Here Thar Be Monsters!

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27.2.16

Dots, Defects and Dangers

Today, we're going to do a little theoretical mental exercises.  Don't let that scare you.  I just want to put that up front so that everyone knows this is a mind experiment and not an accusation against several very litigious companies who make money off of trademarking natural processes and suing small farmers.

First, so readily available facts from Google searchers: Brazil is noted to be the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak in April 2015; Brazil is noted to have one of the highest levels of glyphosate use in agriculture and consumption; glyphosate is noted to cause cancer and birth defects; Brazil has released large numbers of GM mosquitoes in the past to combat disease vectors.

To lay this out a bit, a relatively benign tropical virus discovered in Africa (Zika forest monkeys) in the 1950s, suddenly becomes a major health threat centered in Brazil where they have copiously consumed GM plants, animals and used lots and lots of glyphosate (Round-Up), where it suddenly began causing microcephaly (lit. "small head") and other birth defects.

Now, to my admittedly suspicious mind and overactive imagination, these dots link up to suggest one of two things:
1) The Zika virus mutated in contact with GM cells in the guts of manufactured mosquitoes, and may have been aided and abetted by GM foods and/or the use of glyphosate;
2) The birth defects are actually caused by glyphosate and the Zika virus is being used to cover and "explain" the problem, using a natural cause and vector, rather than face decades of lawsuits and the banning of a very lucrative product (see "DDT").

I do not rule out that the virus may be the actual cause of birth defects and other issues, but given that there is almost no literature discussing these problems before April of 2015, I am hard-pressed to believe that the virus was not modified, either by design or contact with GM genes in plants or animals.  In either case, the culpability of certain malevolent corporations is easily demonstrated.

In sequencing the genome of the Zika virus, one would think it easy to look for patented genes, or even serial numbers (a la Blade Runner) on individual cells.

I perfectly willing to accept that this is all circumstantial and that viruses can mutate naturally, even becoming far more dangerous over time.  However, this kind of event clearly shows the dangers involved in tampering with the genomes of living creatures without a lot more knowledge and practice than we currently have.

If one thing can be learned from the history of science, it is that the Law of Unintended Consequences reigns supreme.  When we begin juggling the foundational substances of Life itself, we are staring the "butterfly effect" straight in the face and daring Fate.  There are many examples of massive boulders resting precariously on tiny pebbles, and to remove even the smallest of them many cause the entire mass to avalanche.

It is the ultimate in hubris and stupidity (often synonymous) to think that humans, with a few decades of trial and error under our belts, can release genetically modified organisms into the wild and not have some kind of blow-back from it.  It is a dangerous and extremely risky game we are playing with the mass of Nature resting on such tiny pebbles.

And while this mucking about with DNA is bad enough, to think that a corporation would purposely modify a virus to cover up the poisonous effects of one of its most successful products if even more horrifying, but to take another lesson from history, it is neither unthinkable nor unprecedented.  Perhaps this situation calls for a much closer look at the origins of the problem.