My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Wheat Genome Cracked - Nature Valley vs the Island of Dr. Moreau

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wheat Genome Cracked - Nature Valley vs the Island of Dr. Moreau

Health is not a condition of matter, but of mind
Nor can the material senses bear reliable testimony on the subject of health

Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sheila Campbell-Forrester in 2009 could have pushed me over with a feather when she dropped this statistical bomb on the audience at the Pegasus Hotel in August of 2009 when she intoned this clear hilling words: “The total economic burden (of lifestyle diseases) is in the region of $1.6 billion for diabetes and from hypertension $1.2 billion”.

The reporter who captured her words for all posterity in the article “Fat Jamaica worries health officials” published Friday August 28, 2009, Sophia Hanniford-Bartley and Gareth Manning, The Jamaica Gleaner would not know that months later, scientists would crack the genome for Wheat.

This news in the science realm had John Public putting on his Biotechnology hat again. Wheat, possessing one of the longest genomes due to its many varied varieties, has been 90% reliably decoded by Dr. Doug Kell of the University of Liverpool, lead researcher of the team that cracked the Wheat’s genetic code and head of Britain's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

This is the UK Government equivalent of NASA (National Aeronautical Space Administration) as stated in the article “Scientists: We've cracked Wheat's genetic code”, published Friday August 27, 12:13 pm ET, by RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer, Yahoo! News and confirmed in the article “Scientists publish key Wheat genome”, published Friday August 27, 3:16 am ET, PARIS (AFP), Yahoo! News.

Dr. Doug Kell knows the importance of this discovery. He said as much himself when he spoke, saying: “Recent short-term price spikes in the Wheat markets have shown how vulnerable our food system is to shocks and potential shortages”. The question of Natural [Organic] versus Artificial [Genetically Modified] rears itself again like a possible GOP takeover of the now Democrat controlled Senate of the United States of America, coiled for the strike.

For those who came late, I love lifting quotes from articles, as in most cases, as I am not the one in the middle of their muddle; they and only they alone can best express what is on their minds and how it makes them feel.

Truly, this news even has me so back into my Biotechnology notes that I have even ignored the barnyard discord over the Apple iPad’s latest version of St. George coming to slay it to save us consumers, despite statistics from the ever reliable analyst iSuppli speaking of a lack of real competition – read competition – until the year 2012 as stated in the article “No iPad Killer Coming Until 2012, Says iSuppli”, published Thursday August 26, 1:59 pm ET, Barbara E. Hernandez , Yahoo! News.

This is despite the Apple iPad’s supposed “technical deficiencies” such as a lack of FLASH and no front facing camera, the common complaints now buzzards over my funeral pyre for ever having given Apple such a great runaway train. Apple’s anti-commentators and those in Silicon Valley who are part of the posse being led by CEO Steve Ballmer of Microsoft have a lot of catching up to do.  

Akin to Telecom Provider Digicel and their spanking new WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) Network christened Digicel Broadband 4G, they have been caught napping, procrastinating while another silently, stealthily came and took their place.

In the case of Telecom Provider Digicel it was Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Network Dekal Wireless and Nubian-1- Tech Services Limited (formerly ANKHS Limited), with countless other Gorillas in the Mist to come. In the case of the Silicon Valley computer manufacturers, it was the coming of the White Unicorn, the Apple iPad and its partner in crime, the Black Panther aka the Amazon Kindle.

Apparently Silicon Valley thinks that we are Luddites. Samsung thinks that the consumer does not know a good tablet when we see one as apparently is the opinion of the author in this article entitled “Samsung Galaxy Tab: An android, contender”, published September 3, 2010 10:32 AM PDT by Stephen Shankland, CNET News - Deep Tech.

And as per prediction, the Samsung Galaxy Tablet is being bogged down by carrier contracts as stated in the article “Success of Samsung Galaxy Tab Doomed by Carrier Contracts”, published by Monday September 6, 9:16 am ET by Tony Bradley, Yahoo! News as copying the same strategy on the tablet as the Samsung Galaxy S series of successfully selling smart phones.

Samsung is now at a million (1,000,000) sold as stated in the article “Samsung Ships 1 Million Galaxy S smart phones in the U.S.”, published Monday August 30, 2:32 am ET, by Stan Schroeder, Yahoo! News was not the best way to fight the contract-less free floating and based on this article, ironically cheaper Apple iPad. Go CEO Steve Jobs!!!!

But back to the case before me as John Public: Organic vs GM. This genome effort is definitely the show stopper as far as I am concerned, the rest of the science news being relegated to being a zeigfest for gadget geeks.

