Listen to the Podcast:
In this podcast, Jeffrey Smith interviews Dr. Jonathan Latham, former genetic engineer and the editor of Independent Science News. Jeffrey and Dr. Latham go into what exactly gene editing is and what could possibly go wrong. They are exhaustive about the categories of things that can go wrong which will surprise you because there's so many things that could go wrong. Yet, the biotech industry insists that it's safe and predictable and it shouldn't be regulated whatsoever. What is it that they're actually doing to the DNA, what are they getting away with and what are they not doing to protect us and all living beings? It's a shock.
Notes for this week's Podcast
Jeffrey Smith : (01:30)
So I want to basically make it as easy as possible for people to understand genetic engineering in terms of the new GMOs in particular gene editing, because the biotech industry has been representing these new technologies as so precise and so predictable that we should simply call them new breeding technologies and treat them like other breeding technologies, which are essentially unregulated. And they've convinced the government of Australia, the FDA recently tried to say that for genetically engineered animals, that's not justified. But the Trump administration seems to be pushing for a hands off approach and Europe is holding strong to the fact that we need to regulate. So it's actually a big, a big deal right now that we understand what's at risk here and we understand what's real and who's telling the truth. So why don't we start from the beginning, Jonathan, and just explain how gene editing works in layman's terms so that we take the mystique out of it and get real.
Jeffrey Smith : (28:13)
Now this is interesting because we saw this with the other standard traditional genetic engineering where, and I've reported on this in my book, genetic roulette, where a companies would insert genes into other species like bacterial or viral genes into soybeans or corn, and they would expect that the full gene was inserted and it would produce the protein that they would expect. But only after the genetically engineered crop was approved and consumed by millions or hundreds of millions of people, independent researchers actually sequenced either the DNA or the RNA or the protein. And in many cases it was completely different than that, which was expected. Soybeans turned out to have six different ways that the RNA was produced. It's called alternate splicing. But it was chopped up and recombined and it could produce possibly different proteins that could be harmful. There was um, one type of, uh, corn. The, the DNA that was inserted got truncated, it got split and pieces were gone and the protein that was produced was not at all what they intended but include some of the amino acids that were coated by natural corn.
Jeffrey Smith : (42:38)
Yeah. It's, it's, I mean it is so dangerous when you think of all the things that could be going wrong. You could be creating a greater susceptibility to a certain disease, to certain whether a different interaction with different plants, a different reaction with different organisms. There's so many complex aspects of a, of a biological species that could be changed. And now we have the capacity to sequence the DNA, the RNA, the proteins, and all of the metabolites. The so called Omix, proteomic with the Tablo, they call these, we have the capacity to do that. And yet these companies that produce and claim safety don't generally use those now cutting edge tools to determine what they're actually doing to nature.
Jeffrey Smith: (01:16:05)
No, we need to arm the choir with information, with knowledge and we will, we will try, we'll do some fundraising perhaps and turn this entire conversation into a short animation. Perhaps they can show the problems that or or put it into some fact sheets so we can beat more easily passed down and having more than an hour long conversation. But what we have demonstrated, Jonathan, is that it is completely obvious that when you look at the real science, then you realize that those who are advocating gene editing is a safe and predictable technology are lying or uninformed through either the liars or the lied to. And so we need to equip more and more people to know this and to challenge and to inform others. And it should be part of curriculum. It should be built into a political decision making mechanisms. It should be built into institutional review board policy to they approve particular studies or not. It needs to be absolutely around the world because gene editing is so cheap. You could buy a do it yourself kit on Amazon for $161 or 159 when it was on sale and you could be part of this process of contaminating the gene pool forever. Or you could be part of the educational force that we can help us lock it down.
This week's Transcript
Hi, this is Jeffrey Smith and welcome to Live Healthy, Be Well. I love the following podcast with Doctor Jonathan Latham. We go into what exactly is gene-editing and what could possibly go wrong.
We're fairly exhaustive about the categories of things that can go wrong which could surprise you because there are so many things that could go wrong and yet the biotech industry insists that it's safe and predictable and it shouldn't be regulated whatsoever.
This is a very powerful talk that you may want to listen to more than once because it will basically give you the information to win the argument. We're going to work with the same kind of information in many, many ways, but I would strongly recommend investing the time listening to what it is that they're actually doing to the DNA and what they're getting away with and what they're not doing to protect us and all living beings. It's a shock.
Hi, this is Jeffrey Smith and I'm interviewing Dr. Jonathan Latham. He's a former genetic engineer and the editor of Independent Science News and I have known him for years and have come to him often when I have very deep technical questions ranging from the nature of genetically engineered viruses to gene editing.
Hi there, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: So I want to basically make it as easy as possible for people to understand genetic engineering in terms of the new GMOs and in particular, gene editing. The biotech industry has been representing these new technologies as so precise and so predictable that we should simply call them new breeding technologies and treat them like other breeding technologies, which are essentially unregulated.
They've convinced the government of Australia. The FDA recently tried to say that for genetically engineered animals, that's not justified. But the Trump administration seems to be pushing for a hands-off approach and Europe is holding strong to the fact that we need to regulate.
So it's actually a big deal right now that we understand what's at risk here and we understand what's real and who's telling the truth. So why don't we start from the beginning, Jonathan, and just explain how gene editing works in layman's terms so that we take the mystique out of it and get real.
Yeah. So, that's the right place to start because you know all the risks and all the concerns or potential concerns that there are, basically STEM from the nature of the basic process.
So, what is happening with gene editing is that - you, first of all, have to think about putting outside of your head the idea of editing, because editing is a misnomer.
What is happening with gene editing is that it's actually an enzyme that cuts DNA and that is all that the enzyme does, in the standard form at least of gene editing. People are messing around making new versions and so forth and trying to improve on it.
But the basic format is that an enzyme is put into the cell, and this is the living cell, right? The enzyme is put into the cell and it cuts DNA at a place, hopefully at a precisely targeted place. That is the theory.
What's interesting about that is that there's a cut in the DNA that's made to the cell. The cell has to repair that cut, right? It must repair that cut or else the cell will die. So it tries to repair the cut but it can't repair - the cell can't repair the cut necessarily accurately because basically, it's desperately trying to rejoin the chromosome that's been severed.
So what it does is it makes errors while it's putting the chromosome back together. So the DNA is cut by the enzyme that's been added by the breeder, the developer, whatever you want to call them, the researcher, and then the cell will put that together. And then the researcher basically has to look at all the cells that had been cut and all the cut sites and try to work out which one of those fit their need. Right?
Presumably, they've cut the DNA because they want to change it, right? Not because they want to make it be what it was before. They've done the cut so they can change to DNA.
