have perhaps spent too much time discussing the dangers of biotechnology.
may now wonder if it is worth the risk. First of all, for reasons provided elsewhere in NewRuskinCollege, there is no alternative.The
technology is unavoidable.
the period of terror risk is greatest now and will decline as our knowledge increases, and that knowledge will allow us to
increase our defenses against bio attacks.(Of course the technology will transform
human kind and the world but unlike many commentators we here at NewRuskinCollege welcome everyone of these changes, we hold no sentimental attachment for
the human race as we have known it.As for Mother Earth, we look forward to improving
an example of what can be done with this new technology consider desert reclamation.For all of our existence we have had to fight for our survival.The universe
was not engineered for our benefit.We are about to change this.Mother Nature proceeds by an entirely different route from our own engineering.For one thing, Mother Nature, is satisfied, is delighted, by whatever she produces.We on the other hand have certain standards that our creations must meet.They must be beneficial for us.Therefore our creative process is more
constrained than is Mother Nature’s.
we do not have to try a billion different combinations in order to find the desired outcome.Mother Nature from our perspective is wasteful, where as we can go from step to step just covering what is required
to achieve our desired results.We are more efficient.
are an example of waste.Mother Nature does not so regard them but we do.Deserts are just one example of waste in the natural order.What is the carrying capacity of the planet Earth?All of
our estimates, all of our thinking, is based on our history, our experience.But
this is just the point.We do not have experience with bio technology.What we regard as the natural limits are about to be blown away.
has prepared us for the bounty we are about to experience.What is the carrying
capacity of a square mile of South Pacific Ocean?How
much plankton can it contain.How many fish?We have no idea.The Southern Oceans are a kind of desert.We will very soon be able to engineer the entire biosphere, algae to whales.There are no limits.
Mother Nature we can skip all the intermediate unwanted states and move directly to the optimal.For example, recently a Salmon has been designed with a gene that allows it to produce a protein that can
be metabolized more efficiently.The Salmon grows faster.Same fish, same ocean, same amount of sun light, same inputs (as the engineers say), but a higher output.We have a word for this:ef-fi-cien-cy.
think, not just one gene in one fish. How much life can a square mile of ocean hold?There are no limits.
the SaharaDesert.First we design a grass that devotes most of its energy to developing roots. Spread it during the rainy
season.Seed the clouds with it.We
thus develop a matrix of roots.The seeds go dormant in the summer and start
again with the next rain.A layer of bio material develops, grows on its own,
all across the Sahara.Each season a newly engineered seed.For example, tubers that devote their
energy to absorbing water and holding it inside far months into the summer.Other
grasses develop stalks and die off in the summer only to regrow from those stalks in the next rains. Like tree trunks the stalks grow a new ring each rainy season.All
the plants are engineered to live with little or no water for most of the year.
time, the sand storms subside under this growing blanket of biomass.Walk on
the desert now and it crunches under your feet. Tubers burst with fresh mushy water.More seasons pass, more grasses are developed, engineered, and behold: savannah.
the Sahara under a bank of North South oriented artificial clouds, high up in orbit above the atmosphere,
and the heat moderates, the rains come sooner and stay longer.The artificial
clouds are a mile wide and 1,000 miles long, each separated from the other by5
miles, stretching out across the continent of Africa from the Nile to the Atlantic.They cast shadows down on the desert like a giant venetian blind, alternating sun
and shadow, moderating the environment.Now after 10 years the Sahara
has a top soil base of one to eight feet thick.
tell me what is the carrying capacity of the SaharaDesert?The planet Earth?
have no idea.We have no way of judging this.We have not inhabited such a world since the Garden of Eden.
On the site of a former hat factory in Danbury, Conn., a stand
of genetically altered cottonwood trees sucks mercury from the contaminated soil.
Across the continent in California,
researchers use transgenic Indian mustard plants to soak up dangerously high selenium deposits caused by irrigation of the
nation's bread basket.
Still others are engineering trees to retain more carbon
and thus combat global warming.
The gene jockeys conducting these exotic experiments envision a future in which plants
can be used as an inexpensive, safer and more effective way of disposing of pollution.
"Trees are really made for this
... we just have to trick them to do what we want them to do," said Richard Meagher, whose University of Georgia students
went to Danbury in 2003 as part of the most advanced, open-air experiment in the United States involving trees genetically
engineered to eat pollution.
Biologists for decades have been trying to exploit the genetic mechanisms that let microscopic
bugs survive in polluted places where most living things die.
