|(Natural News) Saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, trans fats … It can get quite difficult to get the rules straight regarding fats and their impact on our health. There are good and bad fats as well as natural and unnatural fats, and cutting out all fat is not necessarily the healthiest option. One thing…|
‘They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.’ — Edmund Burke
Felice Varini is a 66-year-old graffiti tagger and snake-oil salesman who rolls into beautiful towns to vandalize traditional historic architecture and public spaces. One of his latest tagging trophies targets European history via the medieval French castle of Carcassonne.
The castle is now under government ownership; and, obviously, we would submit under the control of the usual-suspect inverted Luciferian types and pervert justice warriors who permitted this.
Varini did not reveal the cost of the work, which took a month to install, but said most is being covered by France’s national fund for monuments. At the same time that these shit shows are being funded, we also learn that French heritage sites are at risk from a lack of funds. This is malice at work, not stupidity.
The criminal minds behind the scheme no doubt enjoyed a good chuckle at public expense. Here is Varini’s abomination from a distance. The goal is clear: Destroy and piss on European heritage, culture and history. The New Nationalist (TNN) hereby dubs this the Fuck You School of Contemporary Art. Yes, dear readers, it is a great irony that we are the ones labeled and, I submit, tagged as “crazy.”
The scheme was part of the castle’s 20-year anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage site. (UNESCO signed off on this?) The glass-half-full view is that the tagging was done with lightweight aluminum attached to the walls and will be removed in September (a five-month duration shit show) and supposedly will not to cause any damage to the ancient stones. Meanwhile, so long as the travesty endures this summer, a local shopkeeper lamented, “It’s ignoble. And it’s expensive.”
Here are a few more examples of this “artist’s” shit shows. Unfortunately, he is quite prolific. See ’em and weep.
I had ether administered to remove my tonsils when I was 4 years old. The following image looks close to what I recall about the experience.
As we have seen with other cultural vandals and reprobates, there is a whole cottage industry developed around these characters. Puff pieces are written about them and absurd praise lavished (just Google “Felice Varini” for examples). Critics are relegated to the back pages. One can only imagine how many talented artists are being neglected in favor of this postmodernist scam.
|(Natural News) To ensure that you stay healthy, you know you have to rest. Now, a study has revealed WHY we need to get enough sleep at night. According to researchers from the University of Basel, “[cellular] energy metabolism also follows the rhythm of the circadian clock.” The study has explored exactly how this works by explaining…|
By Dr. Mercola
Cyclamen is a vibrant flowering plant that’s particularly popular as a houseplant, in part because it blooms during the winter months of January, February and March. The word cyclamen is Greek and comes from the word “kyklos,” meaning circle, which refers to the round shape of its tuber (a short underground stem) or the twisted, curved shape of its main flower stalk.1
It’s best known for its striking blossoms that come in shades of pink, white, purple and red along with their impressive foliage, which includes heart-shaped or round leaves patterned with shades of green and white.
Originating in the Mediterranean, technically cyclamen refers to a number of plants from the Primulaceae family, many of which can survive outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 7 and above. The most popular variety, however, particularly in the U.S., is Cyclamen persicum. This perennial plant is often found for sale in garden shops during the fall and winter and is most prized as a houseplant.
Cyclamen Has a History of Medicinal Use
Cyclamen has a long history of use as both an ornamental plant and medicinal, but the latter is actually what came first. Cyclamen has been used medicinally for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the 1600s that it started to show up in European gardens.2 Around that time, cyclamen plants would only bloom once every four or five years, but modern cultivation has changed that to yearly blossoms.3 According to Tony Avent, owner of Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina:4
“In the 1800s the Victorians became enamored with the tender Cyclamen persicum and started breeding it into the multitudinous number of florists cyclamen cultivars that we see today. The Victorians prized cyclamen for their winter flowers and used them as a popular Christmas decoration … a practice that has grown into a huge business today.”