But then they have to find the version that's repaired in a way that is accessible to them. And the cell will produce all different kinds of repairs of that cut. So it may insert extra DNA, it may lose a lot of DNA in the process or it may, if the researcher is very lucky, make a very small change to that DNA insertion site.
Jeffrey: Now let's pick it up from there. Even before we get to this, what might inspire the scientist to engage in gene editing? What kind of small changes would he or she be looking for? How is it that they could just guess that the repair mechanism will probably deliver what they're looking for?
Dr. Latham: Yeah, so, you know, this is one of the million-dollar questions in a way. Because we know what the paradox, if you like, of gene editing is - that even though it's supposed to be very precise, it's also supposed to be very powerful, right?
So you have two, in a sense, contradictory narratives going on there because the researchers want to make tiny changes to the DNA that have big consequences, right? The truth in terms of the changes to the DNA and the changes to the functioning of the organism at the end of the day, you kind of end up with a situation in which is half a dozen of one and half a dozen of the other, right?
If you make a very precise change, then essentially what's happening to the organism is not very much, but that's not what you imagined. But if they make a big change, then, of course, it's a powerful difference. And the researcher wants to basically split the difference.
But there is kind of a paradox at the heart of it all, right? That if you want to make a tiny change and then you want that to be very important. So the question is how do you do that? So what's going on and in most of these editing cases is, they're introducing a fairly small change to the DNA and that is disabling a gene, right?
So disabling a gene is quite an easy thing to do. You just remove one base path and you cause the coding sequence to go out of the frame and then that basically stops protein being made.
So let's stop there and translate. So, along the spine of the double helix, there are these base pairs. There are four different chemicals and they align themselves up, and that's the genetic code. There are 2-3 billion different base pairs in the human genome, I'm told. Some people say 2 billion, I've heard higher, I don't know the answer.
So let's say normally there's a certain smaller amount of the DNA that actually is called coding DNA, which are the genes that are then transcribed into RNA and then they produce proteins. So one of the ways that - correct me if I'm wrong and jump in at any time. You're the scientist.
Dr. Latham: Okay.
Jeffrey: So if they want to stop a gene or silence a gene, they can't just, you know, figure out an easy way to do it. What they'll do is they'll program the scissors and we can talk about how they do this in a minute. They programmed the scissors to snip when they find a certain code that exists within that gene, within that coding gene.
When it's snipped, they're going to assume that at least in one of the cells that they're working with, it's going to simply knock out that gene. It will eliminate the base pair that they're looking at, which will stop the mechanism in its tracks.
There will be no RNA, there will be no proteins, and it will essentially be as if they have removed the whole gene, when in fact all they did was remove a single base pair. Is that correct?
Dr. Latham: Yeah, I mean that's one of the scenarios for sure. Yep.
Jeffrey: So before we go into what could go wrong, I just want to get clear because it's such an abstract thing to talk about enzymes acting as scissors and aiming it at a certain place within the DNA.
What are these scissors, and how are they aimed, and how was this done? Obviously, we're not talking about little nanoparticles that form the shape of scissors. So what's actually going on here?
Dr. Latham: So, maybe the best way to talk about this is to think about where they were brought from. So essentially the gene editing, in the case of CRISPR at least, the gene-editing mechanism comes from a bacteria.
What the bacterium is trying to do is, when the cell ingests DNA - say a virus comes in and invades the cell, it has a system, kind of a surveillance system, which basically identifies the DNA that's coming in and tries to cut it.
So you've got a protein that - in the bacteria, this is - you have a protein, which is called the nuclei and it's a DNA cutting enzyme. So it's made of amino acids. The other part of the system is an RNA molecule that basically spots the incoming DNA and it spots that based on its sequence. Right?
So it's using the specific sequence of an RNA molecule that the host cell has synthesized and then it's using the nuclei’s enzyme to cut the DNA. And the RNA is basically the targeting mechanism.
So RNA acts as facial recognition and the DNA acts as the assassin.
Dr. Latham: Yeah, that's a fair description.
Jeffrey: So, then just to be clear, the RNA is single-stranded usually and has complementarity to the DNA. It'll match up or link. So when the RNA is around, does it actually bind with the DNA in a certain spot and then the attached protein goes to work? Does it actually hug it or grab it like tackle, based on facial recognition, or does it just hang out in the background and point?
Dr. Latham: Yeah, well the DNA doesn't hang around in the background because the DNA is double-stranded. It can only bind to one strand of the DNA. So the DNA has to be opened up. The RNA has to find the right spot in the genome.
So basically it has to pass the whole 3 billion base pairs, right, of the genome. Then once it's found the right spot, then that activates the enzyme. So the enzyme is attached to the RNA. So the RNA is basically sifting the genome. When it finds the right spot, then the enzyme is basically pulled tight and it cuts on the DNA.
Jeffrey: So the RNA is also attached to the DNA as well. The RNA is attached because of its complementary sequence. Then the DNA, which is the assassin, goes to work on one of the sides of the RNA. Is that right?
Dr. Latham: The protein in your vocabulary is the assassin.
Jeffrey: Yeah, protein. Sorry, protein.
Dr. Latham: So that's right. The RNA attaches to the DNA and then the protein cuts the DNA and what you've done then is severed the chromosome, right? You basically cut the chromosome in half.
Now does the RNA then hang out stuck onto that DNA piece or does it go away? So then when it gets rejoined, the RNA is not involved in it anymore. So it's done its job. It's going on to the next.
Dr. Latham: We suppose, and I think it's still the supposition, that the RNA basically and the protein and the DNA all become disassociated from each other because there couldn't be a repair of the DNA if the RNA was still stuck.
That's what I was wondering. Now the thing is when you think about the fact that we have, let's say 3 billion base pairs, but different organisms have more or less than human beings. So it's a lot. When you send in the facial recognition software through the RNA and it's looking for a match, is it looking for a really long stretch that's only found in the particular gene you're looking at?
Or is it a short piece that could be anywhere up and down the DNA, in which case it might attach to many places, not what you're wanting to, but it might cause cutting in many other places.
Dr. Latham: Well, it depends on who you talk to.
Dr. Latham: For some people, or in some people's estimation, you know, perfect binding is required between the RNA and the DNA to activate the cutting enzyme. But you know, more and more it's become apparent that mismatches are possible, which is one way that the RNA and the protein can end up targeting the wrong site in the genome.
So you can have the protein and the RNA cut the right place. Or, you can have them cut at the wrong place, which can be hard to predict, right? But you can also have them cut at the right place and the wrong place.
You also have to bear in mind that inside the genome, right, you’re basically manipulating a single cell. But the experimenter is not just adding one RNA, one protein, they're probably adding 50 RNAs and 50 protein.
