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April 27, 2016

The Whole False Notion: “Precision”, Genetic Engineering, and GMOs

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Here’s all anyone needs to know about CRISPR etc., the whole false notion of a “second generation” of GMOs based on “gene editing”, RNA interference, and similar tricks: These are the same failed technology, the same failed GMOs, the same failed mode, the same failed agricultural paradigm based on poison, guaranteed to have the same result as all prior pesticides and GMOs. Pests will quickly overcome it, it will function only on the same ever-accelerating pesticide treadmill which already spins endlessly, it will poison people, animals, and the environment, and it will contaminate non-GM crops and wild plants. It’s not possible to be mistaken about any of this. Indeed, these are proven to be intentional primary effects of every technology deployed as part of poison-based agriculture. As its name says, this is the project of maximizing the production and use of poisons in order to maximize the poisoning of people and the Earth. All of this is being done for its own sake, as well as for the sake of profit and power. All of it is disguised with the lie that any of it has anything to do with producing food.
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By now all we have are conscious, willful liars on the one hand, vast amounts of gratuitous, self-willed ignorance on the other, with a few scattered truth-tellers who recognize the clear facts.
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The health dangers of the “new” GMOs are the same as for the old GMOs. Scrambled genomes, insertional and tissue culture mutations, and the effects of these: A gene producing too much or too little of a protein with toxic or other ill effects, producing the wrong protein with toxic effect, producing a misfolded protein with toxic effect (Mad Cow disease is caused by a misfolded protein), toxically excessive or foreign metabolites, gene or cell damage leading to cancer or any number of other health destructions, “silencing” the genes of humans who come into contact (topical, inhaled, ingested) with the RNAi pesticide, and any number of other predictably unpredictable chaotic effects. The new GMOs are the same as the old GMOs.
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In the same way the health dangers are the same as for any other pesticide. The engineers and propagandists have no more idea how genotoxic, hormone disrupting, neurotoxic, organically toxic, and carcinogenic the RNAi pesticides will be than they originally had for the other classes of pesticides, all of which proved to be lethal to humans in all these ways. To put that another way, they know perfectly well that the RNAi pesticides will almost certainly have the same effects that all other pesticides have. The new pesticides are the same as the old pesticides, and will fail against pests and poison people in the same way the old ones always do.
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It’s not possible to be mistaken about any of this. These are all known facts.
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Of course the “new” GMOs are designed to aggravate the socioeconomic and political evils of corporate agriculture and commodity-based production the same way all previous GMOs were designed. Just like all prior GMOs, the goal of the new GMOs is to starve the world in order to feed a handful of gluttons.
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All the hype surrounding the new GMOs is based on the junk science of genetic determinism, same as for the old GMOs. In both cases the facts are:
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1. On the most basic factual level, the engineers and their supporters know vastly less than they claim to know. Jonathan Latham writes,
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[The industry and media’s] exposition is belied by the evidence. If CRISPR were already precise, accurate and specific there would, for example, be no publications in prominent scientific journals titled “Improving CRISPR-Cas nuclease specificity using truncated guide RNAs“. And these would not begin by describing how ordinary CRISPR “can induce mutations at sites that differ by as many as five nucleotides from the intended target”, i.e. CRISPR may act at unknown sites in the genome where it is not wanted (Fu et al., 2014).

Thus CRISPR itself will need tweaking before it can be useful for safe commercial products, and that is the first error of the tweaking argument. So far, it is technically not possible to make a single (and only a single) genetic change to a genome using CRISPR and be sure one has done so (Fichtner et al., 2014). As Fichtner noted “in mammalian systems Cas9 causes a high degree of off-target effects”. And at least until modified versions come into use, this will limit the safety, and hopefully limit the application, of CRISPR and related biotechnologies. There is, furthermore, no guarantee that more precise versions of CRISPR are even biologically possible. Technically therefore, precision is a myth: no form of genome editing can do what is currently being claimed.

