Anti-GMO poster in Switzerland invokes human GMOs

Over on Twitter Magdalena Plotczyk (@MPlotczyk) posted a striking photo of an anti-GMO poster from Lausanne, Switzerland. The top part of the poster translates as, “‘After GMO corn, GMO children?'”

GMO Corn, GMO People

Magdalena Plotczyk

As readers of this blog know, I do have concerns about the eventual production of genetically modified people using rapidly evolving genetic modification/gene editing technology such as CRISPR.

In fact, I’ve written an entire new book on this, GMO Sapiens. I hope you’ll read it. However, as you’ll see in the book, I’m not so concerned about GMO plants and foods in a general sense. I also do not see that GMO people or as I refer to them in the book, GMO sapiens, directly follow from GMOs in the plant world.

I think the bottom part of the poster translates roughly as, “No to unlimited reproductive medicine”.

Here’s the tweet.

Find Easter egg hidden in my new book GMO Sapiens & win $250

I like Easter eggs, science and writing, and Easter is less than a week away.

I also think that games and puzzles as well as contests where there are prizes are fun.

In this spirit I’ve hidden a scientific Easter egg inside of my new book, GMO Sapiens.

If you are the first to find it and notify me, I will give you a $250 prize.

We are talking about a scientific Easter egg.

Wikipedia defines this sort of Easter egg this way: “An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in an interactive work”.

This is the kind of egg I’ve hidden…not an actual egg.

There are some rules to carefully consider.cover GMO Sapiens

To be eligible, you have to have personally purchased the actual softback or hardback a copy of the book, and provide documentation of that.

You also have to correctly tell me the entire nature of the Easter egg hidden in my book and it might be more complicated than you first imagine. So if you think you’ve found it, take some time to be sure you really “get it” because of the next rule.

Only one guess per person is permitted per 30-day period.

But only the first one to correctly tell me the egg wins the prize.

Anyone is eligible except for members of my lab or family or anyone in any way affiliated with this blog.

Enjoy the hunt and the prize if you are the winner.

Hopefully you’ll get something out of the book too.

NYT asks which sci-fi work is most prescient today: I think GATTACA

GATTACAThe New York Times recently asked 6 people what science fiction movie or novel is most prescient today.

The responses ran the gamut: Fahrenheit 451, The Martian, The Fifth Season, The Body Snatchers, Book of the New Sun, and Use of Weapons.

To me of those 6, the best case can be made for Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, who was very good at looking into a crystal ball and being right. The other 5 works, not so much.

My answer would have been GATTACA.

In our CRISPR-ified new world, human genetic modification seems more a question of if and why rather than when. Assisted reproduction and human embryo selection by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) are being further turbo-charged by more specific genetic selection procedures. These new iterations of genetic embryo selection are likely to evolve to the point where parents are given the choice of embryos ranked by something akin to “overall genetic fitness”. There certainly is a feeling of us being on the cusp of a new eugenics. There’s a definite GATTACA feel to all of these real trends.

A tipping factor for governmental and corporate intrusion into our genetics may turn out to be a push for lower healthcare costs. It seems inevitable that both our personal and professional lives are going to be impacted in profound ways by genomic DNA.

Ironically, some commentators on CRISPR’s potential use on humans get particularly grumpy if anyone brings up GATTACA or Brave New World. You can read more about my sense of literature’s links to our CRISPR world in my new book, GMO Sapiens. For 6 more days you can get 30% off there on the book by entering the code WS15XMAS30.

GMO Sapiens book teaser: time to talk frankly on human genetic modification

GMO Sapiens Book CoverI’ve written a new book on human genetic modification. This is my second book as the first one was Stem Cells: An Insider’s Guide, which is currently the top stem cell book on Amazon. The new book is called GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies. 

You can pre-order it here at Amazon or over here at my publisher’s site. The newly updated cover is shown at right.

The title was chosen as a portmanteau (mashup) of GMO and Homo sapiens.

We’ve been aiming for the book to come out in mid-late December. I’m optimistic based on what I hear from the publisher, but we’ll see.

Why write a book on human genetic modification?

The science in this area has changed dramatically and both the wider scientific community and the public need to know what is going on so that they can participate in the dialogue.

Unlike in past decades, today the possibility of heritable human genetic modification is very real. Based on all that we now know it is reasonable to predict that someone will attempt to create genetically modified people (aka designer babies) in coming years. The results could be great or disastrous, but in either case (or probably more likely some mixture of the two) the outcomes are going to be revolutionary.

Are we ready for what may come next? How will this affect individuals and society as a whole?

More thinking, discussion, and transparency are urgently needed. The goal of this upcoming book is to move in a constructive direction by educating and stimulating debate as well as dialogue.

At the same time in the book, I am not afraid to tackle the real, but tough issues that are integral to this topic. It seems that up until now in science it has been somewhat taboo to talk about the possibility of designer babies. However, we don’t have time to close our eyes to the reasonable probability that someone will try to make designer babies in the near future nor to pretend that nothing could go wrong for individuals or society. Already this year we saw the creation of the first genetically-modified human embryos in the lab using the amazing gene editing toolbox that is CRISPR. That is just one step, but may have opened the door to much more.

It addition to being a resource for learning, my new book is written to be an enjoyable read that is approachable to both an educated lay audience and scientists alike.

Here’s the draft back cover blurb (could still change):

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) including plants and the foods made from them are a hot topic of debate today, but soon related technology could go much further and literally change what it means to be human. Scientists are on the verge of being able to create people who are GMOs.

Should they do it? Could we become a healthier and ‘better’ species or might eugenics go viral leading to a real, new world of genetic dystopia? GMO Sapiens tackles such questions by taking a fresh look at the cutting-edge biotech discoveries that have made genetically modified people possible.

Bioengineering, genomics, synthetic biology, and stem cells are changing sci-fi into reality before our eyes. This book will capture your imagination with its clear, approachable writing style. It will draw you into the fascinating discussion of the life-changing science of human genetic modification.