How often does a great story dominate the headlines, only to be dropped from the news cycle? How often do journalists tell us of a looming danger or important discovery – only to move quickly to the next new thing? What really happened? How did these events change us? And what are the lingering consequences that may affect our society to this day? These are the questions we are answering at Retro Report, an innovative documentary news organization launched in 2013 as a timely online counterweight to today’s 24/7 news cycle. Combining documentary techniques with shoe-leather reporting, we peel back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media
in ~10 minute segments. [more inside]
Just as Dante found it easier to conjure the pains of Hell than to evoke the joys of Heaven, so too do bioethicists find it easier to concoct the possible perils of a biotech-nanotech-infotech future than to appreciate how enhancements will contribute to flourishing lives. One of the chief goals of this symposium is to think about the indispensable role that virtue plays in human life. The chief motivating concern seems to be the fear that biotechnologies and other human enhancement technologies will somehow undermine human virtue. As we will see, far from undermining virtue, biotech, nanotech, and infotech enhancements will tend to support virtue; that is, they will help enable people to be actually good.
At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.
A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.
- (NYT Link)
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today
that the sale of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa
will be fully deregulated
: USDA factsheet [PDF
]. Advocates of organic agriculture are outraged
, while the biotechnology industry supports the decision
. Monsanto is also pleased
by the USDA's action. [more inside]
Followup to this post:
A US District Court has ruled
that Myriad Genetic's patents on breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which allow them to hold exclusive rights
to a widely used genetic test for inherited breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility, are invalid
. Genomics Law Report analyzes the ruling
in two posts
. The decision is likely to be challenged in a legal appeal — but if upheld, it could have huge implications for the biotechnology industry. [more inside]
uses trained bees to sniff out drugs, explosives, and spoiled food.
The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
has put up a some interesting media
, including a variety of talks from the Singularity Summit 2006
, about the possibilites and progress of technological development. For an overview of the issues Ray Kurzweil
talks about the ideas and promises of the singularity, while Douglas Hofstadter
calls for deeper exploration of the implications and hazards of coming technology.
Stem Cell Treatment in China.
A site showcasing Beike Biotech
, a company that seems to be getting
more attention nowadays, with a very straightforward approach
Meanwhile, some recent hard science
The fight over an experimental cancer therapy gets ugly.
The FDA's decision to delay approval of Provenge, an experimental therapy for advanced prostate cancer, has incensed patients and advocacy groups, who have launched a sophisticated lobbying effort calling for the drug's approval
and questioning the motives of critics. Of course, investors in Dendreon
, the creators of Provenge, have a strong financial interest in seeing Provenge approved.
The New Yorker covers the complicated issues surrounding patient access to experimental therapies in this story
Dr. Craig Venter
, known for his role as a pioneer in the human genome project, has taken a major step towards creating life from scratch: transplanting the entire genome from one bacterium cell to another
. Commence the ethics wars.
"Someone messed it up bad. The world went to pieces. It was dog eat dog and everyone for himself. Along came an unlikely hero. You....The future can be saved. The knowledge is inside the Four Rooms of Kharon." From the info page: "Kharon 4a is an online adventure game dealing with biotech issues. The makers of the game have worked closely with the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board during the creative process - to ensure the scientific validity of the game content. So, having played Kharon 4a, you will be left with not only an interesting and entertaining online experience, but you will also be familiar with the most imporant aspects of bio technology."
They also warn that it's "the hardest Flash game ever made" and that you'll probably give up after five minutes.
In a surprise move, Anheuser-Busch
has gone up against some of the biotech firms that would like to grow genetically-modified (GM) rice containing human DNA
. The biotech firm that grows it says that their rice contains synthetic human genes which the company hopes to harvest and refine for use in medicines to fight diarrhea and dehydration.
Anheuser-Busch's concerns are not with the science of biotech, but rather the risk of crop-contamination, as has happened with farmers not only in the U.S.