Indeed, the 1980 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that
allowed the so-called "patenting of life" that launched the biotechnology industry centered on bacteria genetically engineered
to clean oil spills.
But simply dumping engineered bugs on polluted sites has its dangers and drawbacks. Elements like
mercury can't be broken down into harmless bits like oil, so researchers have turned to engineering plants to draw pollutants
out of the ground.
Meagher uses genes from E. coli that enable the common bacterium to live amid mercury. He's spliced
them into a variety of plants in the laboratory, where he says his results are dramatically positive.
But proving genetic
engineered plants work outside the lab is the real challenge -- and Danbury, which at the turn of the last century reigned
as the hat-making capital of the world, was a natural destination for his team.
Animal pelts in the town's many factories
were softened in mercury baths, and the resulting waste was dumped outside. Only later did residents understand how mercury
attacks the central nervous system. By then, many longtime factory workers had suffered from the "Danbury shakes."
team planted about 45 engineered cottonwood trees in a polluted lot. The trees are expected to treat the mercury as a nutrient
and draw the toxic element for the soil with their roots.
Some of the mercury is expected to vaporize into the air
while most is stored in the tree. After several years of growth, the trees will be cut down and incinerated.
expects to see results from the Danbury experiment later this year. He figures hundreds of trees per acre would need to be
planted to be effective. But if his removal method works, the cost of cleaning an acre of mercury-laced soil will plummet
from about $2 million to $200,000, Meagher estimates.
Meagher agrees with critics who argue that his solution isn't
ideal -- but he says the trees beat the current clean-up method of digging out contaminated sites and dumping the tainted
soil in toxic dumps.
Meagher said he's also hoping to someday deploy genetic engineered trees in northern India and
Bangladesh where arsenic poisoning is rampant. Drinking water throughout the region has been contaminated by soils polluted
naturally and by spills and drainage from factories.
Still, some potential allies are wary.
The Sierra Club
and others fret that grime-busting plants and their unnatural, industrial-strength cleaning genes will contaminate naturally
growing relatives. Promises that researchers are engineering sterility into trees don't calm their concerns.
pediatrician and I can tell you birth control doesn't work 100 percent of the time," said Dr. Jim Diamond, the Sierra Club's
biotechnology expert. "I don't see it working in trees either."
The criticism sows seeds of public uncertainty and
makes it difficult for researchers to fund and apply their work. Meagher is operating on about $1 million in grants, mostly
from the Department of Energy, which is saddled with polluted weapons sites.
Meagher also says he's hindered by political apathy and commercial disinterest.
A company he helped launched to bring his technology to market is struggling for financing.
"It's not as sexy as trying
to cure cancer or give you an erection," Meagher said.
Nonetheless, scientists are increasingly
joining this once obscure branch of biotechnology.
Researchers at Purdue University are engineering trees to retain
more carbon in an effort to combat global warming. Applied PhytoGenetics Inc., the biotech company Meagher helped launch,
also has planted its modified trees at a polluted site in Alabama.
Another example is the work of University of California-Berkeley
researchers who are tweaking the genes of the Indian mustard plant to clean up selenium deposits in the California's Central
Valley. They've planted small plots of their creations near Fresno last year, and say the results are promising.
is naturally occurring but becomes toxic when high-density pockets form because of water flow. Selenium poisoning can stunt
growth and cause brain disorders, among other health risks.
"This is a really good way to bring new resources to solve
environmental problems," said Berkeley scientist Danika LeDuc. "But first, we do have to increase public confidence in the
Bizily, S., Kim, T., Kandasamy, M. K., and Meagher, R. B. (2003). Subcellular targeting of methylmercury lyase enhances its
specific activity for organic mercury detoxification in plants. Plant Physiol 131, 463-471.
Heaton, A., Rugh, C., Kim, R., Wang, J., and Meagher, R. (2003). Toward detoxifying mercury-polluted aquatic sediments using
rice genetically-engineered for mercury resistance. Env Tox & Chem In press.
Dhankher, O. P., Li, Y., Rosen, B. P., Shi, J., Salt, D., Senecoff, J. F., Sashti, N. A., and Meagher, R. B. (2002). Engineering
tolerance and hyperaccumulation of arsenic in plants by combining arsenate reductase and gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase
expression. Nat Biotechnol 20, 1140-1145.