So there's a lot of these proteins floating about in the cell and what that means is that the more you add, the more probability there is that they will cut not only at the right place but also at the wrong place. So there’s a lot of, if you like, caustic issues going on here. If you by accident add too many copies of RNA and too many copies of the protein, you will end up with a lot of off-target cuts.
So people are kind of, you know, research individually trying to balance the on-target cutting and at the same time, have little as possible off-target cutting.
Jeffrey: I imagine that the longer the RNA pieces where it's very specific saying, "Okay, don't bind with anything unless it has several hundred base pairs that line up."
There'll be very few, if any other alternatives, places to have an exact match. But if it's only 10 or 20 nucleotides long, then there might be many places that fit perfectly or close enough. So what's the story? Are they trying to use longer and more specific RNAs? Are they stuck with short ones? How does that work?
Dr. Latham: Well, the basic system is around 20 base pairs. Right? But honestly, you can add more. You can try to make the RNA, you know? There are many tweaks that a researcher can make to this system, right?
So you have to understand that the scientific community is full of people who are tweaking this gene-editing system. There are people who are trying to make the RNA shorter because, oh, you know, it alters the specificity in ways that they like.
There are people trying to make longer RNA because that might be more specific. There are also people trying to make CRISPR that cut only one part of the DNA, one section of the DNA strand. For example, there are people trying to combine CRISPR with other enzymes to alter the specificity and so far for people trying to use CRISPR genes from proteins from other species that might be more specific.
So there are a bazillion people trying to engineer little alterations to the CRISPR, trying to come up with the perfect combination of effectiveness and specificity. Because there are always trade-offs in biology. There's so much going on in this system, right, that there's always going to be trade-offs between accuracy and effectiveness, for example.
So you've got all these people messing around, but the standard system is to have 20 base pairs be the matching amount that you need. But we also know that a certain percentage of mismatches are always possible. For example, what we're finding is that you choose the site in the genome that you want to edit and you construct an RNA that matches those 20 base pads.
What you also want to do is do some genome analysis on the species that you have, to make sure that that 20 base pair sequence isn't found elsewhere in the genome and that there's nothing similar to it elsewhere in the genome. Because if you've only got one place that you want to cut and it happens that there are other DNA sequences in the genome, the match that perfectly, then there's nothing you can do about that, right?
Your hands are basically tied because your enzyme is going to cut in wrong places and then you end up with a problem. So there's many qualifications and complications to this that make it a little difficult for me to generalize really. it also allows people in the future to basically, you know, create new versions of CRISPR that may even contradict things that I'm saying.
Jeffrey: Well this is what we're looking at. We've identified two risks so far and I want to get a little bit more detailed in terms of what we know about those risks before we go into others, because I want to be very, very clear about how we can counteract a false narrative.
As I started off by saying, they say it's precise and predictable and safe. Yet we've already found two ways in which gene editing and specifically CRISPR, which is their poster child for the latest and greatest, can cause problems. So I want to know what they actually have found in terms of what they call off-target cuts.
Where in terms of the research, how often does - well, first of all, do they check and do they check just based on what's predicted and hope that it's safe or do they actually sequence the DNA, and the DNA of the new organisms, to verify that they haven't cut in other places?
If they have, what can go wrong? What has gone wrong? Is it really a problem or just a theoretical problem?
Dr. Latham: No, it is not just a theoretical problem. I mean there are two ends to that, right? Those are things that we know about that people have found all manner of off-target and untargeted problems.
So the off-targets are, I think what you were asking me about. But off-targets are basically when the targeting mechanism cuts in the wrong place in the genome. They may or may not come to the right place, but it certainly can cut at the wrong place.
There are various things that can happen in these wrong places, right? So you can have misrepairs of various kinds. You can also have DNA inserting into those off-target sites. That DNA can come from elsewhere in the genome.
We've also found out that it can come from the reagents that people use. So a very interesting paper that I think I told you about last time with some of those reagents in gene editing experiments come from sometimes from goats, sometimes from cows, sometimes from bacteria use.
For example, to prepare the DNA. And at these off-target sites, that DNA, that's basically contamination of the reagents and of the process, can end up in the genome of the organism and incorporate the off-target cut site.
Jeffrey: So let me unwind this. Let me unpack this because this is actually a very, very important finding that you brought to my attention and we have discussed more - recently we've discussed it in a Facebook live.
So once the DNA is cut, the cell says, "Oh my God, my life is at stake. I need to repair it." Now does it feel like it needs to grab DNA from around there just to pack it in? I mean, because you were talking about grabbing DNA in the Petri dish, in the environment.
Is this something helpful for its survival? Like it just starts to stuff, DNA, anything it can grab on it stuffs it in there. And that's one of the ways that it patches up the wound so to speak.
Dr. Latham: Yeah. So you have 46 chromosomes. Okay? And you basically - if somebody comes into one of your cells and they cut one of those chromosomes to make a double-stranded cut in the DNA, they've cut your chromosome in half.
If you don't repair that cut, basically one arm of the zone will float away into the cell medium and will be lost forever. But that means that you particularly lost a large fragment of your genome. What happens to that normal human cell?
So what happens is, basically that cell commits suicide, right? It doesn't survive and the organism doesn't want it to survive because it's basically going to be a dysfunctional cell, from that point onward because they can't imagine what happens when it divides. Right?
When that cell tries to divide and it tries to separate the chromosomes into the two daughter cells, one of those daughter cells is not going to have enough DNA. So basically that means that its daughters - its offspring will be dysfunctional. So, the organism doesn't want that.
So at any point, if a double-stranded break is made in the DNA of a cell, the cell either has a choice of repairing itself - repairing that DNA with, basically a desperate attempt to repair that cut, and if it fails to repair that cut, it basically commits suicide.
Or will be killed by its neighbors and basically destroyed, right? So it's a life or death event, the double-stranded cut. So, what that means is that sometimes the cell will go to desperate measures to basically repair that cut.
So this is why you get all these interesting looking repairs of DNA cut by the CRISPR enzyme because essentially the cell has basically gone into a panic mode. So it will take DNA from wherever it can find it.
It will just assume that if it finds a stray piece of DNA floating around, that that is actually the piece of DNA that's missing from the site or that that is the rest of the chromosome that basically has been damaged.
It sounds like a simple thing and it's a very trivial thing to have a cut in DNA that's repaired. But actually it's the equivalent of putting a blockage on a superhighway or whatever. It's like a total crisis for the cell. So it totally has to repair that.
Jeffrey: Now this is interesting because this is one of the things that can go wrong, which we certainly want to acknowledge as absolute 100% proof that what we've been told about, in terms of the safety and predictability is false.
So what are some of the examples of things that have been stuffed in to the double stranded DNA that were not expected, that could have theoretically made problems for either the organism or others?
