Beware of man-made monsters created in laboratory

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Genetic modification has been a horror in literature and the media for a generation; from Wyndham’s Triffids to Knight’s Zombies, Herbert’s Rats to Boulle’s Gorrillas. Yet grey ooze has failed to devour the countryside, and GM corn can actually be quite tasty. Does that mean our fears are groundless?


In 2001 the New Scientist reported that researchers had isolated a gene for regenerating damaged organs from the DNA of a South American flatworm – Planarian schmidtea mediterranea.

Like other planarians, Schmidtea mediterranea exhibits an extraordinary ability to regenerate lost body parts. For example, a planarian split lengthwise or crosswise will regenerate into two separate individuals.

Isolating genes has become routine, but results remain sensitive due to the potential for commercial exploitation and success could yield extreme rewards.

A gene for regeneration is a case in point. If ageing could be stopped or even reversed, and diseased or damaged organs regrown, life could be extended well beyond a natural span. No longer would you expect to retire and wait for death. You might remain fulfilled and active for ever, your worn out parts simply regrown and replaced.

At an office somewhere around about now, a lead scientist is telling the board how to turn a Genetic Modification for regeneration into a product that can be injected directly into the bloodstream by recombining human DNA with that of the planarian.

“The key to the entire treatment is the flatworm. In 1999 a project at Utah University discovered that silencing the flatworm’s smedwi-2 gene switched on an ancient ability for regeneration. But the team was unable to establish which genes were responsible for differentiating the re-growing stem cells into the correct body parts. After all, we don’t want muscle cells growing in the eyes, or cardiac cells turning up in the neural cortex.”

“My team has expanded their work and isolated the accountable genes. This gives a mechanism for continuously repairing old or damaged tissues. Potentially forever.”

“The regeneration genes are inserted into the retro-virus T156 and incubated in Xeno pigs kept in sterile conditions. The pigs have a perfect human immune response. They are the manufacturing plant for the virus. Within two weeks of infection, each pig harbours billions of viruses in every organ of its body.”

“We harvest the active agent by separating the pig tissues from the virus. It is a remarkably low-tech process, mostly concerned with agriculture and swine herding.”

“The harvested virus is injected directly into the blood stream where it will be taken up by a small percentage of cells. The protein subsequently synthesised, switches latent regenerative introns into activity, and it is this function which causes damaged organs to repair.”

Is this scenario fiction?Very early in the development of recombinant DNA techniques, the public feared that mad scientists would create GMOs (genetically modified organisms) with unanticipated and potentially dangerous properties; grey ooze would flood the country side devouring everything in its path.

The concern led to a proposal for a voluntary moratorium on recombinant DNA research in 1974, and to a meeting in 1975 at the Asilomar Conference Centre in California.

Participants at Asilomar agreed to safety standards, including the use of disabled bacteria that were unable to survive outside the laboratory. While this conference quelled much of the media frenzy  it also led to a rapid expansion of powerful technologies.

That was nearly forty years ago!

Since then the human genome has been completely decoded by Craig Venter, and a host of Genetically modified organisms have been released into the environment, particularly for use in agriculture.

While nobody is yet claiming to have created a GM human, the technology exists and is certain, one day, to be put into practice.



Why you should get angry at the world

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In the seventies there didn’t seem to be any conspiracies. Sure, the local butcher was caught injecting the chicken with water to make more pounds per pound, but it was hardly an international bugger-the-proles kind of event. Nowadays, however, you can’t look at the headlines without the busting of a conspiracy. Have we all become experts in finding the truth, or is something else going on?

When John Bray, the local butcher, was convicted of bringing the roast chicken dinner into disrepute by injecting carcasses with brine and selling them at inflated prices, it was treated as a bit of a joke by the chattering community of Berkshire. No one was really harmed, and the extra money helped Mr Bray pay his mortgage and put an extra pork chop on the table. It was the kind of crime more beloved of the back pages of the Maidenhead advertiser than the front page of the Financial Times, and most people didn’t really begrudge the man.
global conspiracy of chicken injecting
You could hardly call it a conspiracy. Perhaps Mr Bray and his wife got together and that would constitute some kind or conspiracy, but that’s the seventies. The biggest conspiracy theory I recall causing any excitement was MI5’s involvement in ousting the Wilson government, and that was never proven.

Planet sized fraud
Now, you only have to open the paper to find a planet-sized conspiracy that seems, or really is, true: burning fossil fuels to open up the North West shipping passage through the arctic; poisoning bees to make profits from insecticides; nuclear power as a sop to foreign governments; Doctor’s being goaded, to give cause for breaking up the NHS – conspiracies are too numerous to count, and that’s just one day in the Guardian.