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2. They know nothing about the science of genetics or biology. (Not to mention ecology and agronomy.) To believe in genetic determinism requires ignorance of even the most basic elements of the state of the science. Here’s Latham again.
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[A] defined, discrete or simple pathway from gene to trait probably never exists. Most gene function is mediated murkily through highly complex biochemical and other networks that depend on many conditional factors, such as the presence of other genes and their variants, on the environment, on the age of the organism, on chance, and so forth. Geneticists and molecular biologists, however, since the time of Gregor Mendel, have striven to find or create artificial experimental systems in which environmental or any other sources of variation are minimised so as not to distract from the more “important” business of genetic discovery.

But by discarding organisms or traits that do not follow their expectations, geneticists and molecular biologists have built themselves a circular argument in favour of a naive deterministic account of gene function. Their paradigm habitually downplays the enormous complexities by which information passes (in both directions) between organisms and their genomes. It has created an immense and mostly unexamined bias in the default public understanding of genes and DNA.

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Where this isn’t willful lying, it’s the common mode of being seduced by a crackpot version of “scientific method”. They reify these ivory tower experimental conditions of limited usefulness into real conditions which give real knowledge.
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The primary lie making up the marketing campaign for the “new” GMOs is that they’ve been made with extra-special “precision”. The propaganda theme that the new GMOs have been engineered with precision is the exact same lie as the theme that the old GMOs were the result of precision engineering. In reality all genetic engineering is an extremely sloppy, wasteful, scattershot empirical process relying on brute force and massive reiteration to produce an adequate result once in awhile. Genetic engineering and its results is best represented by the proverbial stopped clock which is correct twice a day. So it’s been for all GMOs to date, and so it is for the “new” GMOs.
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In itself, precision is only as intelligent or moronic as allowed by the extent of one’s knowledge. Latham gives a good analogy: “Suppose, as a non-Chinese speaker, I were to precisely remove from a Chinese text one character, one line, or one page. I would have one hundred percent precision, but zero control over the change in meaning. Precision, therefore, is only as useful as the understanding that underlies it.” In reality, even legitimate science knows little about the details of genomes and next to nothing about the chaotic genome effects of genetic engineering. When we add to this ignorance of the details and repercussions the engineers’ junk science of biological determinism and their complete ignorance of the state of genetic and biological science, we see how even if they did have a precision technique they’d still have absolutely no idea what they were doing. They’d be firing with good marksmanship into a soundless, pitch black void. But to say again, they have no precision technique either. They’re really hurling handfuls of gravel into that void.
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The “precision” lie is a core article of the religious faith of scientism, going back centuries to the de jure Christian roots of the engineering ideology. Although engineers and scientists have never had such precision control of anything, they’ve always prayed to themselves and lied to the world that they did possess such precision knowledge and control. Here again, the hype about CRISPR is just the latest incarnation of the most hackneyed lies. Here too it’s not possible to be mistaken. Anyone familiar with the history of science and engineering, especially the history of pesticides and GMOs, knows the lie by heart.
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Technologies based on the reductive, poisonist junk science like genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, synthetic “life”, robotics, nanotech, geoengineering and others share the fantasy of the engineer exercising total control through the precision use of control technologies and engineering techniques. Science has seldom been more than a servant of this cult religion of control. More often than not the process by which these technologies are developed has little to no “precision” involved, but is a very messy process based on profligate, wasteful deployment of brute force empiricism toward whatever approximate result is “close enough” in practice as long as it can be transformed through the fantasy into an idea of precision. In the same way, as a rule these technologies don’t work in the real world. The real world performance of GMOs ranges from temporarily adequate as long as supported by the most lavish, expensive panoply of inputs – bank credit, machinery, fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides – to a complete disaster from the start. Nowhere on Earth have GMOs ever consistently performed as well as the much healthier, much less expensive true crops. But as long as cheap oil, industrial inputs, and corporate welfare can provide enough brute force to keep GMOs in the field at all, this is enough for the scientism cultists and their fanboys to fetishize GMOs into a transcendent religious ideal.