Dr. Latham: Yeah, so I mean, that's a great question because - this is a paper that was published last year in 2019. What these researchers has found is that when there were off-target cuts of the gene-editing system, the cell was incorporating DNA that it found in the culture medium.
This DNA in the culture medium included things like transpose on DNA. It included things like viral DNA. It included, you know, basically the kind of DNA that you don't want invading your cell. Because that cell, ultimately you imagine it's going to be part of a breeding program, right?
You gene edit one cell, but essentially that cell goes on to become a whole organism and that whole organism becomes part of your breeding program, becomes the central element of your breeding program. So if you imagine that that original cell was taking up DNA from cows, up from goats, or from bacteria, basically you're seeding a horizontal gene transfer event.
This doesn't happen in every single cell, but it happened in a reasonable proportion of those cells. Basically, until these Japanese researchers had spotted that essentially no one had noticed.
So you've got this really interesting situation in the world of gene editing where researchers keep coming up with new evidence of, you know, effects that are happening as a consequence of the gene-editing function that they’re using in the cell.
But guess what's interesting is - no one ever goes and sequences the whole genome of those organisms to see what the totality of all these effects are.
Jeffrey: Now, this is interesting because we saw this with the other standard traditional genetic engineering where, and I've reported on this in my book, Genetic Roulette, where companies would insert genes into other species like bacterial or viral genes into soybeans or corn, and they would expect that the full gene was inserted and it would produce the protein that they would expect.
But only after the genetically engineered crop was approved and consumed by millions, or hundreds of millions, of people, independent researchers actually sequenced either the DNA, or the RNA, or the protein. In many cases, it was completely different than that, which was expected.
Soybeans turned out to have six different ways that the RNA was produced. It's called alternate splicing. But it was chopped up and recombined and it could produce possibly different proteins that could be harmful.
There was one type of corn. The DNA that was inserted got truncated, it got split and pieces were gone and the protein that was produced was not at all what they intended but includes some of the amino acids that were coded by natural corn.
So it created essentially a protein that had never existed in nature that wasn't what the researchers intended. Then with the soybeans, they found whole sections of additional transgenes had been inserted without their knowledge and they never sequenced it. Then when you look at the protein, there are certain qualities of proteins that can cause allergic reactions.
You'd think that they would be desperate to sequence those proteins and see if it has any additional molecular attachments, which might cause dangerous anaphylactic shock. Then you find out they've never sequenced those proteins. At least they never told anyone that they did.
So you end up with a situation where it's all based on book knowledge. It's all based on theory. But when they actually get an independent evaluation, and it's very rarely by the company themselves, it turns out their assumptions are wrong and there are high risks.
Dr. Latham: Well, I think you're right to bring up this issue because you know the story is basically the same at this point with gene editing. So you have, on the one hand, people doing all of this gene editing. On the second hand, nobody's really interested in all the weird and unusual things that can happen at these gene-editing sites.
Are our assumptions correct about the specificity and precision? So part of this technology, pretty much no one is looking into that. So you've got people - there are a few people who have taken the trouble to actually verify that they have the precise change that they want and often find out that they didn't have the precise change that they want.
That's what we reported on earlier this week. The other end of this scenario, if you know who's looking at the off-target site. There are a small number of people looking at off-target sites and finding interesting things like the bacterial DNA that's being inserted or pieces of DNA from other parts of the genome.
But what's really interesting is that no one is sequencing the whole cell, right? No one. The only people who have sequenced the whole genome of a cell that's being gene-edited, they didn't compare it with the unedited cell.
So there's a paper on the hornless cows, that came out in the middle of last year, or the end of last year. They sequence actually the whole genome of one of their cows and - actually, they sequence a whole genome of two cows.
But they did a very interesting thing. They didn't compare those cows - those edited cows with the genome of the parent. Right? They specifically didn't do that comparison, which is a really interesting thing to do because what they did was they compared it with the genome of a cow that was basically a distant relative of those.
So you can't actually tell what genetic changes that they reported have anything to do with gene editing because that separates you by many generations in many countries. You know there's all these genetic differences between them.
But what's really interesting is that no one is doing the really obvious experiment, which is to edit a cell, to enter an organism and compare the genome sequence with the parent. Right? Because that would be the absolute totally obvious thing to do. And to my knowledge, no one has done that.
Jeffrey: That is incredible because you're right, it is so simple. It is so obvious. There's computer programs that gene editors use, correct me if I'm wrong, that predict the insertions, the deletions, maybe point mutations. And when they actually do some sequencing, they find out that the computer program that everyone uses as a basis for claiming safety is not actually accurate.
That the size of the changes are much bigger in some cases than the computer would predict, or different locations or more in number. And so the actual, collateral damage can be far more extensive than the computer programs are telling the engineers of what has theoretically happened.
So everyone's going around with their paper graded by the computer saying, "Look, we're fine, we're safe." But no one is actually looking at the genome. I do know that obviously there were some sequenced sections of the mouse DNA and of the, as you say, the hornless cattle.
We have several examples of the rarity, where there's actually a sequence of the gene-edited organism where they find retroviruses inserted, cow DNA, or goat DNA inserted into the mice. Bacterial antibiotic-resistant genes into the cows. Things that could theoretically cause havoc under certain circumstances.
Like the antibiotic-resistant genes could have theoretically promoted antibiotic-resistant diseases that could have killed people or caused amputations. So there are these problems.
Yet in the perfect case of this, hornless cattle, where because they hadn't sequenced it and the cows were born without horns because they knocked out the gene that produces the horns. They said it was a perfect, flawless gene edit and proves that no gene-edited animals need to have any sort of regulation.
Yet the FDA happened to be running an experimental sequencing and they ran it on the hornless cattle and said, "Oops guys, you completely blew it. You totally made a mistake. You're completely wrong.” They had nothing to do with a flawless gene edit. You might've been killed.
You know, they didn't say that he would have killed people. They just said, "Oh, there's these antibiotic-resistant genes that had been inserted and yet they still haven't done this simple study as far as, you know, where they compare the parent and the gene-edited offspring to see the extent of the collateral damage.
Perhaps it's because they don't want to know because it could blow the roof off of their lobbying campaigns saying that there's no difference and it's all something that happens in nature anyway.
Dr. Latham: Well, so some of these people have that information but they haven't published it. I'd be surprised if - they have the information right, we’re sure of that. But if it showed that there was no difference, you can bet your bottom dollar they will publish it. Right? So I don't believe that it does show there's no difference.
Jeffrey: Ah, very interesting.
Dr. Latham: Yeah. I think it is, but essentially they have. When I say they haven't done it, what I mean is published so that we can see it, but it's totally fascinating that tens of thousands of researchers around the world are using these gene-edited organisms in their experiments and none of them have bothered to publish a full sequence of the edited organism and compare it with the ancestors.
