In 1989, Cuba conducted over 80% of its trade with Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CEMA, or Comecon), but with the relatively abrupt dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba was suddenly in a very tough economic position. Over the next years, the country focused on three key economies: sugar, tourism and biotechnology (Google books preview). While the first two seem logical enough, the story of biotech in Cuba, especially Havana at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), is getting more attention recently with Cuba's possible therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer. [more inside]
In France, a Mission to Return the Military's Carrier Pigeons to Active Duty — Grounded After Modern Communication Devices Soared, Birds May Offer Low-Tech Solutions; No Round Trips [WSJ]. Let us not forget Le Vaillant, Cher Ami, and the other birds that save lives.
Hacking the President’s DNA. "The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace."
"Nature is not always the best designer, at least when it comes to things that humans must build and maintain. So the newest artificial heart doesn’t imitate the cardiac muscle at all. Instead, it whirs like a little propeller, pushing blood through the body at a steady rate. After 500 million years of evolution accustoming the human body to blood moving through us in spurts, a pulse may not be necessary. That, in any case, is the point of view of the 50-odd calves, and no fewer than three human beings, who have gotten along just fine with their blood coursing through them as evenly as Freon through an air conditioner."
Lockheed Martin Unveils Exoskeleton Technology At the Association of the US Army Winter Symposium last month, Lockheed Martin unveiled the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) [more inside]
H+ Magazine is an online quarterly publication focusing on transhumanism, a product of the futurist movement that supports science and technology to enhance the mental and physical capacities of the human being. Sometimes referred to as posthumanism, Francis Fukuyama calls it one of the world's most dangerous ideas. If you feel like you're lagging behind, George Dvorsky is kind enough to inform us ~>H's of the must-know transhumanist terms for today's intelligentsia. [more inside]
Produced and recorded in the studios of Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia, Deconstructing Dinner has been designed to dispense and discuss current food issues. This weekly radio show hosted by Jon Steinman features a wide range of topics revolving around food security. [more inside]
"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.
BIOS-Biological Innovation for Open Society is an open source biotechnology initiative based in Australia. Along with its parent organization CAMBIA, it aims to foster a "protected commons" for scientific information and technology. Tools and techniques are shared, and can be improved and repackaged, just like in open source software.
Farmer Homer McFarland is being sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Monsanto corporation. His crime? Replanting his crops' own seed, as farmers have done for millennia, which violates the biotech giant's intellectual property rights, the company claims. Quietly, Monsanto's aggressive "seed police" have been suing farmers in 25 states for years, often settling out of court for huge sums, according to the Center for Food Safety's new report, Monsanto vs. US farmers [PDF link]. For more information, also see a new documentary called The Future of Food.
Monster Farming: The Creepy Solution to the Stem Cell Debate. MSN Slate's William Saletan: "The good news is that we may have figured out how to solve the moral problem that's been holding up stem-cell research. The bad news is that the solution will introduce a whole new kind of horror."
Singapore is trying to duplicate its IT success in Biotech (billions of dollars in predictive economics, a masterstroke -- or perhaps a mistake -- for the leaders of the Simcity-run island). Good for the huge numbers of foreigners lured with research money and benefits, but what about their kids?
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.)
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.
Surely Pork and Apple? The leader of a maverick team of biotechnicians has created Pigs with an implant of spinach genes. Lambs are to have mint sauce implant in the near future?
Al Gore, corporate master of the universe? The near-president has taken a job as vice chairman of Metropolitan West Financial, a "diversified financial services firm" in L.A. If, around September 2000, you weren't sure if Gore was serious about his "I'm for the people, not for the powerful" schtick, now you know. No word on compensation, but CNN reports Gore "will focus on developing private equity strategies in the biotechnology and information technology fields." Uh, sure.
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.