The therapeutic properties of cyclamen are thought to be due, in part, to triterpene glycosides known as saponins, found in the roots. With noted anti-inflammatory properties, cyclamen has been used since medieval times in the treatment of arthritic conditions.5 Saponins from cyclamen’s extract may help regulate inflammatory response by influencing the behavior of human macrophages.6
Further, the C. europaeum cyclamen species may also help reduce facial pain and ease mucosal obstruction in patients with mild to severe rhinosinusitis if used as a nasal spray for seven days.7 The extract of Cyclamen coum, an endemic cyclamen plant in Turkey, has even been found to kill cervical cancer and nonsmall cell lung cancer cells in a laboratory study, with researchers suggesting it could prove to be a novel anticancer agent.8
The plant also has a long history of homeopathic use for a variety of ailments, from anemia and bone pain to uterine and menstrual disorders.9 Cyclamen also goes by the names of Persian violet and sowbread, the latter because wild pigs are known to have a fondness for digging up the tubers to eat them.
Choosing the Right Variety of Cyclamen
There are 23 species of cyclamen, and if you plan to grow it outside you’ll need to make sure you’re in the proper hardiness zone and also choose a variety that’s hardy. Cyclamen enjoys hot dry summers (during which it’s typically dormant) and cool winters without frost. If you live in an area with heavy summer rains, the tubers may rot. Choose a protected area, as cyclamen in the wild tends to live among trees, shrubs and rocks. It may need mostly shade or some sun, depending on variety.
If you’re planting a tuber and there are no visible roots, you may be wondering which way is “up.” If you look closely, you’ll notice a growing point on one side, which is what should face upward. If the tuber is shaped like a saucer, the Cyclamen Society notes, “Plant with the convex side downward [and the] concave side upward.”10 As for species, according to Avent:11
“The following list groups the species from easiest to grow in temperate gardens to most difficult, based on their cold hardiness and overall adaptability.
1. Cyclamen hederifolium, cilicium, coum and alpinum
2. Cyclamen purpurascens, pseudibericum, repandum, mirabile, rhodium, intaminatum, graecum, colchicum
3. Cyclamen balearicum, creticum and parviflorum
4. Cyclamen africanum, coum ssp. elegans, rhodium ssp. peloponnesiacum, persicum, rohlfsianum and somalense”
While cyclamen can be finicky in regard to water requirements and placement, they do not tend to struggle from pests and diseases, except for the occasional aphids, weevils or thrips. There’s a good chance, however, that you’ll want to grow your cyclamen indoors as a potted plant. Cyclamen persicum hybrids work well for this purpose and can be found in many different colors and sizes, including miniature, medium, large and giant.
Remember that cyclamen likes cool weather, so keep the plant in a cool location, one that doesn’t go higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit (F), ideally in a window with indirect light.12 Since most people turn on the heat during the winter, you should try to find as cool a place in your house as possible, such as one that stays around 50 to 55 degrees F.
If you plan to grow cyclamen from seed, you can plant multiples in one pot until they develop two to three leaves. At this point, transplant each plant to a 2.5-inch pot. According to Plant Care Today:
“A good soil mixture usually comprises of sandy loam, leaf mold and well-rotted manure. When well established you can shift them to three-inch pots, at which time they should hold six or eight sturdy leaves. Until they become ready to shift into 5- or 6-inch pots, they need no commercial fertilizer.
During winter, give them a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees [F], maximum light, plenty of water and good ventilation. Keeping the young plants growing during the summer makes a challenging stage but when fall comes they start up vigorously … Eighteen months after sowing, it will reach its full bloom.”13
How to Water Cyclamen
How to water a cyclamen plant depends on the season. During the summer, when the plant is dormant, you should stop watering altogether, as excess moisture will cause the tuber to rot. “The idea is to give it a good soaking, let it use up all the water (without the compost getting so dry that either the plant wilts or it is so dry it won’t wet again) and then soak it again. You can expect that by the end of April it will want to go dormant … so you should stop watering then until September,” according to the Cyclamen Society.14
Overwatering is one of the most common problems gardeners experience with cyclamen plants. This may cause the leaves to turn yellow. During the winter, cyclamen should be watered when the compost feels dry, either from the top or bottom, and then allowed to drain thoroughly.
Any water remaining in the saucer should also be cleared away after five minutes. Because cyclamen may rot if you get too much water near the center of the plant, some people prefer watering cyclamen from the bottom (by filling the pot’s saucer with water) or using a self-watering planter.