Jeffrey: How much does it cost to do something like that?
Dr. Latham: Oh, it's nothing. It's like $1,000 or something.
Jeffrey: All right, well maybe we should raise some money and do it ourselves. I don't want to create a genetically engineered mouse or a cow.
Dr. Latham: This is probably - you're going to have to have the exact material to do the proper comparison. So it's not that easy. But you know, this is a very comparable situation.
We published in 2006 - we published a review paper of what happens to the DNA of organisms that are genetically engineered. I don't know if you remember that paper.
Jeffrey: Oh, I remember it well. It was like my Bible for a couple of sections in the Genetic Roulette book. Your review paper was the best ever in the entire world for showing off-target mutations, deletions, additions that were entirely typical with the process of genetic engineering and never talked about by the pro-GMO advocates like Monsanto.
Dr. Latham: I mean, the main guy who was producing the data, when we published that review paper - Monsanto hired him and he never published another paper ever again.
Jeffrey: You know, that's like typical where Monsanto wants to shut up a researcher, they'll hire that researcher. Like they bought the company Biologics, which was looking at the Roundup's influence on honeybees. Until Monsanto bought Biologics. They tried to buy, they - well this is a long story. We won't go into that tangent. So, you know -
Dr. Latham: Just let me finish.
Jeffrey: Yes, please.
Dr. Latham: So the number one finding of that review paper was that, even though there were dozens and dozens of particle bombardment GMOs on the market created by particle bombardment. Even though there were thousands of examples of researchers using particle bombardment in research, no one had ever sequence from one end of a particle bombardment insertion site to the other one. Okay?
So, you had companies saying GMOs are really, really precise, and yet none of them had actually done the experiment to find out whether that was true or not.
Jeffrey: And just to be clear for those that don't know, when we talk about a gene gun, where you load millions of genes onto two little pieces of tungsten or gold, and you shoot that gun full of those little cartridges of DNA into a plate of millions of cells. That's particle bombardment.
It's their highly precise method of transferring genes between one species and another. And of course it causes massive collateral damage there. They're aware that where the insertion occurs, there's something called insertion mutation, but there's also other changes that could occur.
That's not just for the particle bombardment, but the process of genetic engineering typically involves tissue culture or cloning in advance and after the transformation process. That in itself creates hundreds or thousands of mutations. And that also is part of -
Dr. Latham: Sometimes 10,000. Yeah.
Jeffrey: So is this tissue culture. I understand that that is also sometimes part of the process that's used in gene editing, right?
Dr. Latham: Oh, the process is virtually identical, but they're still using particle bombardment to add the DNA to do the editing. This is something we can discuss if you want.
Jeffrey: This is amazing. So they're using gene guns to insert the scissors-
Dr. Latham: The quote-unquote “precise scissors”.
Jeffrey: Yeah. Or it's sort of carpet bombing to get your facial recognition people and your assassins in there. By the time they arrive, they've already done a lot of the damage.
Dr. Latham: Oh, I mean you basically, you probably have between 1,000 and 10,000 unintended mutations in plant cells, we're talking about plants for a second. You probably have between one and 10,000, or between 1,000 and 10,000 imprecise mutations in order to get one precise alteration.
Jeffrey: Yeah. And the thing is, when they check, and correct me if I'm wrong, they'll look for what the trait is. The trait may be, the typical traits are like herbicide tolerance, in the case of cows to not grow horns. Whatever.
They'll see if the trait manifests and then they'll grow out the organism to see if there's any obvious visual deficiencies. And if there's no visual changes, and it performs according to what they want. It passes the test rather than - because there's so many things that can -
Dr. Latham:. Yup.
Jeffrey: Yeah. It's - I mean it is so dangerous when you think of all the things that could be going wrong. You could be creating a greater susceptibility to a certain disease, whether a different interaction with different plants, a different reaction with different organisms. There are so many complex aspects of a biological species that could be changed.
Now we have the capacity to sequence the DNA, the RNA, the proteins, and all of the metabolites. The so called omics - proteomic, tableomic, they call these, we have the capacity to do that. And yet these companies that produce and claim safety don't generally use those now cutting edge tools to determine what they're actually doing to nature.
Dr. Latham: Yeah, that's basically right. I mean, some of the information they have squirreled away, you know, I think the GMO companies now sequence the whole genome, but they don't share it with anyone. So if you talk to them privately, they'll tell you about all kinds of interesting things that they discover but you won't get - they will never talk about that in public and they won't in a regulatory document.
Jeffrey: Well, so let's start. Just put a list together now. Now that we understand the sorry state of the so-called science and we have a sense of some of the risks - the risks we talked about already.
So let's just start the categorization. The facial recognition software that's built into the RNA could get things wrong because there's a lot of genes that have two ears, two eyes and a nose and they're going to attach to it and they're going to cause some off-target effects.
Another piece is that once the cut is made, then there could be a variety of ways that the repair mechanism gets things wrong. It can stuff in the wrong DNA. It can cause larger mutations than were anticipated. Pretty significant changes. And if there's any categories within that that you want to share, please do. Then you have - go ahead.
Dr. Latham: Yup. Yeah. No, there's nothing particular. I mean, yeah, they're on target repairs good and bad, and they're off-target repairs good and bad.
Jeffrey: Okay. So then you also have, in order to deploy your troops, you end up using ballistics particle bombardment. Carpet bombing, so to speak, where you send in all of these pieces of tungsten or gold coated with your genetic cassette.
The process of that can cause damage and can cause damage throughout the DNA as you've pointed out in your review paper. And then you have the process of tissue culture which causes mutations. They even named it somaclonal variation or mutations.
As a result of that process, you have additional changes that are not normal or natural and found in - we're talking plants, for example - not found in normal plant production or sexual reproduction. Is there anything that we're - Oh, here's another one!
This is a standard aspect of genetic engineering that is rarely talked about. That is when you make a change and you get exactly what you want. Imagine in a perfect world, you get exactly what you want to over produce something or under produced something. That in itself may create side effects that you don't know about because if you over produce something or under produced something, the same organism may react to the changes and over or under produce other things which may be toxic or allergenic or anti nutrient or weaken the organism.
Am I targeting correctly here?
Dr. Latham: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, in a biochemical sense, for example, as a classic example of that is, if you want to produce, for example, the vitamin a in golden rice, okay. When they add the genes that code for the proteins that synthesize vitamin a, they have to synthesize it from a precursor.
Right? They don't come by magic from out of thin air, they have to - the proteins that are the enzymes that make vitamin a in this case have to start with the precursor molecule. And that precursor molecule basically is in the pathway that would have been going to create something else, right?
