By Karl Arnold Belser
3 November 2014

The 60 minutes program by CBS recently had an article called Breeding Out Disease, which describes how doctors can use prenatal diagnosis on several embryos before implantation to eliminate certain genetic characteristics such as propensity to develop breast cancer. Since this type of screening cost many thousands of dollars today, it is another method to increase longevity of the rich as I describe in my post Longevity and Wealth.

The 60 minutes program got me thinking about what other genetic manipulation activity is currently happening. i found For $100,000, You Can Clone Your Dog, which shows that at least in principle humans can also be cloned. This article gives a nice summary of the state of the cloning art today. The apparent drawback of cloning is that the cloned animals do not generally live as long as one might expect. This of course would be very bad for humans, but it might not be a problem for farm animals that are going to be killed at a young age to provide meat. In fact, National Geographic describes just this kind of activity for food in its article Cloning Cows for Steaks. According to the Cloning article:

n the United States, the human consumption of meat and other products from cloned animals was approved by the FDA on December 28, 2006, with no special labeling required because food from cloned organisms has been found to be identical to the organisms from which they were cloned. Such practice has met strong resistance in other regions due to misinformation, such as Europe, particularly over the labeling issue.

There is controversy today about Genetically Modified Organisms in the United States.

The proponents of labeling Genetically Modified Food products argue that consumers should at least be aware of what products use genetic modification, whose modified form might have unexpected side effects. The idea is identical to  manufacturers  putting part and batch numbers on manufactured components to determine if a certain batch was faulty and then to recall the faulty parts. So far only a few states in the United States have GMO labeling laws, but it seems likely that such labeling will be needed as more and more GM products are put on the market.

Since GM foods may affect different people in different ways it may be practically impossible for the FDA to certify that a GM food is safe for everyone. The world is already dealing with this problem in the prescription drug industry.

The use of Genetically Modified Crops is ubiquitous (10% of the world's crops) which poses another problem because of monopoly issues. GM seeds may in fact cross pollinate with other crops making it difficult to determine if patent infringement actually occurred.

Further, when crops are created that are immune to herbicides and pesticides, this may cause the evolution of new insects or disease with unquantifiable consequences. Since the world is already far down the road in using GM crops, the unexpected complication could be a population limiting Blac Swan event.

Even more disturbing to me is the possibility of Gm biological weapons in order to make the disease spread faster , kill more quickly, or have a short time expiration of effect. Even if biological weapons are outlawed, terrorist organizations like ISIS might want to use them. There has been recent talk about ISIS using ebola as a weapon. A terrorist induced ebola outbreak in the United States might be sufficient to destabilize the government.

I think that genetic modification poses Black Swan threats in many potential areas. I see the current hypersensitivity to an ebola outbreak in the United States to be prudent because of the very serious consequences that might occur if an outbreak happens.
Last updated November 3, 2014
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