Gilliland, L. U., Pawloski, L., Kandasamy, M. K., and Meagher, R. B. (2002a). The Arabidopsis actin isovariant, ACT7, plays
a vital role in germintion and root growth. Plant J, In press.
S. P., Rugh, C. L., and Meagher, R. B. (2000b). Phytodetoxification of hazardous organomercurials by genetically engineered
plants. Nat Biotechnol 18, 213-217.
Meagher, R. B. (2000). Phytoremediation of toxic elemental and organic pollutants. Curr Opin Plant Biol 3, 153-162.
C. L., Bizily, S. P., and Meagher, R. B. (2000). Phytoremediation of environmental mercury pollution. In Phytoremediation
of toxic metals: Using plants to clean-up the environment, B. Ensley, and I. Raskin, eds. (New York, Wiley and Sons), pp. 151-169.
91. Bizily, S., Rugh, C. L., Summers, A. O., and Meagher, R. B. (1999).
Phytoremediation of methylmercury pollution: merB expression in Arabidopsis thaliana confers resistance to organomercurials.
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96, 6808-6813.
How Bacteria Appear To Affect Arsenic Concentrations In Groundwater
Arsenic is a toxic, naturally occurring element that is sometimes
found at high concentrations in well water. High arsenic concentrations can occur even in areas without a pollution source
when the bedrock or soil that is in contact with the ground water releases arsenic as the water flows over the surfaces.
To see if bacteria affect arsenic concentration, groundwater samples were
taken from two high-arsenic areas in Maine, and water chemistry and two bacterial populations were measured. Wells with high
total arsenic concentrations had a higher proportion of iron-reducing bacteria than wells with lower arsenic.
Iron reducing bacteria, such as members of the genus Geobacter, grow in
the absence of oxygen and can transform solid phase iron (Fe(III)) into Fe(II), which is soluble in water. Solid phase Fe(III)
can bind to arsenic, immobilizing it on the surface of the solid. When bedrock or soil Fe(III) is transformed into Fe(II),
any bound arsenic would also be released into the groundwater. Arsenic (As) also has two commonly occurring forms in groundwater:
As(III) and As(V).
The prevalence of NP4, a microbe from the genus Sulfurospirillum that can
transform As(V) to As(III), which is the more toxic form of As, was also measured. NP4 was more abundant in water samples
with higher As(III) concentrations. Thus it appears that iron reducing bacteria affect the overall arsenic concentration,
and that arsenic reducing bacteria (NP4) control its form, and thus toxicity, in these regions of Maine.
This work was completed at the University of Maine by Ph.D. candidate Jennifer
Weldon under the supervision of Dr. Jean MacRae. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Career program
(Bioengineering and Environmental Systems), is being presented at the General Meeting of the American Society of Microbiology
(ASM), June 8th 2005 in Atlanta, GA.
The 15 groundwater samples used in the study were examined using fluorescence
in-situ hybridization (FISH). This technique allowed the target populations, Geobacter and NP4, to be distinguished from other
bacteria. The number of each type of microorganism was compared to the total number of microorganisms in the sample. Geobacter
ranged from 1-35% and NP4 from 0-17% of the total suspended bacterial population. Metals were measured by inductively coupled
plasma atomic emission absorption (ICP-AES), and arsenic speciation was obtained by passing a sample through an ion exchange
resin in the field to obtain As(III). Total arsenic concentrations ranged from less than 2 parts per billion (ppb) to 2000
ppb, which is 200 times higher than the EPA's water quality limit of 10 ppb. As(III) ranged from <2 ppb to 1100 ppb. We
hope that by learning more about the arsenic release mechanisms, we will be able to target high-risk areas for testing and
develop management options to minimize arsenic concentrations.
Editor's Note: The original news release can be found here.
This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American
Society For Microbiology.
The past decade or so witnessed the big slump in the Philippine mining industry. It used to
be one of the more lucrative dollar-earning business sector prior to the dawning of environmental awareness among the people
With the expected resurgence of large-scale mining activity in the country, various concerned
groups have started to identify measures so that any disastrous effect of mining activities on the environment can be avoided
in the future.
One technology that gives promise to the mining industry is bioremediation. It is a process
using biological organisms to solve an environmental problem such as contaminated soil or groundwater.
In a non-polluted environment, bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms are constantly working
to break down organic matter. In an environment where organic pollutant such as oil is present, some of the microorganisms
die. Other microorganisms that are capable of eating the organic pollution would survive.