So you're diverting from one pathway to another. You're robbing Peter to pay Paul, right? So that you pay Paul and you generate your vitamin a but at the same time, whatever it was, whatever Peter needed is no longer that, right? Or is there in lesser concentrations. So you have these kinds of ramifying effects on the organism from every change that you’re ever going to make.
Jeffrey: And David Schubert talks about golden rice and the production of beta carotene in the rice and says that the particular sequence in particular pathways, the retinoic acid pathway and that if it's disturbed, it's known to create birth defects.
So he believed that when you are trying to actually change compounds that are bioactive along with these biochemical pathways, that have such powerful influence in the body, it can be far worse than creating herbicide tolerant Roundup-ready crops. You could actually create a generation of birth defects by giving people something that's supposed to just increase their nutrient value.
Dr. Latham: Yeah, I mean I'm not an expert on that concern. But if he makes that claim then I'm not going to disagree with him.
Dr. Latham: What he's talking about is I believe is the breakdown, right? So, think about it. What I just outlined to you is the production, right? In order to make pro vitamin a, you have to take a compound that is a precursor and you turn it into another, and then into another, and then into another, and that is probably vitamin a, right?
So you've done all these trends, what I kind of called transformation. But then that substance is going to be broken down in the cell, in the grain or whatever tissue part you're talking about. And I believe he's talking about the breakdown - the breakdown produces unanticipated and interesting compounds that either can have effects on the system, or could have effects on the plants itself. Right. So you've got, you know, it's like, what I always talk to people about is how these are self-organizing but very complex systems.
It's like trying to alter a part of the economy or alter a part of the internet. You know, if you add new service somewhere or you add more capacity in someplace, or you take capacity away from somewhere else, it has all kinds of effects all over the economy. Right?
The same thing is true with the cellular economy. You're going to make all these changes and then each change is, in turn, going to lead to other changes. So you can't , at the end of the day, predict what is going to happen to those cells, to those organisms when you make your primary change.
Jeffrey: There are two or three related aspects in terms of generic problems that could go wrong with gene editing. I was corresponding with my friend Dr. Bruce Lipton, and he points out that it is rare or very, very rare for a gene to create just one protein. There's a process that alternate splicing where it can create up to thousands of proteins.
So if you put a gene in, if you put a new gene in or change the genetic function, of a gene, a function, or you change a regulatory gene, which means many things can be changed, then you may be doing it in order to create a single protein change, but you may change a thousand proteins produced from that same gene and which have not been evaluated after you've created that GMO. So you may have been flooding the system with a large variety of proteins.
We talked about this earlier where Monsanto's genetically engineered soy, maybe producing several versions of the protein because of this mechanism to take and re splice and reconnect the RNA before it starts producing. So you get many different versions of many different types of proteins from a single gene.
Then on top of that, when you create all these different proteins, some of those proteins will have molecular attachments, which will make them allergenic or toxic. So those are the generic problems when you start manipulating whether you're using a gene gun or gene editing and they still exist in gene editing. Am I right?
Dr. Latham: Oh yeah. I mean, what you see when people do overall genetic analysis, which sometimes they do - overall protein analysis, or biochemical analysis, on organisms where you know, you take the parent, you grind up the parent and you put it through your machine and you look to see what compounds are there and at what concentration.
Then you do the same thing with a genetically engineered progeny. Often what you find is hundreds of compounds a change in concentration, some new spots appear or some new samples appear and, but you know, seeing as we've now talked through all that, right?
Now it becomes clear why the progeny looks very little like the parent that you are comparing it to. So the presumption of the genetic engineer is that you've changed one thing and one thing only.
And then when they do the experiment, they find that hundreds of compounds have changed in concentration and the expression patterns and so on and so forth. People look at these and they, you know, you see researchers publishing this kind of data sometimes and the techs are kind of like in denial. It's really interesting.
So they'll look at it and they'll say, "Well, probably it doesn't make any difference. It’s probably some kind of artifact to the system," or maybe you know, like they'll come out with all these kinds of excuses about why it is that all these compounds that they supposedly measured so incredibly accurately are different in the parent and the offspring.
No one actually has published a paper with an honest assessment of the possibility that these are probably - you've caused malfunctions all over the genome and all over the organism.
Jeffrey: Well, maybe not from gene editing, but obviously there was the paper where they looked at Roundup-ready corn and they did a look at the proteomics and metabolomics.
In other words, all the proteins produced in the corn and all the metabolites. They found over 200, I think this was Antonio. Michael Antonio was one of the authors. Certainly, he commented on it and they found over 200 changes.
If you combine the proteins and the metabolites that were different between the Roundup-ready corn and it's parent and two of them, which I love to report on were an increase in cadaverine and putrescine, which are responsible for the foul odor of rotting dead bodies and are also linked to cancer and allergies and bad breath.
That's an example where it was pretty clear because they used the same variety of core and the only difference was, one was genetically engineered and one was not. Now one of the tricks of the biotech industry, you see, it's not like they don't know this. And you know what I'm saying.
It's not like they don't know this, they will make the parent strain or the parent line unavailable. They will not allow researchers to do a side by side comparison of the original natural variety of corn or soy compared to the GMO variety. They'll take that parent line offline, take it off the market and not make it available to researchers because they don't want people to know.
They'll also design their own research to obscure and hide those effects. I've reported on this many times. How a Monsanto has bad science down to a science. And we can go into that, but perhaps another time.
So have we characterized, Jonathan - have we characterized the different categories of things that can go wrong? The off-target and on-target problems and that can occur with the repair mechanism. The biolistics, the tissue culture, the drawing energy away from things in production or breakdown. The added extra molecules, the new types of proteins that can be created. Is this the exhaustive list that we know about or are we missing something?
Dr. Latham: I don't think it’s exhaustive. I mean, think about this biolistics that applies to plants, right? Because what you're doing with plants is gene editing. You have to get the gene-editing machinery into the cell in order to do the editing.
So imagine trying to do that with an animal cell is relatively easy because they just have a membrane on the outside of them. Trying to do that with the plants cell, it's more difficult because it has a hard case, right?
The cell wall and if you punch through the cell wall, normally what happens is, you know, with a needle- the way you try to get this machinery into the animal cell is you use a needle, but then you push in the protein and you push in the RNA and then they assembled together inside the cell.
If you tried to do that with a plant cell, the cell would basically burst and would die and you wouldn't get a result. So, this is why they're using the biolistic, but when they do the biolistic, they're not inserting a protein and an RNA. They're inserting the DNA that codes for the editing machinery, right?
So you’re basically bombarding the cell with DNA that’s basically the code for the protein and code for the RNA and that they’re kind of independent of each other. But what happens then to that DNA is that that's been floating around in the cell. That's going to be edited.
So often what happens is the DNA that codes for the editing machinery ends up being inserted in the genome of the edited cell. Does that make sense?