You can also carefully water the plant around the edges of the pot. If you don’t have a green thumb, you shouldn’t feel intimidated by the cyclamen’s sometimes-demanding nature. “The main things really are keep it cool, out of direct sunlight and don’t over-water,” the Cyclamen Society notes. “Let it dry out, then stand the pot in several inches of water to give it a good soak, then let it drain and leave it until it is fairly dry before repeating the process.”15
Propagating Your Cyclamen Plant
There are a couple of ways to grow new cyclamen plants, one being from seed and the other by division. After the cyclamen goes dormant for the summer, you can cut up the tuber like a potato, making sure that each section has a growing point, or eye, and a root bud on the bottom.
Dust the cut areas with rooting hormone then place them in moist sand covered with a tent of plastic to increase humidity. Once roots form, the tubers can be placed into a small pot of potting soil and kept moist until the winter.16 If you’re growing cyclamen in your garden, you can also collect seeds to grow new plants. Avent explains:17
“Cyclamen are facultative out-crossers so they will set seed best if there are multiple plants growing near each other (that are not clones). Keep an eye on the developing fruits. They will start to soften prior to splitting open. You need to collect the seed after they are mature, but before the fruit opens since insects will likely haul them away before you do.
Ripe seed change color from white to light brown. When they dry out, they turn dark brown. Since the seed have no dormancy requirements, they are best sown fresh and will germinate in 2-4 weeks. They can also be dried and stored for a year or so if needed.”
If you need to repot a cyclamen plant, wait until it goes dormant in the summer to do so. To keep the tuber over the dormant season, store it in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place until early autumn. When the plant starts to sprout new leaves, you’ll know it’s time to start watering it again.
Cyclamen Is Toxic to Pets
One caution to be aware of: Cyclamen is toxic to pets due to the saponins it contains. Any part of the plant can be dangerous, but the tubers or roots are especially toxic. If your dog or cat ingests cyclamen, he may experience drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate and rhythm, seizures and even death. So be sure to keep these plants (and their tubers during the dormant season) away from pets. Cyclamen can also be harmful to people, especially children.
According to the Illinois Poison Center, cyclamen ranks a 2 out of 3 on their plant toxicity rating scale. This means moderate symptoms may occur if the plant is ingested, including hallucination, stomach irritation, diarrhea and related dehydration. As long as it’s kept in a safe place, however, cyclamen is a beautiful plant that can make a stunning addition to your home or garden.
By Dr. Mercola
Avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can eat every day. They’re rich in monounsaturated fat that your body can easily burn for energy, and the fat helps your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods as well. Research1 has shown consuming a whole fresh avocado with either tomato sauce or raw carrots significantly enhanced absorption of the carotenoids and facilitated the conversion of them into an active form of vitamin A.
Another study2 found that adding avocado to salad allowed the volunteers to absorb three to five times more carotenoid antioxidants, which help protect your body against free radical damage. Avocados are sometimes pricy, but you can pick them up when on sale; just make sure they’re hard, and then store them in your refrigerator. They’ll stay fresh for about two to three weeks this way. Placed on the counter, they’ll ripen in a day or two.
An even better way would be to grow your own. Here, you have two options: 1) Purchase a grafted avocado tree from your local nursery, or 2) Grow it from seed.3,4,5 If you start from seed, keep in mind your plant may or may not actually produce fruit. Some may start producing fruit after three to four years.
Others can take up to 15 years, and some never fruit at all. Commercial avocado orchards use grafts, which is the surest way to get fruit. Growing it from seed can be a fun experiment, however, and is a great project for kids. Here’s how.
8-Step Guide to Growing Avocado From Seed
Step 1: Start by removing the pit from a fresh avocado. Be sure not to cut or score the pit during removal. Wash off any remnants of the fruit, but make sure you don’t remove the brown seed cover.
Step 2: Next, determine the top and bottom ends of the seed. More often than not, the seed will be slightly egg-shaped, and the bottom would be the thicker, flatter end. The bottom end is where the roots will form.
Step 3: With the top end up, pierce the seed with four toothpicks, about three-quarters of the way down, angling slightly downward. Place into a glass or small bowl of water, so that the water covers the bottom end of the seed while keeping the top end dry and above water.
