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Episode-1772- Listener Feedback for 4-25-16 — 22 Comments

  1. Regarding Monsanto’s new RNA technology:
    You said that mutating the RNA to death is another way of describing cancer… cancer is when cells replicate themselves to death. That best describes Round-Up to me.
    Something that mutates your RNA to death best describes AIDS, IMO

  2. Hey, Jack, enjoying the show so far! I paused it to let you know (if you don’t already) that your example of GM chestnut is a reality: an active research program at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse NY. The university research uses a bacterium to insert a resistance gene from wheat into little tiny American chestnut trees propagated by tissue culture. A range of resistances is obtained, some trees being more resistant than pure Chinese chestnuts. Here’s the link: http://www.esf.edu/chestnut/tissue-culture.htm
    Interesting stuff, in a way, but personally I’d still go with traditional plant breeding.

  3. I agree messing with RNA sounds like a very bad idea. Remember the GMO mosquito and Zika virus result outside the laboratory.

  4. So I have a pretty solid grasp of the function of DNA and RNA from some advanced classes I took. Here’s the thing about RNA disruption.

    Whatever DNA/RNA sequence matches what the chemical is targeting, gets hit. It doesn’t matter what critter it’s in. Say you have a little section of DNA that codes for a specific protein, no matter where you find that code, it will get hit. It will also be copied wherever you put it, if you put it in DNA that’s being copied. It’s a really simplistic mechanism, actually. That’s how transmugenic viruses can put a piece of DNA in a chromosome and the host cell gets copied. That’s actually why we have a fuck ton of non-coding DNA remnants from viruses in our genome.

    Anyways the problem with that, is you don’t know what other critters have the piece of code you’re targeting. How do you know say, a ladybug, doesn’t have the same piece of code that the root worm has? They probably tested that, but what about the random bug that nobody thinks about but plays an important role in the ecosystem?

    DNA is shared an incredible amount by a ton of species. To really drive my point, humans share 50% of their DNA with *bananas.* Because the basic functions of cells, division, respiration, ATP generation, have been part of life for a long-ass time in the evolutionary time chain. DNA is NOT unique to species. Just like how dozens of huge computer companies use open source code in the framework of their programs. Same exact thing.

    All life shares common DNA actually because it all evolved from a common ancestor…

    Actually, if you use genome mapping to find one common code that codes a critical protein in all life, you could literally use this technology to wipe out all life on Earth if you can spread it that far. Its really a simple mechanism.

    Fucking, if you control how RNA copies DNA in a cell, you can do whatever the fuck you want.

    “Sounds like a bad idea?”

    Understatement of the whole of human existence.

    (Note that yes that’s alarmist, and because all these interactions are really complex at a macro level they probably don’t have the ability to do all of that, it’s the possibility I’m talking about).

    • Exactly and there is no way they can test the say 2.5 million species that MIGHT be effected by this RNAi technology.

    • As someone with a biology major, and chemistry and math minor:
      While I am not sure that spraying RNAi into the environment is a good idea, representing the process as mutagenic is not true; and RNAi occur naturally in cells and not for the purpose of mutating, it is really preventing the expression of genes not changing the underlying genetic material: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNA_interference. Scientist actually found the idea from nature first and are now copying it for better or for worse.

      The concern that maybe it will hit an unintended target is a real possibility, but could be mitigated by sequencing as many possible sequences of the organisms in environment you are going to spray into, and picking a sequence that is not shared, but that is going to take a lot more data then we have right now, because you really would need to have the genome sequence of everything that the RNAi would come in contact with to determine a sequence that could be unique. I think at this point the technology is probably best used to treat cancers(http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/240/240ps7), since we have a good grasp of the human genome sequence and this kind of “spot application” really would be very contained.

      Another concern would be the possible effect(s) of the possible delivery mechanism which was just touched on in the article. In the past there are instances where only part of drug was tested, and declared safe, but the final product was disastrous, at least how the history was explain to me by someone who lived through the time(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide#Birth_defects_crisis).

      My other concern is that at least one of the applications they are looking into according to the Mother Jones article is to silence pesticide resistance genes so that we can continue to spray their toxins on our food. This is not a selling point for me.

      More of a minor point but the assurance that resistance is not going to happen is likely not true. DNA and RNA use 3 unit Codons(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_code#DNA_codon_table) and you can change a sequence without changing the final protein to a degree avoiding the interfering RNA sequence.

  5. Can GMOs be used for good? Sure. I agree with Jack, it can be done ethically and responsibly, but I have no faith in the people who have monopolized most of this research to date. Hypothetically, I say yes, practically however, not unless something changes dramatically with those who are leading the initiatives.