Jeffrey: Yes. Well, it has to be inserted into the genome of the edited cell in order to produce the RNA and the protein.
Dr. Latham: Not necessarily, but it is generally, I think it works better. Essentially what happens, is it the system functions better if it does become inserted, okay. So the difference between then animal editing and plant editing is that when people do animal editing, they're inserting into the cell a protein and an RNA. They're not inserting intentionally at least any DNA. You know, we discovered that inadvertently they are inserting DNA, but that's a different issue.
In the case of plant editing, they absolutely are bombarding the cell with DNA, right? So that is the process of making a GMO is particle bombardment with DNA from a foreign species. So, essentially when you do plant gene editing, you're basically doing the same thing as genetic engineering.
But there's no practical difference between the two. The only practical difference between them is in principal. You can separate the trait, the DNA that's responsible for the trait you want from the DNA that's responsible, that happened at the insertion where the editing machinery wound up.
Jeffrey: So what I'm thinking is since we're just putting this together, based on what we said earlier, that you're trying to create, you're trying to produce a facial recognition software and an assassin and you can put them in through a needle and they'll do their job in animals, but you actually have to create them from scratch in plants.
So you put in DNA and the DNA, it's like the old Star Trek when Picard says Earl Gray hot, you know, the DNA will produce the facial recognition software, the RNA, plus the assassin, the protein, they'll find each other, they'll hook up and they've got their programs and they then - you know, in the old Mission Impossible. They'll get their job if they decide to accept it and then they'll go around and hunt down and kill or, you know, try and attack an aspect of the DNA.
Now when it cuts the DNA, then the cellular repair mechanism will grab DNA from around it and stuff it in. Now, what's hanging around it? Some of the DNA that came in from the biolistics, some of the DNA that's designed to produce these enzymes. Some of the DNA that is designed to produce these proteins.
So it may grab and put in more of these DNA pieces, which will produce even more perhaps of this facial recognition software and protein assassins. So then it will be producing more in there than they necessarily need. So multiple copies of the DNA may end up in the gene-edited DNA genome. Is this true?
Dr. Latham: Yeah.
Jeffrey: So we just put this together logically from what we already talked about. It'll grab DNA from the environment, stuff it in there, like covering a wound. What’s it stuffing in? More mechanisms to create yet more assassins.
Now what happens if there's a lot being produced more than they thought? Is that a problem in itself? Is it going to drive more energy to something?
Dr Latham: I mean, basically, if you think about an example of an edited animal cell. Edited animal cells are produced by the researcher. Putting, you know, pressing with a needle into the cell and putting maybe 10 copies of the protein and 10 copies of the RNA into that cell. And then they basically give a defined dose to that cell so they can limit to some degree the activity, which means that they can limit to some degree the off-target effects.
If you do the same thing in a plant, you're basically shooting in the particle which has DNA on it and that particle is entering the cells. The reason why the particle encourages DNA to become incorporated into the genome is that as it enters the cell, as it enters the nucleus. It basically damages it cause one of the chromosomes or a bunch of the chromosomes, it crates DNA damage that is then repaired and is repaired with the DNA that's carried by the particle.
Dr. Latham: And that DNA can come from all over, by the way. So it can come from, you know, other cells that that particle passed through on the way into that particular cell.
I'm not sure I said it right. But basically, you're going to imagine the physical path of that metal particle as it goes through the tissue and finally ends up in a nucleus. So, on the one hand, you've got, it's collected DNA and probably shed DNA along the way so it can pass through another nucleus. It can pass through chloroplasts that also have DNA in them.
It could even pass through a bacteria potentially if that had DNA on it, there are all kinds of places it can collect DNA from. It lines up in the nucleus and then the DNA that was put on by the researcher, plus the DNA that has been added in the process. All of that can end up in the final genome. But that means that you have a very uncontrolled experiment going on that because you've got all these copies of the DNA that codes for the gene-editing apparatus and that all ends up in the cell.
Then in the two or three months that between being taken up by the cell and you deciding that that cell is ready to be bred from and used. Thinking about it, it's probably more like a year, essentially those genes, however many copies became incorporated into the genome are active all the time. Basically producing proteins quite likely all the time because you think the RNA, the targeting RNA all the time. So editing a repair, failed editing, is going on all the time. So you have no control dose right in those plant cells.
Jeffrey: That means that the amount that - if you were to do a sequence of the genome right after your protein, your particle bombardment and then you waited a year and said, "Oh yeah, this works,” because the sequence fit and then you use that genome. It might be very different at the end of the year because you'll have so much active facial recognition and assassination activity.
But it could be just slicing and dicing and slicing and dicing and slicing and dicing. And slicing and dicing going on continuously for a year and the amount of collateral damage could be exhausting. And then my question is, let's say you choose to breed that?
Dr. Latham: That's the whole point of it is that you breed from that cell.
Jeffrey: So then when you breed from that cell, the offspring, would they have then the mechanism of the facial recognition software for the RNA and the protein assassin so that their genetic integrity can become at risk or loosened up or mutated because they're now carrying an assassin as well?
Dr. Latham: So, the principal offered by the companies is that they will separate the two, right? That basically, when they first start to breed from that line, say we're talking about soybeans and somewhere in the genome there's been inserted, one or more copies of the gene-editing apparatus and somewhere else in the genome is the actual edited site.
They want to alter a fatty acid concentration or whatever it is. So basically the bit that they want is in one part of the genome and the part that they don’t want is in another part of the genome. What they're saying is, “Well, as soon as we thought breathing, we'll just separate these out.”
You know, this, instead of breathing procedure, we want this part, we don't want that part. So we will just select for the bit we want and we'll throw away the ones we don't.
But in the meantime, you know, for an entire generation and all the time is spent in tissue culture, the two have coexisted in the same cell. So that's when I'm saying the damage happened, but they in principle offered to separate the two. But whether they do separate the two is a huge question, right?
Because if they’re breeding, for example, soybeans, it's quite easy. There's only two, you know, two genomes basically in a soybean.These breeding, each state of the breeding process takes a few months to generate the soybean plant to collect the pollen or the seeds, see which ones have got the bit you want and see which ones have the bit that you don't want, and separate the two.
Then at a fairly early stage, you can separate the good from the bad as it were. Imagine that you are breeding a papaya, or a potato, or wheat, you know, some kind of a tree, like a Poplar or something like that.
Many, many species breeding is not that simple. You know, potatoes have multiple copies of the genome, and so breeding from potatoes is really quite difficult. So you can't just select the one you want and discard the ones you don't want because there are all kinds of recombination events that are happening in the process.
So when people talk about gene editing, they often talk about, "Oh, we'll be able to do this gene editing in species where normal breeding is difficult, right?"
