has come out in a strong endorsement of Gene Editing. In an article in the May/June 2018 magazine of the New York Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, Gates hails gene editing technologies, explicitly CRISPR. In the article Gates argues that CRISPR and other gene-editing techniques should be used globally to meet growing demand for food and to improve disease prevention, particularly for malaria. “It would be a tragedy to pass up the opportunity,” he wrote. In point of fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which among other projects is working to spread GMO plants into African agriculture and which is a major shareholder of Monsanto, now Bayer AG, has financed gene editing projects for a decade. [vi]
Gates and his foundation are not at all neutral in the area of Gene Editing and definitely not in the related highly controversial Gene Drive applications. In December 2916 in Cancun Mexico at the UN Biodiversity Conference, more than 170 NGOs from around the world including the German Heinrich-Böll Stiftung, Friends of the Earth, La Via Campesina and others called for a moratorium on gene drive research.
However, inside the UN at their dedicated website the online discussion is dominated by something called the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology (AHTEG), a UN-approved “expert group” on synthetic biology. AHTEG is indirectly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the PR company, Emerging Ag which wages an intense pro-Gene Drive lobby campaign within the UN. Emerging Ag has recruited some 60 biology researchers including from Bayer Crop Sciences to promote the high-risk gene drive technology. They advocate US-level non-regulation of gene editing and gene drive as does Gates, and they vigorously oppose any moratorium.[vii]
In his Foreign Affairs article Gates argues, “Gene editing to make crops more abundant and resilient could be a lifesaver on a massive scale…For a decade, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been backing research into the use of gene editing in agriculture.” He adds, without proof, “there is reason to be optimistic that creating gene drives in malaria-spreading mosquitoes will not do much, if any, harm to the environment.” [viii]
With the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the USDA and the Pentagon DARPA all involved energetically advancing gene editing and especially the highly-risky Gene Drive applications in species such as mosquitoes, one has to ask is gene editing becoming the new name for eugenics in light of the fact that GMO technologies have been so vigorously opposed by citizen groups around the world. Honest scientific research is of course legitimate and necessary. But unregulated experimentation with technologies that could wipe out entire species is definitely not the same as planting a variety of hybrid corn.
[i] Sustainable Pulse, Serious New Hurdle for CRISPR Edited Cells Might Cause Cancer, Find Two Studies, June 11 2018, https://sustainablepulse.com/2018/06/11/a-serious-new-hurdle-for-crispr-edited-cells-might-cause-cancer-find-two-studies/#.Wyo6x6m_O-U.
[iii] Viktoria Woollaston, Controversial gene editing tool CRISPR could give rise to cancer worrying studies find, 12c June, 2018, http://www.alphr.com/bioscience/1001654/crispr-cas9-gene-editing
[iv] F. William Engdahl, US Gov Backs Dangerous New Genetic Manipulation Approach, 11 April 2018, NEO, https://journal-neo.org/2018/04/11/us-gov-backs-dangerous-new-genetic-manipulation-approach/
[vi] Katherine Ellen Foley, Bill Gates thinks the future should be genetically edited, April 11, 2018 , https://qz.com/1249294/bill-gates-thinks-crispr-gene-editing-can-improve-agriculture-and-global-health/
[vii] Kathrin Hartmann, Gates Foundation Lobbyarbeit für Gentechnik statt für Gerechtigkeit, Frankfurter Rundschau, 3 December, 2017, http://www.fr.de/wirtschaft/gates-foundation-lobbyarbeit-fuer-gentechnik-statt-fuer-gerechtigkeit-a-1400391
[viii] Bill Gates, Gene Editing for Good: How CRISPR Could Transform Global Development, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-04-10/gene-editing-good.
By F. William Engdahl
(This article was first published on 23 July 2018)Though the announcement is couched in terms that make it seem humanitarian, as potentially a huge advance in science, an agency tied to the British government is encouraging efforts in gene-editing of the DNA of human embryos. It belongs in the category of eugenics. Not surprisingly, the footprints of Bill Gates and the Rockefeller eugenics circles, and major pharma groups as well as GMO seed companies are found here .
Following a well-placed article by Microsoft founder and major GMO supporter Bill Gates in the prestigious New York Council on Foreign Relations magazine, Foreign Affairs, strongly endorsing the development of so-called genetic editing, the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a part Government-funded advisory body, has now released a report titled Genome Editing and Human Reproduction.
The report and the people behind it, including the Government’s Medical Research Council, indicate that a major push is underway to convince the public that genetic manipulation of human embryo DNA, so-called gene editing, is desirable and beneficial.
Among its conclusions the report states, “use of heritable genome editing interventions to influence the characteristics of future generations could be ethically acceptable.” It adds that, “research should be carried out on the safety and feasibility of heritable genome editing interventions to establish standards for clinical use.”
With many sentences stressing that the decision should only be licensed “on a case-by-case basis subject to assessment of the risks of adverse clinical outcomes for the future person,” by a national competent authority; and “strict regulation and oversight,” the report opens a Pandora’s box of eugenics issues, the long-standing agenda of circles such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller University, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.