That’s without the really famous ones. There’s scarcely a better example than Alistair Campbell’s sexed up dossier; the Iraq invasion based on dubious intelligence and making-up evidence to fit the already-decided policy for regime change. Over 600,000 lives lost – according to the Lancet  – based on the slip of a Press Officer’s pen and the ability to twist a headline or two.

Let’s not forget the Collateralised Debt Obligations creating a destructive merry go round in the financial markets and a lost decade for most of the western world. Twenty-two trillion dollars wiped out, austerity for the masses, and a return to polarised politics of the thirties.

The fact these conspiracies have been unmasked has done nothing for the public’s trust in politicians or for trust in the establishment in general, to say the least.

It’s not the guy in the turban

We could, and should, get angry. Not just angry, fucking incensed. But instead many of us are caught blaming the coloured man next door, or the chap with the eastern accent, or that woman wearing a strange swim suit, as if they were responsible for screwing the world’s financial market or for single handedly melting the ice caps with a hair dryer.
Yes, local injustice still exists, but a simple fraud can have global consequences in a way that was not previously possible.

Don't blame the neighbours

The great chicken conspiracy

And so we return to Mr Bray the butcher. His crime was unremarkable even in its local effect and apart from a few pence, did very little to harm to anybody. But in 2013 the UK’s Guardian reported, “Frozen chicken breasts on sale in leading supermarkets are being pumped up with water and additives that make up nearly a fifth of the meat to the point where consumers are paying about 65p a kilo for water…”

The Bray’s simple conspiracy has been exported across the world by faceless organisations that trade without boundaries and without a home jurisdiction.

Within half a lifetime we have allowed a world where petty crime is the standard for international business. The slightly offensive local has become the obscenely global.
For the love of Sunday roast, we’re all in the chicken poo now.

If you liked this conspiracy, you’ll love the one in Generation. By it on Amazon.

Conspiracy thriller with an injection of horror




What you ate made your children sick

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Even as the Luftwaffe pounded London to rubble and the Japanese fleet prepared its devastating attack on Pearl Harbour, Dr Francis Pottenger dared not believe the horror his experiments predicted. Wars would end, civilisation would continue, but the analysis spread out across his desk suggested a more insidious enemy than the Axis, and this one burrowed deep into human behaviour.

What the cat ate, made its kittens sick

What the cat ate, made its kittens sick

He picked up the bakelite phone and dialled, straightening the front of his waistcoat as he did so.

“Morning, George. Yes, it’s Frank. The civil defense board met last night and we’ve agreed to go forward with plans for the mobile hospitals. But I have a favour to ask.”

“They’re all infertile, George. It shakes me to the bones. In just four generations. I want to repeat the experiments with a control group. The implications are unfathomable.”

For the next several years Pottenger worked  to falsify his initial results. He set up two groups of cats. One group was fed a diet of raw meat, milk, and cod-liver oil while the second group was fed a diet of cooked meat, milk, and cod-liver oil.

Within one generation, cats on the cooked-meat diet began suffering from degenerative diseases and became quite lazy. Their offspring developed diseases by mid-life and lost coordination, but by third generation, some were born blind with disease evident early in life and with a reduced life span.

Many were infertile and were tormented by an abundance of parasites. Skin diseases and allergies increased from an incidence of five percent in the raw-meat cats to over 90 percent. Those kittens that were born to the did not survive six months.

The cats suffered from many of the degenerative diseases encountered in humans, and died out totally by the fourth generation. The doctor believed results could be explained by an unknown protein denatured in the cooking process, and later research confirmed his suspicions. Cats fed cooked meat lacked the essential amino-acid taurine.

This settled the argument for many years: cats are not humans, and it might have been the end of the matter if Pottenger’s fears had not been so prescient. Across the globe, diseases that set your body against itself are rampant, asthma, diabetes, multiple-sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Autism are all rapidly becoming ‘normal’. Infertility treatment is a boom industry.


In the United Kingdom, the number of women treated for infertility more than doubled between 1992 and 2007. Some 35% of men are sub-fertile and at least 2% of men are totally infertile.

Among pre-school children, sudden admissions for asthma went up from four per 10,000 in 1962 to almost 80 per 10,000 by 1985.

Until ten years ago, medical schools taught that coeliac disease was rare and affected only one in 2,500 people. It was thought to affect mainly children and young people. Recent studies show one in 133 people now have coeliac disease.

Coeliac sufferers are more susceptible to a range of auto-immune diseases and cancers, and yet their risk factors can be bought almost down to normal with a controlled diet.