Bioremediation works by providing these pollution-eating organisms with fertilizer, oxygen,
and other conditions that encourage their rapid growth. These organisms would then be able to break down the organic pollutant
at a correspondingly faster rate. In fact, bioremediation is often used to help clean up oil spills. A good example was the
fuel contamination in Hanahan, South Carolina in 1985. By the end of 1993 contamination in the area was reduced by 75%.
Bioremediation of a contaminated site typically works in one of two ways.
In cases where there are pollution-eating microbes already living at the contaminated site,
ways are adopted to enhance the growth of these microbes. In less common cases, specialized microbes are added to degrade
Depending on the site and its contaminants, bioremediation may be safer and less expensive than
alternative solutions such as incineration or landfilling of the contaminated materials. It also has the advantage of treating
the contamination in place so that large quantities of soil, sediment or water do not have to be dug up or pumped out of the
ground for treatment.
The country’s sad experiences in different polluted sites like the Boac River in Marinduque
and Mts. Diwata and Diwalwal in Compostela Valley have continued to send signals about the dangers posed by mining activities.
This also includes the former US Base in Clark, although not a result of mining but of dumping.
Studies conducted by various groups have also established the seriousness of the problems posed
by toxic and hazardous wastes not only to the people in affected areas but also to the economy and the environment.
To address the issues surrounding mining, a roundtable discussion (RTD) on bioremediation of
mining wastes was held last April 7 where the country’s top scientists and other experts faced big companies from the
Philippine mining industry. The RTD was an offshoot of the Seminar-Workshop on Toxic and Hazardous Wastes conducted in March
Issues addressed during the RTD included the need to identify and distinguish responsible mining
companies from irresponsible ones.
Mining industry pointed out that some of the issues were often overblown, and that most mining
companies have adequate, modern waste treatment systems which do not pollute the environment. Past mining disasters, according
to the Chamber of Mines, were considered isolated incidents.
As a result, the mining companies pledged to cooperate and would partner with the Bioremediation
Task Force in developing technologies that would benefit even the small miners.
DOST Secretary Estrella F. Alabastro said that they would accept proposals for research projects
and would consider funding appropriate projects.
Marinduque Rep. Edmundo Reyes proposed possible legislation and solutions.
The proactive stance of the Bioremediation Task Force, headed by Asuncion K. Raymundo, director
of the Institute of Biological Sciences-University of the Philippines Los Baños, helped set the direction of the Task Force.
It was created by the National Academy of Science and Technology, the country’s premier advisory body on science and
Representatives from the mining industry, government policy makers, scientists and other stakeholders
discussed bioremediation techniques of mining wastes. The gathering focused on possible developments in mining operations,
minimizing pollution and other problems that would allow profitable use of mining by-products. It also explored areas on how
to maximize the benefits from the industry to society and the economy while minimizing any environmental problem.
According to the group, the rationale for conducting the RTD was the urgency to address some
of the concerns of the mining industry that also affect other sectors. The Task Force said, "while the interest shown in the
mining industry is encouraging, there is a need to consider a number of factors. These include the availability of funding
agencies, as well as the participation of concerned government agencies like the DENR and the Bureau of Mines. There is a
need to get together to incorporate inputs from all the stakeholders and experts in order to come up with plausible strategies
which are safe, workable, cost-effective, scientifically sound, environment-friendly, and acceptable to all parties concerned."
The Task Force on Bioremediation has become so actively involved in finding various ways and means to address
the problems on both toxic and hazardous wastes. The Task Force has already visited sites in the country’s major island
groups to investigate the extent of pollution from toxic substances in different parts of the country. To fortify the actions
it has started, the task force has been making consultations and meetings with various stakeholders. Task Force members are
experts from the NAST, University of the Philippines-Los Baños and Diliman, and Ateneo De Manila University.
Cow-free Beef Proposed
By Bjorn Carey LiveScience Staff Writer posted: 07 July 2005
proposed two new techniques for growing meat in a lab by a process that could one day make beef cows obsolete.
Don't toss out
those beef steaks just yet, however. The technology is in its infant stages and it is not clear whether large-scale production
will work. It's not known, for example, how to exercise an animal that doesn't exist, in order to give lab meat the full range
of cow-like qualities.
amounts of edible fish can be created in the lab. But University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny says that this process could be adapted on an industrial
scale -- whole factories producing fish sticks without the fish or chicken nuggets without the real birds.
"With a single
cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply," Matheny says. "And you could do it in a way that's
better for the environment and human health. In the long run, this is a very feasible idea."
could be designed to be healthier too.