, but all over the world
. The USDA has issued rice-tweakers Ventria Bioscience
and 300 other biopharmers permission to plant various augmented plants around the country since 1995, but Anheuser-Busch is the first large corporation to threaten a boycott - unusual, because poultry and beef stock
(PDF) are fed this kind of thing every day
, and have been for the past 20 years
. I guess the Budweiser brewers just don't want to see 'dead people
' in their suds...
On the flip-side of this occurrence, the response of the anti-stem cell activists
has been nothing short of sensory-deprivation. Shouldn't six-packs, cornfields and Porky
be given the same human rights as the unborn?
Also related: Contaminated: The New Science of Food (quicktime movie)
: Now you and your betrothed can exhange ring made of bone. Your own
bone. I, for one, welcome the day when consumer biotech makes our lives.....weirder. (Some pics not safe for the squeamish.)
U.S. Denies Patent for a Too-Human Hybrid
- what happens when your DNA violates a patent? Not sure where to begin on this one.
Viva la Biotech Revolution!
Embargo or no, Castro's socialist paradise has quietly become a pharmaceutical powerhouse.
The failure of biotech.
"In June 1996, the University of California, Davis, began an unprecedented effort to help the West African nation of Mali, using the promising and controversial new tool of agricultural biotechnology... Eight years later, no help whatsoever has arrived... In the hopes that inspired the effort - and the missteps that stifled it - lies a drama larger than the sum of its parts, one that shows both the promise and pitfalls of the largest technological leap in American agriculture since the tractor: biotechnology." The start of a five-part series in the Sacramento Bee
: long, but well worth it. (Via MonkeyFilter
Two of his children dying from a rare genetic disorder, Dad -- with no science background whatever -- starts a biotech company for the sole purpose of developing a drug that will cure them
. Heartrending conflicts ensue. "Many times, I'd be talking aloud about programs and budgets, and at the back of my mind be thinking, 'Oh my God, this is not good for Megan and Patrick.' "
from the President's Council on Bioethics. Each of the readings that follow - which include poetry, short stories and more - is accompanied by a brief introduction and questions about the bioethical implications of the work.
The new booklist includes James Watson, Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Ovid. Via the WSJ.
They're farther along than I thought...
You may have heard about Nexia Biotechnology, who have put spider genes into goats to get milk with spider silk protein in it. I thought it was still in the research phase, but Nexia have apparently gone to market
with the stuff. They've signed agreements with several manufacturers to produce spider silk protein-based products such as lightweight ballistic armor (like Kevlar, only lighter and non-toxic to produce) for the armed forces and super-strong sutures and prosthetic ligaments for medical supply companies.
A major advance in genetically modified foods.
Developed with government funding, and intended eventually to be given away to farmers, there has been a major success in the use of salt water to irrigate crops. They've developed a tomato which grows fine in salt water or on salty soil. Thousands of lives will be saved in parts of the world where fresh water for irrigation is scarce, including up to one third of the arable land in India where salt has been accumulating. Interestingly, these tomatoes are so good at what they do that they remove salt from the soil, improving it. The genetic modification which was done to these tomatoes should be possible with many other crops, including especially rice (on which major effort in Egypt is underway now).
"GMO free" labelling set to become illegal in the US?
"The U.S. regulatory system is a model around the world because it is grounded in science, not superstition or uninformed emotion." So says the president of a biotech lobby group. Ahem.
Concerned About Frankenfood?
Ralph Nader has some ideas.
If computer engineering defined the last half of the twentieth century, then biotech
will surely define the first half of the twenty-first century.
The ethical problems of biotech patents have been noted here before. Now the New Scientist reports that those patent applications are on the brink of crippling the world wide patent system
to the detriment of real inventions and to the disadvantage of poorer countries (and what is the PC term for those now that 'third world' and even 'less developed countries' have fallen out of favor?)
True or not?!
One of the weirdest things I've ever seen on the web. I was sure
this was a hoax and kept digging for confirmation and never found it.