Step 4: Place the glass on a windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight. Change the water at least once a week or more to prevent fungal growth.
Step 5: Patiently wait for the seed to sprout, which can take anywhere from two to eight weeks. As the roots begin to sprout, make sure the taproot (the longest of the roots) never dries out. The roots need to remain submerged or the plant will die.
Step 6: Once the stem has formed and grown to a height of about 6 inches, cut it down to about 3 inches to encourage new growth.
Step 7: Once the seedling has reached a height of 6 or 7 inches again, and roots are at least 2 to 3 inches long, transplant the seedling into a pot (6 to 10 inches in diameter) of humus-rich soil, leaving the top half of the seed above the soil line. Keep the pot on a sunny windowsill.
Make sure the soil never dries out completely; the soil needs to be kept moist, but not soggy. Overwatering will result in yellowing leaves. You can tell the plant needs water when the leaves curl slightly upward. Leaves curling downward is an indication of sufficient water.
Step 8: To encourage bushiness, pinch two of the longest sets of tops once the plant is about 1 foot tall. Continue pinching the two youngest sets of branches for every 6 inches of growth.
In the summer, you can place your baby avocado tree outdoors in a sunny spot. The more sun the better; just make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. If temperatures drop below 45 degrees F., you’ll need to bring the plant indoors, so avoid planting it in your garden while it’s still young, unless the temperature never drops below 45 F.
Basic Planting Guidelines
Avocado trees grow well in USDA zones 9b through 11. As noted in the featured video by California Gardening, your best bet, if you want to produce fruit, is to buy a grafted tree. Since avocado trees are shallow rooted, their feeder roots being only about 6 inches below ground, make sure your soil is well aerated. Plant in spring once there’s no longer any risk of frost and the soil has warmed.
Avoid planting your tree near lawn or other plantings that might compete for nitrogen uptake. Ideally, your soil should have a pH of 7 or below. If your soil is more alkaline, amend with organic matter before planting. Sphagnum moss is an ideal amendment. To lower soil pH by 1 unit, add 2.5 pounds of peat moss per square yard of soil.6 Alkaline soils will also need some chelated iron. You can tell your tree is deficient in iron if new leaves have green veins and start to yellow around the edges.
Select a sunny spot, and as with other plantings, dig a hole as deep as the root ball and about 50 percent wider. Fill in with soil and add mulch to lessen water evaporation and weed growth. Using a weed barrier around the base will further minimize weed growth. Keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the trunk of your tree.
Newly planted trees will need about 2 gallons of water at the time of planting. After that, water two to three times a week until established. The tree will flower in March or April, producing tiny fruit buds shortly thereafter. In the first year, apply fertilizer in March, June and September. Compost and fish emulsion are good organic options. You may also add a little zinc once a year.
Throughout the growing season, prune off any dead leaves and remove weeds growing near the trunk. Insecticides are typically not required. Should you notice insects, snails or slugs, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the soil around the tree. It’s a natural repellant against many crawling insects.
Popular Avocado Varieties
When selecting a tree, you have a number of options. Some varieties are more cold-hardy than others, so make sure you select a variety that is suitable for your climate. Popular varieties include:
The featured video focuses on the Gem variety, a dwarf variant of the Gwen that produces large, fleshy fruit with an excellent buttery flavor. The fruit also oxidizes slower than the Hass variety. It’s a heavy producer, making it a good choice for backyard growing, and it produces fruit annually. It grows best in South California and areas with similar climate. The Haas and Reed varieties are “alternate bearing,” meaning they alternate between heavy production one year and low production the next.
How to Harvest and Peel Avocado
Avocados do not ripen on the tree. They will only ripen after they’re picked. Refrigerated, they will ripen very slowly, whereas left on the counter, they’ll ripen and soften in a day or two. In warmer climates, you can leave the fruit on the tree well into December. Simply harvest what you need as you go along, picking the fruit a couple of days before you plan to eat it.
Interestingly, how you de-skin your fruit can have a bearing on the nutrients you get from it. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines7 for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way:
“California-grown avocados contain 11 carotenoids … that may provide numerous health benefits. Carotenoids appear to protect humans against certain cancers, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration. The UCLA research showed that in California avocados, the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids is in the dark green fruit of the avocado closest to the peel.”