But it’s exactly those species where normal breeding is difficult, that you're going to have the problem with off-target effects from gene editing because you can't separate the good from the bad. Even if you do separate the good from the bad, it's not even clear that you've done it, right?
So you've got to do your genome sequencing, you got to do this huge amount of due diligence, which is not, you know, it's not something that in my experience, companies are very good at. Right?
So you've got this whole kind of can of worms that you've opened up by shooting DNA that contains the gene-editing apparatus into the plant as opposed to doing what you do in animals, which is putting in RNA, and putting in protein, which, you know, you put in 10 copies of the RNA, 10 copies of the protein and within a few hours or days or weeks, those are basically degraded and disappeared.
Jeffrey: So, just to be clear, to make it - to nail down if people got lost in the last bit and it was clear to me, but I just want to make sure, because there's a lot of science in here.
Just to be clear, you put in the DNA which creates the facial recognition software, creates the protein assassin and they go to work. But then a year later, before you even used it, they're continuing to produce these and they may be slicing and dicing and causing all these mutations.
Then when they choose, okay, they're choosing that particular cell line and now they're going to make it into a whole breeding program. And if they are unable to take out that DNA, then that means that all of the offspring that you've created through this genetic engineering breeding program, will also have the facial recognition RNA software and the protein assassin.
And that means that they will be slicing and dicing and changing. So that means that the genetic profile or the safety profile of the different offspring could be different than the parents. You're not doing safety testing that's adequate even with the parents.
But in this case, you're doing no safety testing with the offspring or the offspring of the offspring. And you're putting in there something which is volatile, which can cut the DNA in various places. It might have changed or it might have degraded in some ways.
So where it cuts it, it might be different. It might be reduced from 20 nucleotides long to a lower amount, in which case the cut can happen more often because it will have a greater number of matches. You might end up where the food product that you're eating may be completely different than any food product that has existed in nature, ever even different than its parent and its sister plant.
Because inside it, there is an assassin that's being directed to cut and cut and cut on a continuous basis. And every time it cuts, it can create unknown changes to the DNA, which could potentially create allergens or toxins or carcinogens or anti-nutrients or who knows what. Is this correct?
Dr. Latham: Yeah, I mean that's basically right. I mean the offspring can end up being different from each other as you say, because, you know, think about if you're doing it with a tree. Like a tree. The tree doesn't reproduce until it's five or 10 years old. So, your first chance to separate those, you know, to collect pollen or to take seeds - is a long way down the road and a lot of cutting is happening in different cells, because it's happening in every cell, right?
You start off with a tree, with a baby tree, and in every cell there's cutting going on or potentially so. And so if each cell is producing the RNA itself, cells producing the cutting protein. So, different offspring can end up giving different results. That's exactly right.
Jeffrey: Amazing. Well, I think we sufficiently exposed the myth here. Are we missing anything, Jonathan? That's obvious. Obviously, because this is a biological system, there's always ways that we could be missing. And we're just about biological systems on their own and haven't discussed the possibility of transferring genes between species accidentally through cuts and fungus.
They could possibly pick up a gene from one place and transfer it to another or bacterial sex where genes from one type of bacteria that can be transferred to another. We haven't talked about inter-species problems which create another level of complexity but within the same organism.
Are we missing anything that's blatant and obvious or should we just let it go there and let people ponder what we've just discussed?
Dr. Latham: They may have heard enough. You know, I think, I think we probably have covered all the bases. The one little extra bit that I would add. I mean, I do think that the horizontal gene transfer and the movement of DNA between species becomes more interesting and problematic when we talk about gene editing and gene drives and things like that, but probably that’s a topic for another day.
Jeffrey: Let's definitely talk about gene drives because we haven't created enough panic. So first of all, the good news is, and I always like to end with good news, because it's obvious that we're playing with fire here and that one of the issues that we are dealing with is the fact that the gene pool self propagates. Unlike a chemical spill, which will dissipate over time, even if it's takes generations through its breakdown products, you don't end up having that luxury with a contaminated gene pool that passes on the problems from generation to generation, which as we just discussed, can get worse.
So what we have here is an opportunity to arm the choir. If people have listened this long, they're part of the choir and they may think, "Oh well the people who need to hear this aren't listening."
No, we need to arm the choir with information, with knowledge and we will try. We'll do some fundraising perhaps and turn this entire conversation into a short animation, perhaps, that can show the problems that - or put it into some fact sheets so it can be more easily passed down and having more than an hour-long conversation.
But what we have demonstrated, Jonathan is that it is completely obvious that when you look at the real science, then you realize that those who are advocating gene editing is a safe and predictable technology are lying or uninformed. They’re either the liars or the lied to.
So we need to equip more and more people to know this and to challenge and to inform others. And it should be part of the curriculum. It should be built into political decision-making mechanisms. It should be built into institutional review board policy to whether they approve particular studies or not.
It needs to be absolutely around the world because gene editing is so cheap. You could buy a do it yourself kit on Amazon for $161, or $159 when it was on sale, and you could be part of this process of contaminating the gene pool forever. Or you could be part of the educational force that we can help us lock it down.
Dr. Latham: So, I totally agree. This is a super important issue for everybody to try to understand. And we do have articles on our website, the Independent Science News website that I think do a pretty decent job of trying to dissect a lot of these issues so hopefully people can visit that and kind of triangulate what I said today with, you know, Jeffrey's thoughts cause Jeffrey's very helpful in this too.
Jeffrey: Thank you. And so Independent Science News, go to their website, check out the amazing articles, subscribe to Independent Science News so then you can stay up to date with the beautiful things that Jonathan writes.
You’ll find a lot of the information about gene editing at protectnaturenow.com which was being created by the Institute For Responsible Technology in conjunction with some other groups.
Of course, you can subscribe to the Institute for Responsible Technology's newsletter and we'll keep you informed about what's going on. Thank you so much Jonathan, for taking the time to go into these details.
I think what you've done is you've broken this dismissive mystery around gene editing and made it really clear that it is a kind of a slapshot kind of situation in its current incarnation. There may be plenty of applications in the laboratory for research and manipulation, but releasing it outdoors or in the food supply, at least we can say not yet. Maybe never, but not yet. That's my opinion, how about you?
Dr. Latham: I'm gonna say - put my neck out a little bit and say we will never be ready for this.
Jeffrey: Okay. I'm fine with that too. I just know that there's nothing going to happen in the near term because we are babies in the woods. Every time I sit and talk with you or other scientists, I learned a thousand more things that we don't know than that we do know. And every time we learn more, we realize how little we know.
So I think we're playing with fire here because it's potentially permanent in the gene pool. Thank you so much, Jonathan, and I hope that a lot of people will subscribe to your newsletter and follow you.
Dr. Latham: Well, thanks for your work, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: All right, thanks.
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