Thursday, January 29, 2009
US FDA's Statement on Genetically Modified Animals
The FDA has released its final statement on the production of genetically modified animals
. The agency's guidelines
assert that GM animals are to be regulated as animals receiving drug treatments, such as hormones or antibiotics. According this logic, the genetic modification - a change made to animal's DNA, often with the help of a virus - is the same as a chemical-based modification of the animal's system. The guidelines are merely a statement that current regulations are sufficient for GM animal production.
As readers may remember, cloning is not considered to be a genetic engineering process, but simply a form of assisted reproduction since the original DNA is not modified.
Currently, there are no genetically modified animals or products from such animals used for food. However, despite some reporting that we are now likely to see GM meat products in the supermarket, as a recent LA Times article
speculates, we are far more likely to see products from GM animals in the form of drugs or other medical treatments. According to Q&A page on the FDA site
Q: What kinds of GE animals are in development?
A. Many kinds of GE animals are in development. At this time, the largest class of GE animals is being developed for biopharm purposes—that is, they are intended to produce substances (for example, in their milk or blood) that can be used as human or animal pharmaceuticals. Another group of GE animals are under development for use as sources of scarce cells, tissues, or organs for transplantation into humans (xenotransplant sources). Yet others are intended for use as food and may be disease resistant, or have improved nutritional or growth characteristics. And others include animals that produce high value industrial or consumer products, such as highly specific antimicrobials against human and animal pathogens (e.g., E. coli 0157 or Salmonella).
More than likely, drugs produced by genetically engineered animals will be much less of a problem for consumers than meat, eggs or dairy products. How many people currently even know what most of the compounds in their medications are?
A question that I have, and one not addressed (that I could find) by the FDA, is when the genetic modification performed on an animal would cease to be treated as a drug treatment. For how many generations will offspring of GM animals, who will inherit the modification, be treated as if receiving drug treatments?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Climate Change
There has been some chatter in the scientific press, especially when concerning climate change and efforts at geoengineering, you know, the process of attempting to alter global systems (like climate) through various forms of chemical, mechanical or other forms of intervention.
An apparent "big deal" in this regard is underway (recently being cleared by the German Federal Ministry of Research
) with the beginning of an Indo-German experiment (named LOHAFEX
) at "fertilizing" an area (115 square miles) of ocean, in the Scotia Sea east of Argentina. The German ship RV Polarstern is headed there to dump 20 tons of iron sulphate particals in the hopes that it will help produce a booming plankton population (plankton apparently needs iron). The idea is that the plankton will intake a large amount of carbon, and take it with them to the bottom of the ocean as they die. Basically, it sounds like a creating a lawn on the ocean' surface, where it will do what plants do... intake carbon, output oxygen.
Some people, however, are concerned that this initiative isn't considering possible unintended consequences, like what an increase in iron sulphate and a geographical shifting of marine life might mean. There are also concerns over accountability and regulation - who's responsible for regulating and monitoring such globally situated experiments.
What groups like ETC fear in terms of this experimentation
is that it will unfold along the lines of the biotechnology revolution, where the technology was established and covering much of the globe before many people even knew what it was, with very little oversight, and directed by profit motives. Geoengineering also follows the same philosophical and technical methods as biotechnology, treating the Earth as an organism that can be manipulated and treated by altering its components, its genetic make up, if you will. Let's just hope that the Earth, and we, fair better than the early test subjects for genetic therapies
.Wired Magazine's coverage of LOHAFEX
image above: source
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Interview with Philip Ross
Rhizome.org has an interview with artist and organizer Philip Ross
, who curated the BioTechnique exhibit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
and is currently organizing a series of events called Critter
for the very interesting San Francisco based space Studio for Urban Projects
. Check out the line up:
In this afternoon open house CRITTER will be a home for plant cloning, grafting and trading. Learn how to make multiple plants from one, using techniques that range from simple to superdork. Denise King from the Exploratorium, Philip Ross, and other plant propagators will be on hand to expand your library of plant possibilities. Hormones! Sexing your plant! Wooooo!
A bay area competition for the makers of this pickled cabbage. Open tasting to the public, and a prize of $200 for best in show by a juried panel.
24 Hour Microscopy People
For an entire day the space will be occupied by a rotating crew of microscopists who will be on hand to magnify and project all samples brought in. Multiple visualization and projection technologies will be on hand, from simple water drop lenses to some fancy-shmancy I’m trying to cook up. The images will be projected onto the windows, accompanying buildings, screens, monitors, water vapor, etc. with live musical accompaniment to interpret the unfolding organic displays.
Living Wall Workshop
Living walls are architectural structures covered with vegetation and, in some cases, soil or an inorganic growing medium. These can be integrated into available vertical surfaces of urban areas for use in agriculture, grey water cleaning systems, and as organic air purifiers. Learn how to build your own green wall with easy to find materials, plants and parts.
Grey Water Now!
Grey water constitutes 50-80% of residential wastewater, and is made from domestic processes such as dish washing, laundry and bathing. In this workshop the Grey Water Guerillas will provide hands on demonstrations, techniques and information on how this rerouted water can be conserved, utilized, and kept out of the municipal waste water system.
Whiskey Still Workshop
Cheese Making 101
An event for exchanging and expanding mother cultures.