To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you want to peel the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:
- First, cut the avocado lengthwise, around the seed
- Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
- Remove the seed
- Cut each half, lengthwise
- Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece
Five Reasons to Eat Avocados
Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code
There are many reasons to eat avocado on a regular basis, and so many ways to eat them. They can be added to salads and smoothies, for example, or used as fat replacement in baked goods and desserts such as chocolate pudding, made with avocado and raw cacao. For a healthy chocolate avocado pudding recipe, see this page. As mentioned above, avocados contain many valuable antioxidants known to have powerful anti-cancer activity. They also contain:
1. Potassium. About 2.5 avocados provide the daily recommended amount of about 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte that conducts electricity in your body that plays an important role in heart function, skeletal health, digestion and muscular function, and is essential for the proper function of all cells, tissues and organs.
Importantly, consuming enough potassium-rich foods helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium. Imbalance in your sodium-potassium ratio not only can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) but may also contribute to heart disease and stroke.
2. Magnesium. An average avocado contains about 40 mg of magnesium, which is about 10 percent of the recommended daily value. Magnesium is a mineral used by every organ in your body, especially your heart, muscles and kidneys. If you suffer from unexplained fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, or even muscle spasms and eye twitches, low levels of magnesium could be to blame.
3. Vitamins C and E. Vitamins C and E are important antioxidants on their own, but put them together, the way they are in avocado, and the real magic happens. As reported in Critical Reviews in Food, Science and Nutrition,8 “Avocados are one of the few foods that contain significant levels of both vitamins C and E.
Vitamin C plays an important role in recycling vitamin E to maintain circulatory antioxidant protection …” Research9 has also shown a combination of vitamin C and E can help slow plaque buildup, which could help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
4. Fiber. Avocados are surprisingly high in fiber, with about 4.6 grams in half an avocado. Fiber plays an important role in your digestive, heart and skin health, and may improve blood sugar control, weight management and more. In fact, their fiber content appears to be one of the reasons why avocados are so good for weight management and blood sugar support.
According to research10 published in Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you’re overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later. Those who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. The study also found that avocados appear helpful for regulating blood sugar levels.
5. Low risk of chemical contamination. Avocados are rated as one of the safest commercial crops in terms of pesticide application, and this is largely because their thick skins protect the inner fruit from pesticides. Hence, there’s no real need to spend extra money on organic avocados.
How to Keep Your Avocado Fresh
The flesh of an avocado turns brown once it’s cut because of an enzyme that oxidizes when exposed to air. There are a number of tricks to keep avocados fresh. Here are a few helpful pointers:
- If you’ll be using only half an avocado at a time, leave the pit in the half of the avocado you’re not planning to use and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- If you’ve scooped the avocado for guacamole, store the pit in the leftovers.
- Prevent oxidation by adding a thin layer of olive oil onto the top of the avocado half using a pastry brush. You can use this trick with guacamole too. It will, however, add an oilier flavor and texture to your dip.
- Lemon juice also inhibits oxidation. Rub some on an avocado half or sprinkle some on top of your guacamole. It will add some lemon flavor to the avocado, which may or may not be desirable depending on your intended use.
- Place a handful of large onion chunks into the bottom of the container and then place the leftover avocado half (face up) on top. Alternatively, sprinkle some cut onion on top of your guacamole, and remove them when it’s time to serve.
Are you concerned about Genetically Modified Foods? Here’s (GMOs Revealed) a great documentary that addresses many of the questions and concerns most people have today.
In March 2014, scientists from Indiana University announced that they had conducted research to examine the operations of the fruit fly genome “in greater detail than ever before possible” and had identified “thousands of new genes, transcripts and proteins.” Their results indicated that the fly’s genome is “far more complex than previously suspected and suggests that the same will be true of the genomes of other higher organisms.” Of the approximately 1,500 new genes that were discovered, 536 of them were found within areas that were previously assumed to be gene-free zones. Furthermore, when the flies were subjected to stresses, small changes in expression level at thousands of genes occurred, and four newly modelled genes were expressed altogether differently.
Why is this important? Because it reveals how little we know about this planet and the organisms dwelling on it, yet also how much we think we know. This kind of hubris is found within all areas of human knowledge, but particularly when it comes to science.
