Ruby was a brightly colored lamb with transparent skin. She carried jellyfish DNA and belonged to "Green Sheep," a research project in France studying the effects of implants on humans. She was then maliciously sold to a slaughterhouse along with non-GMO sheep by disgruntled employees of the project. She has since been sold as food to unsuspecting diners.
It was then sold by the slaughterhouse to an unnamed individual in October 2014, though it's not clear how many people may have eaten it. INRA says the genetically modified lamb poses no health risk to humans, though it has asked French prosecutors to investigate the incident, following an internal investigation that it launched in December.
The employees could face one year in prison and a fine of approximately $83,000.
Mike from Mother Jones writes, "Josh Harkinson profiles David Bronner, the 40-year-old, hallucinogen-dropping, Burning Man-attending scion of the Dr. Bronner's soap empire, who channels roughly half of the company's substantial profits into activism, including the Washington State GMO-labeling bill that voters will decide upon tomorrow. Bronner, who favors the labeling of foods with GMO ingredients, has been arrested for planting hemp seeds on the DEA's lawn and for a performance-art protest where he milled hemp seeds in a cage outside the White House. He also sued the DEA (and won), so that his company could legally obtain hemp oil as a soap ingredient. Since David took over, Dr. Bronner's sales have soared. It's on track to bring in $64 million in revenues this year. But in a strike against corporate greed, Bronner has capped the company's top salaries at five times that of the lowest-paid warehouse worker." Read the rest
On TechDirt, Mike Masnick rounds up three thoughtful and thought-provoking statements from musicians about the way that their careers can be helped by piracy, and the how the response to downloading is bad for art and society. I was especially impressed with this op-ed from Doomtree Collective's Dessa, who makes a connection between the music industry's attempt to control music duplication and Monsanto's iron-fisted demand that its seeds be bought anew every season:
Peddling a product that consumers can duplicate for free is a tricky business. With affordable consumer technology, you can now copy a song a hundred times, with no degradation in the sound quality—and most people seem to immediately recognize why that’s gonna make it harder to get paid for songs. But my first experiences with lossless, duplicable technology didn’t have anything to do with my career as a rapper. My first encounter wasn’t with a torrent site. Or a bootlegged disc. It was a tomato.
Seeds, quite obviously, are the mechanism of plant duplication. You drop a sunflower seed in wet dirt and, bang, you get a brand new one. Essentially, you just 'burned’ a sunflower. The seeds of this new plant can then be harvested and planted to create an infinite, almost lossless supply of flowers and seeds.
A study at Nanjing University in China found that ingested "microRNA" (very small pieces of ribonucleic acid, or RNA) from plants were able to survive digestion and influence the function of human cells.
Food columnist Ari Levaux has a piece digging into the implications, in The Atlantic. The basic idea: if this research stands up to the rigors of scientific scrutiny, it could prove that when we eat food, we consume not just fuel and nutrients, but information that changes us on a cellular level, and influences health.
Monsanto's website states, "There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans." This viewpoint, while good for business, is built on an understanding of genetics circa 1950. It follows what's called the "Central Dogma" (PDF) of genetics, which postulates a one-way chain of command between DNA and the cells DNA governs.Read the rest
The Central Dogma resembles the process of ordering a pizza. The DNA knows what kind of pizza it wants, and orders it. The RNA is the order slip, which communicates the specifics of the pizza to the cook. The finished and delivered pizza is analogous to the protein that DNA codes for.
We've known for years that the Central Dogma, though basically correct, is overly simplistic. For example: Pieces of microRNA that don't code for anything, pizza or otherwise, can travel among cells and influence their activities in many other ways. So while the DNA is ordering pizza, it's also bombarding the pizzeria with unrelated RNA messages that can cancel a cheese delivery, pay the dishwasher nine million dollars, or email the secret sauce recipe to WikiLeaks.