    I’m worried more about alternate uses. What about using GMOs as a weapon? There are plant genes which produce a compound functionally similar to estrogen. Hops for example does this in a small amount. Put that in rice and give it to a hungry foreign population, creating infertility issues among large portions of their population. The gene would propagate among indigenous seed stocks. If you had a 1% population reduction over 30 years in a country like North Korea, that’s a quarter million people who will never exist. More effective than any war we could wage on the ground, and these are potential people, not ever born. They will never exist to fight back. They will never contribute to their nation economically or with labor, advancing their technology, they will never breed. The costs would be negligible, less than deploying one battleship to the area. There is no news footage showing bombs dropped on civilians, no bodies piling up, a completely passive war. Would some nations be interested in using this on their own populations? Could caste systems be formed by keeping pure food economically out of the reach of the masses? Could people even uncover the truth? If the fertility problems were instead attributed to a virus in the media, would the public look any further than the cause which is offered up to them by the experts?

    This is just one hypothetical. I don’t know the technology ever could or would be used in this way, but there are millions of hypothetical scenarios like this. Put small amounts of opiate compounds in a staple food to create dependence over time. Advantage weeds instead of suppressing them. Change the height or stem width just a bit to render existing harvesting equipment less efficient…

    On the other side of the equation, it can be used for good. Deeper roots on annual grains allowing them to be grown in arid landscapes and feed people who might otherwise starve in a drought. Add plant synthesized surrogate protein only found in meat to vegetable crops, permitting a true vegan diet without supplements or the health problems which frequently arise from such diets. Larger grain yields on perennial grasses so we can have long term wheat crops that don’t require tilling the soil and constant replanting, preserving the landscape instead of destroying it. Disease resistance, restoring extinct plant species… these are all being done by groups around the world today. Good intention can still create negative consequences, but the potential is too great to ignore. If any of these come to fruition, it could save and drastically improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

    Then you have the pointless uses. Look at the Glow in the dark plant on kickstarter. Kinda cool, kinda scary, mostly stupid. How long before your kids are begging for brussels sprouts when they have a candy flavored variety? Not the end of the world, but not really advancing society or meeting any specific need. Humanity has a way of bastardizing technology. How much internet traffic does the library of congress get? Compare that to cat memes and celebrity tweets. The internet is the gratest human invention, instant access to the sum of human knowledge and 99% of it is used for completely pointless shit. If you think everyone in the world is an idiot, you’re right, we all are. Brilliance doesn’t describe people, but the fleeting moments of success and innovation for which a person is recognized. The rest of the time, even the smartest people are still mostly dumb-asses. I expect that trend to continue and be prominently expressed in GMO research. We’ll see daisies with the center of the flower looking like the trademarked walmart smiley face, rainbow colored popcorn with each kernel color having a different flavor, grape vines being adapted to a small tree habit to negate the need to trellis them…

    The technology is already out there. It’s actually not very difficult to understand and experiment with on your own. It’s not the exclusive realm of highly trained scientists working for mega-corporations. You (yes YOU) can spend about $2000 on basic lab equipment, buy cultures of agrobacterium with specific genes and modify plants yourself. That means people have some power over the progression of the technology, and it also means a malicious individual with a basic skillset could do a lot of damage. It’s good and bad.

    You will not be able to stop the technology. No protests or legislation are effective, you cannot effectively boycott the products as they’re being pushed first in nations where people are hungry and don’t have a lot of other options. You can “vote with your dollar”, but frankly your dollar doesn’t stretch that far. You may do so for your own peace of mind and conscience, but to expect that to suppress the technology would be naive. The technology is already here. People will use it for good, for bad and for pointless reasons, and it’s applications will only expand. That’s what every new technology does.

    The rational position is to have faith that the good people outnumber the bad people, that the pros will outweigh the cons. Expect some problems we haven’t encountered before, and expect that they will not be solved easily or quickly. Many solutions will be proposed, most of them will fail. It’s going to take society some time to come to terms with what these problems even are, and the advancement of the technology will outpace any attempts to restrict it through the means we have at our disposal today.

    …Then you realize the best course is to focus on what you can do. Move to perennial fruits and vegetables, things which can be propagated by cutting. These are isolated from pollination contamination with nearby GMO crops. For that matter keep small meat animals, GMO tech is getting into meat as well. Pick one plant and be the steward of that species, preserving it’s genetic stock and providing it to people who want it. Maybe you do it on a farm or with a permaculture food forest, maybe it’s in a grow-tent in your house, or a couple strawberry plants in a pot on your windowsill in an apartment. You don’t need to forsake all GMO technology, some good applications will come of the technology, but I urge caution, wait for the crops to be proven, have an ample supply of non-GMO food at your disposal, and while the vote with your dollar strategy will ultimately prove fruitless, you can still use it to slow the adoption of the technology and make it economically less enticing in the short term. Don’t buy into propaganda or hysteria. The issues raised are too varied in their implications for anyone to objectively say “yes” or “no” to GMOs. You can make that decision and pick a side, but it will have to be done on a system of personal beliefs and gut instinct, not on a review of the facts as they already prove contradictory in different use scenarios. There is no universal truth to support or oppose their adoption, and it’s already too late for one view to prevail. The technology is in the wild now, it won’t go away, and the detractors are steadfast in their views and will not be swayed. Picking either side is now pointless from an advocacy standpoint, instead worry about what you can do personally to uphold your own ethics and prosper under this new scenario.