Another great example that I’ve used before is when the populace first realized that the Earth wasn’t flat. Another is a statement made by physicist Lord Kelvin, who stated in 1900 that “there is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” This assertion was shattered only five years later when Einstein published his paper on special relativity.
When it comes to our genes, and the genes of other organisms, we really do know next to nothing. Unfortunately, proponents of the biotech industry (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, etc.) claim otherwise, and have developed multiple, flawed assumptions that undergird agricultural bioengineering.
The information presented in this article comes from a variety of different sources, but my primary sourceis Steven Druker, a public interest attorney and the Executive Director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity. He initiated a lawsuit in 1998 that forced the U.S. Food and Drug (FDA) to release its files on genetically engineered foods, and recently published a book about it, which has received dozens of rave reviews from the world’s most accredited scientists in the field. I draw primarily from his book for this article.
“This incisive and insightful book is truly outstanding. Not only is it well reasoned and scientifically solid, it’s a pleasure to read – and a must-read. Through its masterful marshalling of facts, it dispels the cloud of disinformation that has misled people into believing that GE foods have been adequately tested and don’t entail abnormal risk.”
– David Schubert, PhD, molecular biologist and Head of Cellular Neurobiology, Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Natural Genetic Modification Versus Human Induced Genetic Modification
Biotech proponents have an unshakable faith in their GE crops, and these corporations also hold major sway over mainstream media outlets, and close relationships with government agencies like the FDA. Indeed, several high level industry employees have also held positions at these institutions. One example is the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, Michael Taylor, who is also Monsanto’s former Vice President for Public Policy. While at the FDA, he was instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.
Druker outlines in his book how the commercialization of genetically engineered foods was enabled by the fraudulent behaviour of these government agencies, and how this actually violates explicit mandates for federal food safety law. The evidence shows that the “FDA’s falsehoods have been abundantly supplemented with falsehoods disseminated by eminent scientists and scientific institutions, and the entire GE food venture.”
This is why it’s so amazing to see so many scientists within the field supporting the dissemination of truth, and bringing the falsehoods to light. So if you still think this type of thing is a conspiracy theory, we now have the documents as well as the science, which stands on its own, to show that something is terribly wrong here.
Joseph Cummins, Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus of Genetics at Western University in London, Ontario, believes that Druker’s book is a “landmark” and that “it should be required reading in every university biology course.”
There are several presumptions on which the bioengineering venture was based, and one of them is that natural breeding is more random and unruly than bioengineering. The standard argument holds that genetic modification has been occurring for thousands of years, and what we do now is simply that process sped up and made better.
Key Presumptions on Which the Bioengineering Venture Was Based
Genetic engineering is based on the presumption that the genome is just a linear system, where the action of a single gene will not impact the action of other genes, or disrupt their normal function.
In 2007, the New York Times published an article outlining how “the presumption that genes operate independently has been institutionalized since 1976, when the first biotech company was founded. In fact, it is the economic and regulatory foundation on which the entire biotechnology industry is built.”
Basically, genes are viewed as autonomous, adding to the whole without acting holistically because they don’t express their proteins in a closely coordinated matter. Another assumption used to justify genetic engineering is that genes aren’t organized in a specific way, that the sequence in which they occur is meaningless From this point of view, a gene would function normally if it were relocated to a different chromosome or came from a neighbouring gene. Quite a big assumption, don’t you think? Giorgio Bernardi, a biologist at the University of Rome III who specialized in the study of genome evolution, calls this perspective a “bean-bag view of the genome” because it regards the genes as “randomly distributed.”
Together, these two assumptions supported the belief that a chunk of recombinant DNA could be put into a plan’s genome without inducing disturbance — because if the behavior of the native genes was largely uncoordinated and their arrangement was irrelevant, there would be no important patterns that could be perturbed by such insertions. Accordingly, they engendered confidence in the precision of genetic engineering, because they implied that the outcome of a gene insertion would be exactly what the bioengineers expected.
How could biotech proponents push the idea that the target organism would continue to function just as it had before, and that the change would be limited to the new trait endowed by the inserted gene? How can it simply be assumed that this would not alter any of the organism’s other qualities?