Just like the recent discovery of the oil eating bacteria of the Oceanospirillales family, millions of years old like those dormant piranha in the Summer flick Piranha 3D, Marine Biology people from the University of the West Indies and bloggers like myself still regards this as front page news as stated in the article “New microbe discovered eating Oil spill in Gulf”, published Wednesday August 25, 10:32 am ET, By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer, Yahoo! News.

That bacteria exist that naturally eat oil – emphasis on naturally – and predicted by yours truly some months aback to set of brain-dead Shurpower Engineers in 2009 and on my blog in the article entitled “Obama and the Oilspill - Bacteria and Algae party till the fish come home” is enough for me to recommend that the team that Dr. Terry Hazen research team, Energy Biosciences Institute, a mash up of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois that is funded by a US$500 million grant over a ten (10) year stretch by the usual suspects, the Government of the United States of America and BP get no less than a Nobel Prize  in Biochemistry.

The Oceanospirillales cousins, according to Dr. Terry Hazen consumed the Oil without sufficiently depleting the oxygen levels of the surrounding waters, with oxygen levels being at 59%, whereas outside of the plume, whose existence was confirmed as stated in the article “Major Study charts long-lasting Oil plume in Gulf”, published Friday August 20, 2:18 am ET By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer, Yahoo! News it was 67%.

Make no bones about it, but BP is obviously busy in their secretly funded University Labs pushing money into the research students hands to have the genome mapping for these little recently discovered tax delinquents who save Senator Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, a proverbial trip to the political woodshed, expedited so that they [USA and BP] can get their money back from their little “experiment’.

Albeit this is just pure speculation, it would not be surprising, as the recent success with Wheat and prior successes earlier in the year in making artificial cells from scratch genome sequences as stated in the article “Artificial life? Synthetic genes 'boot up' cell”, published Thursday May 20, 7:26 pm ET By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, WASHINGTON (Reuters), Yahoo! News makes this not only plausible but within the real of possibility.

The global potential of Wheat, however, is huge; this a sentiment best expressed by Dr. Doug Kell himself: “Recent short-term price spikes in the Wheat markets have shown how vulnerable our food system is to shocks and potential shortages”. The world becomes Dr. Doug Kell’s oyster as genetically engineered Wheat could significantly reduce the usage of pesticides and fertilizers, and results in plants that mature much faster, thus reducing not only the usage of water but also the turnaround time from planting to reaping.

With further research, incentives and subsidies to make the inputs into farming artificially cheaper in order to compete with developing world farming powerhouses like the People’s Republic of China would prove unnecessary, ushering in a means of defeating world hunger once and for all by basically allowing for mass production of crops without need for such incentives and subsidies.

This brings me back to Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sheila Campbell-Forrester in 2009 and her well placed nuclear bomb of a report back in August 2009 at the Pegasus Hotel. The report stated statistics (an article of great interest to read!) that indicates that the consumption of very little fruits and vegetables and too much fatty and salty foods and not enough exercise by Jamaicans in a sample study group of 10-15 year olds and 15-19 year olds was contributing to the increased levels of obesity and hence non-communicable diseases related to obesity, such as hypertension and diabetes are responsible for 60% of deaths island wide.

But is there something the Government of Jamaica can do about it? Amusingly there is, and the idea has an unlikely connection to Mr. Rudyard Spencer, Minister of Health and Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture: Taxing High Fat and Sugary Junk Foods, effectively an Unhealthy Lifestyle Tax and encourage Jamaican to eat that which is locally, naturally grown.

We also the Jamaican Sprint Factory of the world, with Usain Bolt, Melanie Walker, Asafa Powell and Germaine Gonzales, who finally has stopped eating American food and thus is detoxified, are poster athletes of Peel’ing Great advertising campaign.

A crib on the VAS (Value Added Services) and farm produce exporters Ja Producers campaign to get Jamaicans locally to eat more bananas, a curious little company, being the ONLY Private Sector company in Jamaica that recorded a doubling of profit for the Second Quarter of 2010 as stated in the article “Ja Producers' net profit more than doubles in Jun Q”, published Wednesday, August 18, 2010 by The Jamaica Observer.

Organic is a niche market that ONLY Jamaica in the Caribbean can supply, once the investment capital is in place and Government of Jamaica support is forthcoming. From natural, unprocessed food, such as Jamaican sugar cane molasses, Jamaican coconut Oil, long demonized by the Americans as being unhealthy, Jamaican eggs that are not prone to salmonella poisoning (is that really possible, by the way?) as stated in the article “380 million eggs recalled over possible salmonella tainting”, published Wednesday August 18 2010 By Caitlin Hagan, CNN.

