Friday, March 14, 2008

Biotechnology and nanotechnology:
the hard cell

"... In a climate of declining public trust in both government and industry, new approaches to increase the public's technology I.Q. are needed -- approaches that can bridge the credibility gap and scale-up rapidly to reach large segments of the population. An innovative word-of-mouth campaign could place nanotechnology into the world of everyday conversation, where messages are built on trust and understanding rather than hype and jargon."

-- David Rejeski, Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, "Hey, Have You Heard About Nanotechnology? Improve Nanotech Awareness through A Word-of-Mouth Campaign" Nanotechology Now

According to David Rejeski from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, what the nanotechnology field needs to fill the credibility gab is a good old-fashioned, word-of mouth marketing campaign built on trust and education. He is, of course, a spokesperson for the industry, and we assume that he is touting the beneficial claims of nanotechnology -- that is those applications of the technology that are designed to help fight disease, help in diagnostic work, and perhaps even clean beaches after an oil spill.

But, unfortunately for Mr. Rejeski it must be increasing hard to sell nanotechology and its twin sister, biotechnology, when articles like Ultramicro, nonlethal, and reversible: looking ahead to military biotechnology are so easily found in the public domain.

This article written by Chinese scientists Guo Ji-wei and Xue-sen Yang and published in the July-August, 2005 issue of Military Review explores the many multifaceted, pragmatic uses of biotechnology in future warfare. Here's an example of how these new emerging technologies in the hands of madmen can create Hieronymus Bosch-like nightmares:
"In the final analysis, war is simply human behavior that forces enemies to lose the power of resistance. Biotechnological weapons can cause destruction that is both more powerful and more civilized than that caused by conventional killing methods like gunpowder or nuclear weapons... A military attack, therefore, might wound an enemy's genes, proteins, cells, tissues, and organs, causing more damage than conventional weapons could. However, such devastating, nonlethal effects will require us to pacify the enemy through postwar reconstruction efforts and hatred control."
As far as warfare goes, using nano-bioweapons could be considered more humane than say dropping cluster bombs or phosphorus on Iraqi children or nuking entire cities. Biowarfare is much less messy -- no splattered brain parts or entrails to pick up, no clean-up crews needed to hose the blood off the streets, no burning flesh to assault your olfactory sensibilities; it's all very clean, precise and "civilized." All you need is a firm committed group of sociopaths willing to ensure their survival by targeting certain evildoers' genotypes or cells for death or disability.

But, let's not stop here as Guo Ji-wei and Xue-sen Yang are creative geniuses, so you won't want to miss these fanciful fantasies under "Possible Military Uses of Biotechnology":
"From the perspective of military medicine, proteomics, which examines the structure-function relationship at the molecular level, is a bridge between military goals and practical technologies. With the development of proteomics, we can discover and interpret the key proteins in any single human physiological function and the multiple physiological functions any single protein possesses. All of this will provide accurate models for military attack and make it possible to develop small-scale or ultramicro-scale destructive weapons."
And here they give us an example of what they mean by ultramicro-scale destructive weapons:
"... a microbullet out of a 1-[micro]m tungsten or gold ion, on whose surface plasmid DNA or naked DNA could be precipitated, and deliver the bullet via a gunpowder explosion, electron transmission, or high-pressured gas to penetrate the body surface. (10) We could then release DNA molecules to integrate with the host's cells through blood circulation and cause disease or injury by controlling genes."
Lovely. And, how about death and disease by stealth:
"Modern biotechnology makes it possible to combine two or more pathogenic genes and place them inside a susceptible living body to create a multiple-vulnerating effect. In addition, delaying the time required for a causative agent to take effect is possible by using a living body with a relatively longer incubation period or a pathogenic living body that produces no symptoms when inserted into the human body."
What's particularly interesting is that this article is listed under the U.S. Army's Professional Writings Collection and Guo Ji-wei is Director of the Department of Medical Affairs, Southwest Hospital, Chongqing in the People's Republic of China. Does anyone find it odd the U.S Army CGSC is copywriting work from a director of medical affairs from the People's Republic of China?

What's clear is that there is lack of condemnation for this kind of hypothetical warfare on the Army's website, thereby giving the impression that these programs are acceptable to some. And, according to international law professor and bioweapons expert, Francis Boyle, these are exactly the kinds of programs that the DoD would be working on today as they've gotten the nod, and the funding, by the neo-con Bush administration.
"...the Pentagon 'is now gearing up to fight and "win" biological warfare' pursuant to two Bush national strategy directives adopted 'without public knowledge and review' in 2002.

For fiscal years 2001-2004, the federal government funded $14.5 billion 'for ostensibly 'civilian' biowarfare-related work alone,' a 'truly staggering' sum, Boyle wrote.

Another $5.6 billion was voted for 'the deceptively-named 'Project BioShield,' under which Homeland Security is stockpiling vaccines and drugs to fight anthrax, smallpox and other bioterror agents, wrote Boyle. Protection of the civilian population is, he said, 'one of the fundamental requirements for effectively waging biowarfare.' "

--Bush "Developing Illegal Bioterror Weapons" for Offensive Use
Now that we know that these terrible programs are being contemplated and developed by the dark side of humanity, we should consider Mr. Rejeski marketing campaign again. He is right about one thing: we do need an innovative word-of-mouth campaign to inform the public about the threats of nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Pandora's box is open and there is no way to get the lid back on it except by calling for a general moratorium on nanotechnology and biotechnology research and development. Today many scientists familiar with the technology are doing just that (see Size Matters! The Case for a Global Moratorium ).

Let's start our own innovative, word-of-mouth marketing campaign in which we call out the dangers of nanotechnology and biotechnology and call for a moratorium on research and development. All you have to do is email this article to ten of your friends and ask them to forward it to ten more of their friends, and so on and so on. And, the best thing about this, it's viral campaign you can feel good about.

For further info:

Scared of nano-pants? Hey, you may be onto something, by Kevin Maney

Nanotechnology poses threat to health, say scientists

Experts More Worried about Nanotech than Public

Video: Nanotechnology - Age of Convergence (an industry advocacy film, but creepier than Hell)