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The transgenic petunia carnage of 2017 (sciencemag.org)
86 points by vilhelm_s 169 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments

This may be the most click-baity article title ever and I absolutely love it. The actual article lived up to the hyped up title. So completely fascinating. I've sent the article to everybody in the family to see if they have orange petunias growing in their yards!

The one thing the article didn't cover is the patent violation implications of the GM plants growing (and probably being breed for seed-for-sale crops). I'd bet that these particular flowers have patents underlying GM modifications. I found a newer flower color patent with a single google search. [0] Somebody likely may be paying through the nose for this whoopsie under Monsanto vs. Bowman! [1]

[0] https://www.google.com/patents/CA2930494A1?cl=en

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowman_v._Monsanto_Co.

If we react like this about transgenic flowers, imagine the reaction to transhumanism, when cybernetic implants, CRISPR genome editing and human cloning all converge.

Human genes don't spread by pollination. However, some might get introduced into retroviruses and spread that way.

Spreading via internet is an immeasuably more potent propagation pathway than particles on the wind.

But having some roses can help.

>Human genes don't spread by pollination

Are you sure :D

It's called spermination, vulgo fucking.

I was gonna say, it is going to be fascinating to see what happens as targeted genetic modification becomes more widely available.

It only takes one idiot putting psilocybin into a dandelion and planting them in the front lawn...

Oh no, not again


I recant my: did nobody think of Agrajag[1] and the petunias[2] ?

[1] http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Agrajag [2] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/124539-curiously-enough-the...

So what would be the effect on the ecosystem if a species with built-in insecticides got out?

Well, consider that plants as a group already produce endogenous insecticides by the boatload. Adding a strain that produces another one is just adding one more example to a pile that is already huge.

Which is not to say that there aren't any risks at all. But plants and insects are already locked in a millions of years long battle/cooperation. And look how quickly insects have developed resistances to our modern pesticides. Adaption to something new appears to take years to decades, not centuries or longer.

'insects have developed resistances'

Some insects. And you're very correct that the insect-insecticide battle has been going on for a while - that doesn't mean giving one side a huge leg-up won't have consequences. Genetic engineering can accomplish millennia of evolution in a single generation - the two are not the same.

Some insects? What about nicotine? That insecticid kills them all, humans included

>In 1997, the last year for which global data was available, over 5.5 million pounds of the pesticide fumigant methyl bromide were applied to tobacco fields worldwide.

A few tobacco plants in isolation are going to be protected from insects easily developing a resistance to their natural defenses. We've been growing tobacco plants in massively concentrated fields for 400 years in this country. Nicotine is still a useful insecticide, just as Penicillin is still useful antibiotic.

Bar the tobacco beetle, I presume.

I don't disagree that there are risks.

But genetic reshuffling, recombination, and horizontal gene transfer has been going on en masse in the microbiota we are surround by for billions of years. I think once we start considering introducing truly novel genes, we will have a case for greater caution and reserve. But so far, all projects are of the 'transfer this already existent gene to this other organism', and I think that is a less risky proposition overall.

In this matter of extreme complexity and nonlinearity, how can you ever tell the point where being paranoid is the right thing to do?

E.g. how can you know that transferring a gene from maize to petunias is still "sufficiently close" to the level of variation seen in ancient natural processes and evolution?

(Genuine question but also genuine worry about this.)

From Echopraxia by Peter Watts:

> Even DNA computers, custom-built for a specific task and then tramped carelessly into wild genotypes like muddy footprints on a pristine floor. Nowadays it seemed like half the technical data on the planet were being stored genetically. Try sequencing a lung fluke and it was even money whether the base pairs you read would code for protein or the technical specs on the Denver sewer system.

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