All of which by the way the fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt eats, Jamaica has a production advantage and an export product advantage, yet we still worship at the altar of Fast Food temples such as KFC, Burger King, Juici Beef Patties, Mothers, Island Grill, Tastee, Mcdonald’s just to name a few.

Thus the following study will come as a surprise bolster to my argument on naturally produced food. According to the article, “Junk food tax could help fight obesity”, published Sunday 28th February 2010, The Sunday Herald, Washington, Associated Foreign Press, the United States of America has a similar problem, with around a third of twenty (20) year old adults and nearly one in five (1 in 5) US kids in the age group six (6) to nineteen (19) being obese according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

A study recently published in the Psychology Science periodical conducted at the University of Buffalo in New York by lead researcher Dr. Leonard Epstein, a psychologist (why it couldn’t be a sociologist?) attempted to demonstrate this concept.

His team of researchers set up a controlled experiment in which forty-two (42) test shoppers were given US$22 to purchase food, ranging from bananas to colas and cookies represented by images in isles.

They then varied the prices of the foods in a manner to allow the test shopper to see if their choices of food purchases would change, price variance being implemented along the lines of junk food versus health food, the junk foods being defined as “high-calorie, low nutrient foods” and health foods being defined as food that “deliver more nutrients for fewer calories”.

The results returned from this social experiment (hence why I ask, where is the sociologist in this research study?) had even me amazed! Initially, all the prices were set at the same pricing level as in a local supermarket, to create a statistical baseline for comparison, effectively a control in the experiment, as with similar prices the test shoppers would have similar purchasing habits as in a regular local supermarket.

Then the prices were varied a follows: hiking the prices on junk foods and lowering (subsidizing) the prices on health foods, the price moved in such a manner as to encourage more purchase of the other food upon which no price increase or “sin tax”, as it is referred to, is placed.

It turns out that subsidizing the price of health food, and thus making junk food look more expensive did not result in an increase in the purchase of health foods, as the shoppers opted to purchase the junk food, irregardless.

However, it turns out that adding additional price increases on junk foods resulted in a cutback in the buying habits of the test shoppers, with a 10% tax resulting in a 14.4% less junk food being purchased overall, or as the researchers stated “that meant their week’s shopping contained 6.5% fewer calories”.

A similar study can be done here by the Government of Jamaica by Senator Rudyard Spencer, Minister of Health & Environment in collaboration with the University of the West Indies to ascertain if the same is reflected in our society.

If the results are replicable, then the Senator Rudyard Spencer, Ministry of Health & Environment and Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture can jointly recommend to Senator Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance that the unhealthy lifestyle of Jamaicans can be used as a source of inelastic taxable revenue, called an Unhealthy Lifestyle Tax as the taxes on junk foods or “high-calorie, low nutrient foods” e.g. KFC, Burger King, Juici Beef Patties, Mothers, Island Grill, Tastee, etc. are not only a means of increasing the taxable revenues of the Government of Jamaica.

It would also be a means of aiding the Faith-based evangelism of healthy lifestyles being promoted by Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sheila Campbell-Forrester, as according to her “the total economic burden (of lifestyle diseases) is in the region of $1.6 billion for diabetes and from hypertension $1.2 billion”, an indicating that the decision to tax junk food would not only reduce this cost to the Ministry of Health (and by extension the Jamaican Economy)

Akin to traffic vehicle fines issued under the Road and Traffic Act, Unhealthy Lifestyle Tax works to dissuade people from this practice and encourage them to eat more healthy food and thus reduce the levels of obesity in our young people aged 10-15 year olds and 15-19 years and the associated risk factors for hypertension and diabetes and it contribution to deaths in the Jamaican Society, the ultimate goal achieved by this recommended novel form of taxation, an Unhealthy Lifestyle Tax!

The United States of America could do no wrong by emulating Jamaica in this regard, if such a tax were to be imposed, to the benefit of the people, encouraging them to chose Natural [Organic] over artificial [GM]. Despite Wheat being now modifiable, the trade-off in ending world hunger may be what will push its adoption, despite the GM label, with Spring Plains being a potential test bed for Genetically Modified Wheat. The case involving plaintiffs Organic vs GM remains open……….

Here’s to healthy eating, the natural way! And a bit of a suggestion to Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture: Lionfish preparation should be incentivized so as to encourage restaurants to add it to their menu, for after all, it is towards a good cause of saving our Fishing Industry from this deadly predator.

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