  6. Great show!
    It is impossible to rock every single show.
    But as long as you put out one good show a week. One great show a month and one life changing show a year I will continue to be a MSB member! Keep up the good work!

  7. Do you have a link to the highschool dropout that started his own app company? My apologies if I’m overlooking it. 🙂

  8. As for the bit about going to flight school to eventually become a commercial civilian pilot, I have a relative who was a career pilot for Delta after a distinguished career flying both rotary and fixed wing in the Navy (DFC and bronze star). From what I know of his career and that of his colleagues, anyone who didn’t learn to fly in the military has slim to no chance of getting hired. I only know two jet pilots who did get a civilian gig without a stint in the military. One got hired by UPS to fly cargo 747s since the requirements are different for flying without passengers, and the other guy was stuck finding intermittent private gigs that he had to compete hard for against pilots trained in the military. There are just loads of well trained pilots getting out to the military all the time and that makes it hard even for them to get hired. Many of those don’t get jobs even related to aircraft. My relative lucked out and used family connections to get a job as an engineer on a smaller plane in a regional airline and then it took years to work his way up to captain and then on to a major airline and then work from smaller plane to a L-1011. His salary ended up being pretty good – after 25 years and then the laws force pilots to retire sooner than most professions. On the other hand, the friend who flies the 747 for UPS has a side job to get bills paid and his wife works too.

  9. I just have to also add something I experienced concerning my local public school system. I did a year long stint as a visiting professional in high school art classes, being paid as an independent contractor. No background check (that I know of) and I don’t have a certification or training in education of any sort. One of the less than ethical administrators (really no different than any I met) outright offered me a job teaching despite my protestations that I had no official qualifications. He assured me that if I agreed to take the position, he would “take care of” that part. Yikes. I said no thank you. There are all kinds of ways that is wrong. The only right part of that is the fact that the kids would actually get to see what it’s like making a living at what I do. It’s ironic since pretty much all of my art teacher friends in the school system will admit they teach there because making a living off art is just too hard. When I get the unlikely urge to teach, it’s private lessons to very few serious students.

  10. I feel sorry for people who live in places where gun regulations prevent you from being able to protect your family. The statistics are ridiculously against gun bans being an effective deterrent to violent crime. Just look at the example of the Britain. In 2009, according to the UK news site Daily Mail, the violent crime rate in Britain was 4 times that of the USA. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html

  11. I read the article on not voting. I get what the author is saying but he seemed to overlook the most important reason to vote: local issues.

    If people like me stopped voting then my local sales tax would be over 12% by now. My state officials would have enacted more restrictive gun laws already if people like me didn’t vote.

    By not voting, you are choosing to encourage politicians at every level to take away or restrict any freedoms you have left.

      • Local tyrants can be ousted in favor of actual public servants. These people work and live among us. Federal politicians in many cases don’t even live in their districts anymore. Voters have made a ton of progress in my county and the mayor has vetoed these projects where developers are demanding increased sales taxes to fund their buildings. If we let the other side win at the ballot boxes then these things would be voted in. By voting, I am preventing tyrants from holding local office.

  12. Hi, For the sake of balance on the self-defence and the UK, It’s always interesting to hear the American view on this and a wry smile came over when Jack was talking about this one. As a UK resident, I am totally aware of our restrictive gun laws however I hold a licence for 2 x .22 rifles, 2 x .38, a .308 plus shot gun and enjoy my range time as much as my American friends. Yes the guns and ammunition are all kept in my Gun safe. I also have two Bows and a Cross bow that hang on the wall and are ready for action should I require them.
    The Guide on self-defence is very subjective, please read up if you are interested. (http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/self_defence/#Reasonable_Force)
    Personally I would use whatever force / weapons necessary to protect as anyone would do and face the consequences after the event. As jack said, there are plenty of everyday items or strategically placed around the house ornamental items, swords, fire pokers, heavy objects, sprays that ‘just happen’ to be located around the house with legitimate reasons.
    As for the comments on crime rates by comparison from country to country these can be massively skewed to suit the writers point, trust me we have the same crap played to us about the US, it keeps us divided and that’s safer for those in power – don’t believe all you read, personally I see little to no crime of violence where I work or live, that’s not to say it’s not bad in populated or deprived areas, just like most cities, it is. It will only get worse as immigrants come in and we know that. We do what we can to stop this but as a part of the EU their laws allow entry (hopefully vote to leave is triumphant).
    Jack, thanks for you inspiration over the years, as a striving Libertarian (and now Anarchist) you’ve help me have direction and clarity in life.
    http://www.libertyuk.net & http://www.prepare2survive.net