"For one thing,
you could control the nutrients," Matheny says. "For example, most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause
high cholesterol and other health problems. With in vitro meat, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is a healthy fat."
would reduce the environmental burden that comes from raising livestock. Also, it wouldn't need to be treated with antibiotics
and other drugs that are common in the industry.
already demonstrated that a single muscle cell from a cow or chicken can be turned into thousands in the lab. But so far,
these experiments haven't gone large scale.
To grow meat on
large scale, Matheny suggests two methods. One is to grow muscle cells on long, flat membranes. Once the cells are mature,
the tissue would be stretched off the membrane and stacked so the product better resembled the real thing.
The other option
would be to grow cells on small, three-dimensional beads that stretch with temperature changes. The cells could be scraped
off and turned into processed meat like chicken nuggets or ground beef.
The trick, however,
is to grow something that tastes like real meat. That means growing not just muscle cells, but other types of tissue -- like
fat -- as well. Once the taste is good, the texture has to be just right for consumers to buy into the idea.
"We have to figure
out how to 'exercise' the cells. For the right texture, you have to stretch the tissue, like a live animal would," Matheny
Matheny's paper was published in the June 29 issue of the journal Tissue Engineering.
ECOLOGY: A TENTATIVE SAHARA RESTORATION
RICHARD BROOK CATHCART A1 and VIOREL BADESCU A2
A1 Geographos Glendale CA 91205-1524 USA A2 Candida Oancea
Institute of Solar Energy, Faculty of MechanicalEngineeringPolytechnicUniversity of Bucharest
Spl Independentei 313 Bucharest 79590 Romania
Visionary 19th and 20th century macroengineers have dreamt about transformations of North
Africa's large contiguous arid landscape. Their most vital macroprojects plans are reviewed here, with the intent
of promoting the early 21st century construction of the Sahara Tent Greenbelt + "insol" building. Pneumatic tenting of ∼
3.5 million square kilometres of desert prototypes a late 21st century distended building for Mars' terraformation, which
is ∼ 35 times greater in area than the proposed STG. Covering 50% of the Sahara leaves
other people to dream, while calculations for the whole of the region indicate the potential impact of a first try.
Tent Greenbelt, Insol, Climatic Change
The references of this article are secured to subscribers.
Institute of Wood Biology and Technology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Büsgenweg 4,
37077 Göttingen, Germany
Molecular Wood Biotechnology Section, Institute for Forest Botany, Georg-August-University
Göttingen, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
C. Mai Email: email@example.com Phone: +49-551-392051 Fax: +49-551-399646
Received: 17 March 2003 Revised: 25 June 2003 Accepted:
28 June 2003 Published online: 21 August 2003
Abstract Wood is a natural, biodegradable and renewable raw material,
used in construction and as a feedstock in the paper and wood product industries and in fuel production. Traditionally, biotechnology
found little attention in the wood product industries, apart from in paper manufacture. Now, due to growing environmental
concern and increasing scientific knowledge, legal restrictions to conventional processes have altered the situation. Biotechnological
approaches in the area of wood protection aim at enhancing the treatability of wood with preservatives and replacing chemicals
with biological control agents. The substitution of conventional chemical glues in the manufacturing of board materials is
achieved through the application of fungal cultures and isolated fungal enzymes. Moreover, biotechnology plays an important
role in the waste remediation of preservative-treated waste wood.
Capitalism and ecological sustainability: the shaping of environmental policies
Andriana Vlachou A1
A1 Department of Economics, Athens University of Economics and Business
Detailed analyses of environmental policies and their implications for the ecological sustainability of capitalism
are missing from the eco-Marxist literature. Moreover, environmental policies have been often dismissed by several eco-Marxists
on the ground that they are shaped on capital's terms. It is the objective of this paper to theorize the shaping of environmental
regulation from a value-theoretic and class struggle perspective. It is argued that the negative economic impacts of pollution
and resource depletion, captured by prices and rents, instigate various class and environmental conflicts and struggles which
reshape the interchange between capitalism and nature. The state as a social site becomes an arena of these struggles. The
state is called upon by the many different competing agents to mediate their access to nature. Evidence from many concrete
cases shows that environmental policies and adjustments have been the outcome of this complex social interaction. However,
the emerging ecological restructuring of capitalism can not guarantee its ecological sustainability. In particular, it gives
rise to new problems and contradictions rendering ecological sustainability of capitalism uncertain.