These presumptions still underly genetic engineering today. The example of the fly above serves well here. In the New York Times article cited earlier, the author noted that “genes appear to operate in a complex network,” and states that “evidence of a networked genome shatters the scientific basis for virtually every official risk assessment of today’s commercial biotech products, from genetically engineered crops to pharmaceuticals.”
Molecular geneticist Michael Antoniou, who testified at New Zealand’s Royal Commission in 2001, notes that agricultural bioengineering “was based on the understanding of genetics we had 15 years ago, about genes being isolated little units that work independently of each other.” He also presented evidence showing that genes actually “work as an integrated whole of families.”
Despite the grave possibility that these presumptions are indeed wrong, they still form the backbone of genetic engineering today.
Antoniou himself was even selected to represent multiple nongovernmental organizations to present precaution reasons to the UK’s GM Review Panel, and a plethora of studies that clearly justify it. Despite his presentation, and many others’, the 11 other scientists on the panel, who were biotech proponents, dismissed these studies and continued to argue that it makes absolutely no difference how genes are arranged.
How can a scientist make such a statement?
What do we have as a result? As Druker says:
Such disregard, denial, or avoidance in regard to the evidence was essential for maintaining faith in the venture, because its predictability and safety have always relied on the genome being largely disjointed; and the more the genome instead appears to function as a tightly coordinated system, the more potentially disruptive and unpredictable are the interventions of the bioengineers.
Geneticist, activist, and environmentalist David Suzuki weighed in on this very subject a few years ago in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC):
By slipping it into our food without our knowledge, without any indication that there are genetically modified organisms in our food, we are now unwittingly part of a massive experiment. . . . Essentially, the FDA has said that genetically modified organisms, or food, are basically not much different from regular food, and so they’ll be treated in the same way. The problem is this: Geneticists follow the inheritance of genes, in what we call a vertical fashion . . . [but] what biotechnology allows us to do is to take this organism, and move it, what we call horizontally, into a totally unrelated species. Now, David Suzuki doesn’t normally mate with a carrot plant and exchange genes. What biotechnology allows us to do is to switch genes from one to the other, without regard for the biological constraints. . . . It’s very very bad science. We assume that the principals governing the inheritance of genes vertically applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There’s absolutely no reason to make that conclusion.
This is a common argument made by GE-food proponents, and commonly used whenever an expert brings up a challenge to the technology’s safety. For example, David Schubert, PhD, a molecular biologist and the Head of Cellular Neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, commented in Nature Biotechnology that there was mounting evidence that the insertion of even one gene into a cell’s DNA alters the expression patters of genes throughout the entire cell. He said facts like this one, among many others, “cast doubt on the soundness of agricultural bioengineering — and entail the conclusion that it ‘is not a safe option.’ “
Predictably, when a professor and a laboratory director of one of the world’s most prestigious scientific institutions makes a comment like this, there’s going to be a response. This time it came in the form of a letter, published by 18 biologists at respected universities and institutions, stating that Dr. Schubert failed to properly consider “the genetic realities.” The main reality he allegedly failed to recognize is that the natural method of plant breeding is inherently more random than bioengineering.
A portion of the letter reads as following:
We do not take issue with Schubert’s basic contention that unintended genetic and metabolic events can take place. The reality is that ‘unintentional consequences’ are much more likely to occur in nature than in biotechnology because nature relies on the unintentional consequences of blind random genetic mutation and rearrangement to produce adaptive phenotypic results, whereas GM technology employs precise, specific, and rationally designed genetic modification toward a specific engineering goal.
In his book, Steven Druker offers the following counterargument: “This letter thus reveals how strongly the GE food venture relies on the presumption that the natural process driving biological development are intrinsically more disorderly and risk-bearing than the genetic interventions instigated by the human mind. And it confirms that this belief forms the ideological bedrock on which the venture rests.”
In fact, a report published in 2004 by the National Academy of Sciences couldn’t uphold “even the more modest notion that bioengineering and natural breeding pose the same risks.” The panel that produced the report ranked various modes of plant breeding in terms of their disposition to produce unintended effects. They were forced to acknowledge that bioengineering produces far greater effects than pollen-based sexual reproduction. Despite this fact, they still insisted that this does not mean a difference in risks.
