Monday, August 13, 2007

Human-Plant-Fuel Hybrids

What would happen if computer technology became so sophisticated with artificial intelligence that software programs could do the work of human software engineers and create new programs? Or robots could create new robots? At one time I pondered what if reproducing robots took over the world...? I figured, with procreating computer programs, you could just unplug their source of electricity.

After spending a few minutes reading at some environmental news portals, I think that robots coming to life is much farther away than something like the opposite problem. We're turning life forms into machines.

One company, , is developing by incorporating engineered enzymes into corn plant varieties to improve "liquefaction and saccharification". On one hand, we have organic food, and on the other hand, we now have techno-corn.

Think gas prices are high? Some dude from from another company said, "The big increase in the use of biodiesel in recent years has caused soy and canola prices to rise, increasing the need to develop crops dedicated to biodiesel use and not for human consumption." (, TreeHugger) Biofuels are going to compete for staple food crops and the land to grow them.

This company, , is also developing a "protein farming platform for the pharmaceutical industry". Pharmaceuticals are also going to compete for and change our food.

The USDA has "given a preliminary green light for the , reigniting fears that biomedically potent substances in high-tech plants could escape and turn up in other foods." The company, , wants to grow human immune system proteins in rice in Kansas, and put the harvested proteins into yogurt and snack bars so that kids will recover from diarrhea more quickly. Some dude from the company says that "plants are phenomenal factories."

With the strange growth of gluten-intolerance appearing in recent years, this seems to be a great way to introduce a worldwide allergy to rice as well. That would really suck for people who are already gluten-intolerant.

Vote with dollars: "A previous plan to grow the rice in southern Missouri was dropped when beermaker Anheuser-Busch -- the nation's largest rice buyer, which has expressed concern about the safety and consumer acceptance of gene-altered rice -- threatened to stop buying rice from the state if the deal went through."

At the same time as the company claims they can keep the rice plants and seeds from escaping into nearby fields, and the USDA claims there is no risk, the USDA revealed other engineered rice varieties that have already escaped and contaminated our rice. "A type of rice seed in Arkansas had become contaminated with a different variety of genetically engineered rice, LL62, that was never released for marketing. The error was discovered in the course of an ongoing investigation into the widespread contamination of U.S. rice by yet another gene-altered variety, LL601, which has seriously disrupted rice exports." ()

Oh, and there's also Codon Devices, the Company, which develops the biological devices for the corn technology among other things. It sounds as though they can build and deliver any gene from scratch. I hope they do not accidentally or purposefully construct new viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. Not that that isn't already being done with older technology.

Well, I have thought before that it might be nice to be able to grow meat on plants so that we wouldn't have to kill animals to eat meat. Maybe that isn't such a far-fetched idea after all.