Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anyone Else See These Things Coming?

Mutated pests are quickly adapting to biotech crops in unpredicted and disturbing ways

"Genetically modified crops are often designed to repel hungry insects. By having toxins built into the plant itself, farmers can reduce their use of environmentally unfriendly insecticide sprays. But as any first-year evolutionary biology student can tell you, insects are like the Borg in Star Trek: they quickly adapt. And this is precisely what is happening – but in ways that have startled the researchers themselves.

The discovery is a wakeup call to geneticists because it has highlighted the importance of having to closely monitor and counter pest resistance to biotech crops. The development also raises the question of the potential futility of having to change the genetic structure of crops in perpetuity; given that insects are constantly evolving, to what degree will geneticists have to go to ensure crop immunity to pests? And what does that say to the ongoing safety of such crops as far as human consumption is concerned?

Mutated pests are quickly adapting to biotech crops in unpredicted and disturbing ways Case in point are cotton bollworms. To deal with these pests, genetic scientists have developed an insect-killing cotton plant that produces toxins derived from the Bt bacterium (geneticists say that these toxins are harmless to most other creatures, including humans). But the bollworms are developing a resistance. Scientists have observed that a rare genetic mutation in bollworms makes them immune to Bt – and that the mutation isn't so rare any more."

Texas college hacks government drone

"There are a lot of cool things you can do with $1,000, but scientists at an Austin, Texas college have come across one that is often overlooked: for less than a grand, how’d you like to hijack a US government drone?

A group of researchers led by Professor Todd Humphreys from the University of Texas at Austin Radionavigation Laboratory recently succeeded in raising the eyebrows of the US government. With just around $1,000 in parts, Humphreys’ team took control of an unmanned aerial vehicle operated by the US Department of Homeland Security.

After being challenged by his lab, the DHS dared Humphreys’ crew to hack into their drone and take command. Much to their chagrin, they did exactly that.

Humphrey tells Fox News that for a few hundreds dollar his team was able to “spoof” the GPS system on board the DHS drone, a technique that involves mimicking the actual signals sent to the global positioning device and then eventually tricking the target into following a new set of commands. And, for just $1,000, Humphreys says the spoofer his team assembled was the most advanced one ever built.

“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” Humphreys tells Fox. The real danger here, however, is that the government is currently considering plans that will allow local law enforcement agencies and other organizations from coast-to-coast to control drones of their own in America’s airspace.

“In five or ten years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” he tells Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”


Blogger sean krajewski said...

Wow! I was always a bit suspicious of the ramifications of using genetically modified plants. Anyway great post as always.

28/6/12 3:19 AM  
Anonymous Nz said...

The intelligence behind the microcosm of insects is beyond humans. The relative frequency at which it evolves is much higher and therefore much more adaptable in relative time. Humans are going to have to become more respectful of the environment and the microcosm if it ever wants to exist in harmony with it. They have recognized humans as being a danger and they cannot ignore it. More later.

28/6/12 8:00 AM  
Blogger nolocontendere said...

We've sped this bus down the road and over a cliff without any understanding of what we were tampering with. Unfortunately at this point any palliatives will only make the situations worse because we simply don't grasp what the fuck we're doing.

29/6/12 6:38 AM  

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