Druker says in response:
Thus, there’s no rational way to reconcile the fact that natural breeding is less disruptive and more predictable than bioengineering with the claim that it poses equal or greater risk, which is why the admission in the 2004 report is a rarity — and why biotech proponents almost always ignore or deny that fact and instead assert that natural breeding is more disorderly and unpredictable.
According to the biotech industry, natural plant breeding could actually result in crops that are dangerous to human consumption, which is why we should be grateful for genetic engineering. For example, in the same NAS report mentioned above, they portrayed what are known as “jumping genes” as more randomly mobile and threatening, but failed to recognize, as Druker points out, that although these entities do not pose risks within natural pollen based breeding, when bioengineering is employed they do because that process alone “tends to stir them up and get them jumping.”
When it comes to sexual reproduction, it’s yet another area where biotech proponents state that it’s a random phenomenon, despite the fact that we now know that it’s not random, and that there are multiple factors that can and do influence the genetics of life. Genetic engineering, be it human induced or naturally occurring, requires a genetic “rearragnement,” a recombination of DNA. The difference between the artificial way and the natural way is that the natural way does not disrupt the entire organism, as was discussed a little earlier in the article and touched upon in the Suzuki quote above.
As Druker explains:
This natural form of recombination occurs during the formation of gametes (the sperm and egg cells). It includes a step called crossover in which two partner chromosomes break at corresponding points and then exchange complementary sections of DNA; and every time a gamete is produced, every set of paired chromosomes engages in it. In this way, all the chromosomes end up with genes from both parents instead of from only one. However, all the genes are preserved, as is the sequences in which they’re positioned. The only changes are in the relationships between aleles. . . . So this natural recombination augments diversity while maintaining stability. And without it, except for the occasional favorable mutation, the composition of chromosomes would stay the same from generation to generation, and genetic diversity would grow at far too sluggish a pace.
He goes on to mention how natural recombination preserves the order of the genes, and is predictable in the way it cuts DNA. The entire process displays a great deal of order.
Despite this fact, scientists who support GE state, as in, for example, the 2004 NAS report, that “genetic engineering methods are considered by some to be more precise than conventional breeding methods because only known and precisely characterized genes are transferred.” They use the idea that the randomness and unpredictability of natural engineering make bioengineering safer.
Yet, as Druker so brilliantly captures:
This misleading tactic fixates on the predictability of the plant’s specific agronomic traits; and it portrays traditional breeding as less predictable than bioengineering because undesired attributes are often transferred along with the one that is desired. However, those who employ this ploy don’t acknowledge that if both parents are safe to eat, the unwanted traits hardly ever pose risk to human health. Rather, they’re undesirable for reasons irrelevant to risk (such as aesthetic appearance or seed size), and breeders must then perform back-crossing to eliminate them while retaining the trait they want. However, although the inclusion of unwanted traits entails more work, it does not increase attendant risks. Therefore, while breeders can’t fully predict what traits will appear, they can confidently predict that the resulting plant will be safe to eat.
This is why the GE stance on natural modification is so flawed and misleading.
Druker goes on:
Although it describes the sexual reproduction of food-yielding plants as a messy and risky affair that involves the transfer of “thousands of unknown genes with unknown function,” we actually know quite a lot about those genes. And what we know is far more important than what we don’t know. We know that they’re all where they’re supposed to be, and that they’re arranged in an orderly fashion. And we know that during the essential process in which some of them are traded between partnered chromosomes in order to promote the diversity that strengthens the species, their orderly arrangement is marvelously maintained. Most important, we know that their functions mesh to form an exquisitely efficient system that generates and sustains a plant that regularly provides us with wholesome food.
This sharply contrasts with genetic engineering.
As you can see, comparing natural modification to biotech modification is not an easy process, and this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Research shows that it’s not natural modification that’s more random and risky, but biotech genetic modification:
The inserted cassettes are haphazardly wedged into the cell’s DNA, they create unpredictable disruptions at the site of insertion, the overall process induces hundreds of mutations throughout the DNA molecule, the activity of the inserted cassettes can create multiple imbalances, and the resultant plant cannot be deemed safe without undergoing a battery of rigorous tests that has yet to be applied to any engineered crop.
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