The focus is use of new technologies for gene editing, including CRISPR-Cas9, to “alter a DNA sequence(s) of an embryo, or of a sperm or egg cell prior to fertilisation. The aim would be to influence the inherited characteristics of the resulting person.” They elaborate, “We refer to these as ‘heritable genome editing interventions’ since the altered DNA may be passed to future generations…” They suggest that “One use of heritable genome editing interventions would be to have a child while excluding a particular heritable disorder that the child might have inherited from their biological parents.”
The person heading the new study is Birmingham University Prof. Karen Yeung, a professor not of biology, but of law and ethics and an expert in Artificial Intelligence. Yeung told the UK Guardian, “It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself. There is no reason to rule it out in principle .”
The issuance of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report marks a major advance to creation of radical new laboratory interventions into human embryos to create what critics call “designer babies.”
The problem is that the technology of gene editing is anything but precise, contrary to what its advocates like Bill Gates may claim. The methodology of manipulating a specific part of a DNA chain to change human embryos is based on flawed scientific reductionism, which ignores the complexity of biophysical reality and of the fundamental laws of nature.
Risk to future generations
Take the statement from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report: “We refer to these as ‘heritable genome editing interventions’ since the altered DNA may be passed to future generations…” The altered DNA may be passed to future generations?… And what if the altered DNA goes awry and that too is passed to future generations?
The scientist who first suggested developing gene drives in gene editing, Harvard biologist Kevin Esvelt, has publicly warned that development of gene editing, in conjunction with gene drive technologies, have alarming potential to go awry. He notes how often CRISPR messes up and the likelihood of mutations arising, making even benign gene drives aggressive. He stresses, “Just a few engineered organisms could irrevocably alter an ecosystem.” Esvelt’s computer gene drive simulations calculated that a resulting edited gene, “can spread to 99 percent of a population in as few as 10 generations, and persist for more than 200 generations.”
He was discussing gene editing of mosquitoes. Now the debate is moving on to gene editing of human embryos.
UK Francis Crick Institute
The experiments have already begun, though researchers rush to stress they are with “donated embryos,” not implanted after into the womb of a woman, but killed after several days of lab experimenting. Two years ago, researchers in China used human embryos given by donors of embryos that could not have resulted in a live birth, to edit a specific gene. The results were a bad failure. The tested cells failed to contain the intended genetic material. Lead researcher Jungiu Huang told Nature, “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature .”
Two years prior to the recent call by the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics to, in effect, give a broad green light to experiments with gene editing of human embryos, the UK Government’s so-called “fertility regulator,” the Orwellian-sounding Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), gave permission to scientists at London’s Francis Crick Institute to do limited experiments involving gene editing modification on human embryos.
The HFEA is part of the UK Department of Health and Social Care. It was the first time a national government approved use of the DNA-modification technique in human embryos. The researchers reportedly alter genes in donated embryos, which will be destroyed after seven days .
The Francis Crick Institute opened that same year, 2016, so the gene editing of human embryos was one of its first projects. Notably, the institute has 1,500 staff, including 1,250 scientists, and an annual budget of over £100 million, making it the biggest single biomedical laboratory in Europe. Among its first donors was the UK pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline, giving funding and personnel .
Also notable is the CEO and Director of the Francis Crick Institute, Sir Paul Nurse, geneticist and former President of the Rockefeller University in New York. In 2009 Nurse hosted an exclusive meeting at the Rockefeller University of hand-picked billionaires, invited by Bill Gates and David Rockefeller, to discuss the problem of “over-population.” They reportedly called their group The Good Club, and it included, according to reports, billionaire financiers Warren Buffett, George Soros and Michael Bloomberg .
The fact that today the same Sir Paul Nurse heads one of the world’s largest and best financed biomedical laboratories where they are doing gene editing of “donated” human embryos, suggests that a very dangerous agenda is being advanced under the banner of gene editing. And the fact that Bill Gates and his huge foundation, a major investor of Monsanto (now Bayer AG), have been funding experiments in gene editing for more than a decade, including CRISPR, suggests that gene editing could soon become a new name for human eugenics .
Gene editing itself is hugely flawed and unregulated by governments. It has been shown repeatedly that only a small minority of cells into which CRISPR is introduced, usually by a virus, actually have their genomes edited as intended. Indeed, the risks of human embryo gene editing are such that an open appeal published in Nature magazine from Edward Lanphier, Fyodor Urnov and a number of other leading gene editing researchers declared, “Don’t edit the human germ line.”
The appeal of the scientists stated, “There are grave concerns regarding the ethical and safety implications of this research… In our view, genome editing in human embryos using current technologies could have unpredictable effects on future generations. This makes it dangerous and ethically unacceptable. Such research could be exploited for non-therapeutic modifications.” The gene scientists added the alarming warning, “The precise effects of genetic modification to an embryo may be impossible to know until after birth. Even then, potential problems may not surface for years .”
They called for a voluntary scientific moratorium on human gene editing.
The term “non-therapeutic modifications” might very well include genetic editing of certain “undesirable” human races, to program them for biological extinction, the eugenics ultimate dream for over a century. Is that unthinkable? Not to some minds to be sure.
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