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When we consider the origin and circumstances of the STEM cadre this cultism isn’t surprising. STEM disciplines attract the most hierarchically-oriented, authoritarian, reductive, order-obsessed types who are also the most alienated from physical (ecological) reality and at the same time possessed of the most intense religiosity. In the modern era scientism and “Progress” have presented themselves as secular civil religions, but this pseudo-secularity is just a temporary variation on the Christian millennarian roots of technology worship and science ideology. For over 900 years inventors and practitioners of engineering and science explicitly saw themselves as imitating Adam in the Garden of Eden, creating in the image of the Creator, becoming co-Creators with God, and as preparing the human condition for the Second Coming. To this day these apocalyptic religious themes remain explicit and normative among aerospace and weapons engineers. It’s also standard rhetoric among AI cultists and “transhumanists”.
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The explicit Christian rhetoric is also common among genetic engineers and GMO cultists, and the transcendent tone, evangelical attitude, and warnings/hopes of the imminent apocalypse are exactly the same. It’s the same millennarian Christian religiosity, even where temporarily submerged by civil religious ideology.
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Given this extremist interior, the fact that the engineers usually must function as lower-level cogs in the corporate machine, obeying the dictates of executives and marketers, the whole endeavor just a subdivision of the much more comprehensive Mammon religion, must bother them. To give just one example, Lords of the Harvest describes the initial cultural conflict at Monsanto between the high-flown fantasies and pretensions of the genetic engineering division and the agrochemical division, which the genetic engineers at first disdained as a gang of backward luddites. It was only after the GE division put up a perfect record of failure over years of very expensive confusion that they finally lowered their sights and began working on poison plants. (They failed at this too; one day soon I’ll write a piece documenting Monsanto’s near-perfect record of failure and theft.)
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When we put all this together, it’s no wonder the techno-cultists exalt the fantasy of precision and control and keep telling themselves and the world lies about it. And although they continue to tell these lies about the GMOs which have been deployed so far, at the same time they implicitly admit they were always lying about these when they hype the alleged “new” kinds of GMOs, even going so far as to deny these GMOs are GMOs, which also disparages the existing types. They’re trying first to convince themselves that this time the “precision” really is precise, the “control” real control.
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Most profoundly, we see in these phenomena some of the sources of the indelible culture of the lie among technocrats and scientism cultists. Humanity should have demanded of the very first scientist, “What is Truth?” The idealization of some notion of Truth, which is touted as the ultimate justification of science, originated in Christian theology and to this day remains a religious justification. Scientific “Truth” is therefore Truth as revealed by religious transcendence. As the engineers and scientists constantly say, with their technology they seek to transcend reality – the environment, biology, mortality, the irrationality and emotionality of human beings, the physical Earth. Their will to truth means the will to another world, an otherworld, an afterworld. Their will to truth must go hand in hand with the cult of technology. This means their “Truth” has always been purely instrumental. So from both directions – Truth as a theological article, and Truth as whatever idea of control technology is able to effect, right down to boosting profit margins – the culture of the lie is inherent in the technological version of Truth. As with all fundamentalist cults, the scientism cult recognizes only its transcendent ideal and its day to day empirical work, but displays absolute faithlessness toward any and all day to day measures of fact or truth. As for science itself, for the STEM cult this is nothing but an appendage of instrumental engineering. At best it can sometimes serve as a methodological guide, but is most commonly a propaganda facade. Just as the pseudo-democratic, pseudo-political ideology which has supplanted classical liberalism is called “neoliberalism”, so bona fide science has become a fraudulent “neoscience” completely engulfed within the corporate science paradigm of today’s STEM establishment. Between this mercenary hijacking and the religious basis of science as such, there’s little left of the exalted, alleged rationalistic Enlightenment mythology. It’s the practicing engineers and scientists themselves who present the most extreme manifestation of human irrationalism and human emotionalism, as well as malignity, faithlessness, and absolute practical nihilism. But in their minds they dwell in a cloud city presided over by their own god. They see their task as to wipe out the ecological reality of the real Earth and humanity and replace it with a technology-dominated co-Creation between themselves and this god. If humanity is to survive, we must put a stop to them.
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1 Comment

  1. […] and cause birth defects, neurodisease, and cancer . These “second generation” GMOs (exactly the same in every way as the old GMOs) are destined primarily for European CAFOs. Much of what drives the pesticide and GMO machine, in […]

    Pingback by GMO/Poisoner News Summary April 29th, 2016 | Volatility — April 29, 2016 @ 6:04 am


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