Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This Is Going to Drive Anti-GMOers Crazy

From WSJ:

After his parents go to bed, Sebastian Cocioba usually retires to the third bedroom of the family apartment, where he has built a laboratory.

There, amid the whir of climate-controlling fans and equipment harvested from eBay, he is working on what he hopes will one day become a lucrative career. Mr. Cocioba, 25 years old, is a plant hacker.

“I want to make flowers no one has ever seen,” he says, wearing shorts and a T-shirt on a recent day at his home in Queens, N.Y. “What would happen if you combined features of a pine tree with an eggplant?” He also wants to turn a rose blue.

Born into an earlier generation, Mr. Cocioba might have spent hours writing computer programs. Instead he is at the vanguard of a millennial niche: do-it-yourself bioengineering. In place of a keyboard, he has a homemade “gene gun” that fires genetic material into plants on a blast of tiny tungsten particles.

A growing coterie of plant hackers and synthetic biology startups have their sights set on creating some bizarre and wondrous creations: glowing plants, fragrant moss and flowers that change colors when you pour beer into the soil.

Such plants have long been possible, but the research and experimentation was time-consuming and expensive. The first glowing plants were invented by scientists trying to better understand genetics.

Antony Evans, 35, chief executive of Taxa, a Silicon Valley company launched last year as a platform for would-be plant designers, says such creations are part of a broader movement.

“I can see a future where genetic engineering becomes acceptable and commonplace, where some teenagers have ideas for plants and make them the same way kids make mobile apps today,” he said....

By day, Mr. Cocioba is a scientific consultant in the lab. In between student sessions, he has been experimenting with turning tobacco plants blue, using the DNA from a type of blue coral.

He is almost entirely self-taught. He studied biology at Stony Brook University, but dropped out. For several years, he cloned orchids—a process of growing new plants from pieces of other plants—to sell to local florists. Slowly he built up his lab and began to better understand the delicate process of altering plant DNA, mostly through reading online and discussing projects with other would-be plant hackers...

Next in production is a new kind of moss that smells like patchouli that could be a replacement for air fresheners one day.


  1. Brilliantly authoritarian comment from WSJ article:

    "How about a coca plant that has its DNA for cocaine molecules removed but is highly weedy? Blast the seeds over heavy cocaine growing areas and supplant the cocaine coca."

    1. Another commenter wanted to breed an "attack plant" for home security. Better violence and authoritarianism through science! BTW, if the guy in the article has a "homemade gene splicing gun" made from "parts sourced on eBAY" it really makes me wonder what the real gangstas oublic and private have got in their arsenals. Bet ya they're not for making pretty plants. Ever heard of Morgellon's disease...?

  2. Are his plants being sprayed with heavy doses of round up and have round up in their genetic make-up which we are then forced to eat without knowing? (Yes forced, not all of us live in a big city with access to 100% organic)

    The only "crazy" is the pro-GMOers who want to force feed this stuff to people who don't want to eat poison laced food. Normal, well adjusted people simply want a clear distinction between what has heavy doses of poison and what does not for our dinner table.

    Which, in a free society would be clearly labeled as millions of consumers demand. Even if half a million people demanded in a free society the trend would spread to attract business. No one is going to shun a product because it has a clear label of what it is!

  3. Science is great.

    No down side.

    Let her rip

  4. You’re going to be hearing a lot more about this “solution” to disease-carrying mosquitoes in Florida, Brazil, and other places. For now, I want to cover a few basics.
    A town in Brazil is already reporting elevated levels of human disease since the GE (genetically engineered) mosquitoes have been introduced.
    The scientific hypothesis is: the GE bugs (males) will impregnate natural females…but no actual next generation occurs. However, this plummeting birth rate in mosquitoes is the only “proof” that the grand experiment is safe. No long-term health studies have been done—this is a mirror of what happened when GMO crops were introduced: no science, just bland assurances.
    In Brazil, a major target for the experiment, the rational is: dengue fever (carried by mosquitoes) is the target; wiping it out is the goal. But the original ID of the dengue fever virus in a human was accomplished by what’s called the PCR test. There are several serious problems with this test. One is: there is no reliable way to calculate how much virus is in a human patient. In order to claim a virus is complicit in disease, there must be an ID that shows a huge amount of virus—otherwise, there would be no danger. So the entire basis (dengue fever) for the GE mosquito campaign is based on faulty diagnosis and faulty science.
    Needless to say, without extensive lab testing, there is no way to tell what these GE mosquitoes are actually harboring, in addition to what researchers claim. That’s a major red flag.
    And finally, wherever these GE mosquitoes have been introduced, or are about to be introduced, the human populations have not been consulted for their permission. It’s all being done by government and corporate edict. It’s human experimentation on a grand scale.