Sunday, April 3, 2011

Musings: Grand Unplanned Experiments

Life seems to have taken an accelerant, speeding by so fast I was struck by the presence of low-priced asparagus in the market, the sight of a kolea looking dapper in full breeding regalia, and thought, can it really be that time already?

It is, and today marks the Aries new moon, an aspect of setting intentions, making fresh new starts, offering us yet another opportunity to change the perilous course that we humans have set for our existence on this planet.

There’s certainly not a moment to waste, what with Japan continuing to struggle — unsuccessfully — to contain the radiation leaking from its failed nuclear reactors, a situation that government and utility officials are now saying is not likely to be resolved for months.

The official word across the globe is “no worries:” it’s all totally safe, the amounts of radiation are minute, well below the level that can make humans ill, no problem at all for the sea and the atmosphere, which serve to dilute it, with supposedly no harm done to either, before it reaches any other shores. As a result, some folks are still embracing nuclear power as a safe, even green, form of energy, because we tend to think only of how humans are affected, or more accurately, only of what humans want.

But there is more to it than just that, as I realized when I read a call for a prayer ceremony issued by Masuro Emoto, the man whose amazing photographs showed that water molecules respond to human thoughts and emotions. The prayer, uttered by untold numbers of persons across the globe last week, was simple, yet profound in offering us a different perspective:

“The water of Fukushima Nuclear Plant, we are sorry to make you suffer. Please forgive us. We thank you, and we love you.”

Is it really so far-fetched, when you consider that our bodies contain 55 to 78 percent water — and we know that everything is connected?

Meanwhile, over in the Chernobyl exclusionary zone, there’s a grand unplanned experiment on the evolutionary effects of radiation going on, with the plants and animals serving as guinea pigs. As reported by Outside magazine, dense forests have sprung up and large mammals have returned in droves in the 25 years since most humans left the area, which is now open for tourism:

They've effectively turned the zone into a giant radiation lab, a place where the animals are mostly undisturbed, living amid a preindustrial number of humans and a postapocalyptic amount of radioactive strontium and cesium. On the outside the fauna seems to be thriving: there have been huge resurgences in the numbers of large mammals, including gray wolves, brown bears, elk, roe deer, and wild boar present in quantities not recorded for more than a century. The question scientists are trying to answer is what's happening on the inside: in their bones, and in their very DNA.

For 17 years, biologist Igor Chizhevsky has been studying how animals metabolize cesium and strontium. On the surface, Igor says, the wildlife seems to be thriving, but under the fur and hide, the DNA of most species has become unstable. They've eaten a lot of food contaminated with cesium and strontium. Even though the animals look fine, there are differences at the chromosomal level in every generation, as yet mostly invisible. But some have started to show: there are bird populations with freakishly high levels of albinism, with 20 percent higher levels of asymmetry in their feathers, and higher cancer rates. There are strains of mice with resistance to radioactivity—meaning they've developed heritable systems to repair damaged cells. Covered in radioactive particles after the disaster, one large pine forest turned from green to red: seedlings from this Red Forest placed in their own plantation have grown up with various genetic abnormalities. They have unusually long needles, and some grow not as trees but as bushes. The same has happened with some birch trees, which have grown in the shape of large, bushy feathers, without a recognizable trunk at all.

"Genomes, er, unpredictable," says Igor. "Genome not exactly same from generation to generation. They change."

This is not good for a species. Genomes are supposed to stay the same. That's what holds a species together. No one knows what these changes could result in.

The area has become a laboratory of microevolution—"very rapid evolution," says Igor—but no one knows what will emerge or when.

It’s not unlike our grand unplanned experiment with genetically modified organisms and their associated high herbicide use, which is now taking an ominous — though certainly not expected by some of us — twist. As the Los Angeles Times reported:

Don M. Huber, an emeritus professor at Purdue University who has done research for Monsanto on chemical herbicides, alleges that he has found a link between genetically modified crops and crop diseases and infertility in livestock: an "unknown organism" he and other researchers claim to have discovered last summer in Midwestern fields like Friedrichsen's.

"This organism appears NEW to science!" Huber wrote in a letter in January to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the matter. He added, "I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high-risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency."

I urge you to read the full text of Huber’s letter, which notes, in part:

Pathogen Location and Concentration
It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease
The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income—sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss’ wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).

I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.

We are not alone in our choices, our actions. Everything we’re doing is affecting everything else on the planet, and as Emoto would note, the elements, too. It's time to start looking at the much bigger picture before we embark on yet another grand, unplanned experiment.


Anonymous said...

contrast that with what Mr Tom Scagnoli, of DowAgroScience says in the article in today's GINEws:

Q: What do you say to those who are anti GMO?

A: We understand and respect everyone’s right to convey their opinions about biotechnology and GMO. We only wish to educate the public and dispel myths, so they understand the full global impact that is possible with this type of production.

The fact is, we are living in a world where 6 billion people need to be fed. Among these, there are many countries, cities and towns where corn production is heavily relied upon, but too difficult to produce.

We are privileged in the United States that food is readily available to our population, in many nations that is not the case. With our products, we can help solve this problem and offer a corn seed that is easy to grow, resistant to insects and other outside stressors and contains a perfectly balanced nutritional value.

We support our local farmers 100 percent and never encourage anyone to do otherwise. We aren’t asking anyone to change what they eat, but rather to understand that not everyone has access to beautiful and fresh produce like we do here, and it needs to come from somewhere. We are able to fulfill that global need that stems hunger and feeds the world.

Anonymous said...

emoto is a charlatan

you do yourself no good when you promote nonsense.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:59 Emoto is not a charlatan, Jesus was not born from a virgin, the universe was not created in six days some 6,000 odd years ago, but you are a ..........

It is disgusting the degree to which we allow ourselves to be herded into little cubicles of ignorance so BP, Walmart, Corporate Religion and a few others can have their way with us............

Well thank God not all of us

Anonymous said...

"...another grand, unplanned experiment."

We are a grand unplanned experiment.

Anonymous said...

If you are just in the "peanut gallery" making comments and throwing them out like dice in a craps game, you are unaware of what is really happening in the plant and animal world.

Under illusion and the smoke and mirrors of the marketing phrase "feeding the world", Big Ag and the chemical companies justify their work in the world of genetic manipulation and the increased use of pesticides and chemicals in farming for future profits and control of the food supply.

This is not a conspiracy, just the bottom line of the corporate world....just good capitalism, but not necessarily good for the environment nor for the organic farmers who are directing their efforts away from chemicals and seeds genetically modified to tolerate chemicals....and definitely not sustainable for the poor farmers in 3rd world countries.

Great article Joan@!

Dr Shibai