It need hardly be said that the globalised diet of the twenty-first century is sub-optimal, and while Pottenger’s work with cats seemed utterly frivolous as Europe burned, the doctor understood the consequences of poor nutrition.

The horror that billions of caring parents might be gifting their children a future of disease, infirmity and perhaps infertility, not because of what they fed their kids, but because of what they ate themselves, is not one that many cared to entertain.

Yet that seems to be exactly what is now happening.



Generation — Crime with an injection of horror

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gen cov 2 with aia THUMBA body goes missing from a forensic research enclosure operated by Newcastle University, and the sick pranksters use it to scare elderly residents of a rural Northumberland town. At least that’s what the police think. But when a partially decayed corpse washes up on the river bank, journalist Hendrix ‘Aitch’ Harrison links the investigation to an international drug company that specialises in Genetic Modification.

It’s not the normal thing for Aitch, psychologically discharged from the services and unable to get on with the technological innovation beloved of the rest of the hacks, he’s more used to big-beast stories and lunar-landing conspiracies. Yet the company’s vindictive actions get him blacklisted by all the national publications and sacked from his job.

Teaming up with the delicious and intelligent forensic entomologist at the university, and fighting the company’s escalating measures to keep its activities hidden, Hendrix peels back layers of lies and violence to reveal the grisly fate of the drugged bodies donated to scientific research.




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CoverFrackedConceptBigBenThumbComing next year, Hendrix Harrison returns in a corporate conspiracy thriller. Imagining he is investigating an ancient body found in a Yorkshire coal mine, Aitch is embroiled in struggle between an international fossil-fuel giant and the rising ambitions of the new solar power states of North Africa. As he drills into murky motivations, Aitch is confronted with his own military past and a government bursting with dangerous contradictions.



The Horror of Arrogance Will Kill Again – Climate Change

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We are deeply social beings. Challenging ideas crawl through webs of like minded people, they are discussed and refined, and are finally accepted or denied, based on a build up of evidence. Or so we hope. But there is not a more sickening or pointless horror than that of arrogance.

In the hot spring and summer of 1847, Josef Semmelweis worked as assistant gynaecologist at the First Obstetrical Clinic of the Vienna General Hospital. “Your patients’ deaths are avoidable,” he declared, entering the rooms of his eminent superior, Professor Klein.

Semmelweis had toiled to identify why so many mothers had been dying in one of the clinics.“It has made me so miserable that life has seemed worthless,” he explained. “It is illogical that mothers giving birth on the street should become ill less frequently than those who deliver in the clinic. Just what protects those who deliver outside from these destructive influences? The question has consumed me.”He knew his ideas would challenge Klein’s work, but he counted on the strength of evidence he had been collecting.

“Now I have it,” he said, “It is not an imbalance of humours, blood letting serves no purpose, and I have ruled out miasmas.”

Yet Klein interrupted, “I hope you are not referring to your preparation of chlorinated lime solution, Doctor Semmelweis. There have been complaints. I, personally, find your ideas offensive.”

“The medical students are carrying cadaverous particles from the autopsy room to the clinic. The evidence is compelling, Professor.”

“You cannot accuse gentlemen doctors of uncleanliness. I urge you to stop this line of work.”

“Yet the simple act of washing the hands prior to touching the delivering mother is enough to prevent their deaths. I have reduced deaths in the clinic by ninety percent. By the grace of God, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that-”

“Avoid it I do, Sir. The diseases in each woman are not related, but result from personal imbalances. Apart from a notional idea of poisoning, your analysis lacks scientific rigour and you have failed in each case to identify the mother’s unique situation.”

After this damning conversation, Semmelweis was clear he would not be supported by the Professor. He embarked on a European-wide letter-writing campaign, proclaiming his discovery to his peers and the wider medical community.

But his theories were ridiculed, and Klein’s anger at the challenge to medical consensus condemned Semmelweis to a posting in Pes. From there, he was committed to an insane asylum where he died of septicaemia after a beating by guards.

It was only years later that Lousis Pasteur & Joseph Lister verified the truth in Semmelweis’s conclusions, and the doctor was posthumously vindicated. But in the meantime, many more mothers had died through the ignorance of the people there to help them.

Such irony is unfortunately common and not difficult to come by in the modern era. As I write, world leaders have gathered in Durban to discuss actions to avoid climate change. In debating these actions there is one thing they will almost certainly dismiss: the evidence.

In the words of others, the truth is “inconvenient”, just as it was for Klein and the medical establishment in the nineteenth century.

Delegates in Durban will act out of self interest and arrogance, and the globe will suffer at the hands of the very people we have sent to save us.



Is Milk a Silent Killer?

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Generations have been sold a wholesome, nutricious food that’s great for children’s bones. But is the milk we drink damaging our health from the very first sip?

At some time in 1993 Dr Jeremy Hill, expert at milk-protein biochemistry for the New Zealand Diary Research Institute (NZDRI), accepted a telephone call from Professor Bob Elliott researching the incidence of diabetes in pacific island children growing up in New Zealand.

Elliot was curious at the ten-fold increase in diabetes in children on the mainland and had narrowed his search for a cause down to environmental or dietary factors. He suspected a link to the increased consumption of dairy produce in New Zealand. He knew Samoan children drink the white stuff far less often.

Without thinking about the possible implications, Hill suggested Elliot should try looking at the proteins. There could be something in the beta-casein consumption, he suggested.Biochemists had long known there were two major types of beta-casein protein in milk, known as A1 and A2. One can imagine how the conversation played out.

“Yea, they differ in just one of the 209 amino acids. Position 67 A1 has histidine, while A2 has proline.”

“Asian cattle Bos indicus produce A2, while the Western cattle Bos taurus produce A1. We think there was a mutation some 8000 years ago that mainly spread in the West, though the incidence is very regional.”

“Could it be a significant difference? It’s only one amino-acid in the entire protein chain.”

“I think it’s probably a long shot. But if I was looking, given the possible causes you’ve already ruled out, I’d take a look.”

A1 protein is broken down in the body and forms a opiate called BCM7. Hill’s subsequent work with mice discovered that nearly 50% of the mice fed A1 developed diabetes while none of the mice fed A2 showed any sign of the disease. Furthurmore, feeding the A1-fed mice an opioid inhibitor prevented the disease from developing.

It was a stunning result. Yet even that was insignificant when compared to the revealed evidence on heart disease.

When asked to review Hill’s work, Dr Corran McLachlan, senior of the School of Biological sciences in Auckland, found that world wide deaths from heart disease followed a very similar pattern to that of diabetes.

Could both diseases have the same cause: milk-protein?

McLachlan was convinced. From then on until his untimely death in August 2003 he dedicated much of his work to uncovering the truth and attempting to establish a market for purely A2 milk. Yet his was not the only premature death in the story.

In 2000 McLachlan joined with New Zealand entrepreneur Howard Patterson. Patterson immediately suggested the NZ dairy board, later to become part of Fonterra – a company responsible for roughly 40% of the world’s traded dairy produce – and his A2 Corporation join forces to market A2 milk.

“You could be facing a serious long tail class action if the Beta-casein protein is proven to cause heart disease and diabetes. I suggest we turn the national herd to A2 milk, before you’re hauled into court.”

The dairy industry had a lot to lose. To promote A2 milk as not causing heart disease or diabetes one first had to admit A1 milk was dangerous to health, or at the very least, not as healthy as the current advertising was suggesting. It could open the door to litigation quicker than a tsunami rushes up the beach. But to stay silent in the face of mounting evidence would make the situation worse in the long run. Asbestos and tobacco companies are still reeling from the effects of just such denial, and evidence was mounting.

By 2003 McLachlan had illustrated the strong correlation between heart disease and A1 milk consumption across the globe and had also shown there was no such correlation for A2 milk. He even showed, after all the years of speculation, why the French can quaff cheese and wine and dairy without dropping dead while the English cannot. The French national herd is largely A2.

Dr Murray Laugesen and Professor Elliott continued Elliot’s work with animals at Queensland University. By early 2003 experiments showd that A1 milk caused heart disease in rabbits while A2 did not.

But as the evidence grew more compelling, so the discussions between Fonterra and the A2 corporation inflamed, finally ending up in court. The A2 corporation attempted to force Fonterra to put health warnings on milk containing A1 beta-casein, while Fonterra argued the science had not been settled. It looked like the start of a long and bitter fight.

Then without warning, Howard Patterson dropped dead. Alone in a Fiji hotel room he choked on a crisp.

And that might have been the end of the A2 Corporation, with its two founders dead within six weeks of each other. But in quiet corners of New Zealand and Australia you can still buy A2 milk. Its packaging is plain, without any health claims, and it sits among the other milk as if there is no controversy.

Yet the controversy remains. If the evidence is correct, A1 milk could be the biggest cause of premature death in the western world, and that’s just heart disease. The complex bio-chemical pathways thrown into dissarray by A1’s break down into BCM7 are linked to autism, scizophrenia, allergies, and a host of auto-immune diseases.

Think of the litigation waiting in the wings. You could put this in a novel and people would think it was fiction.