Will the Greens allow life-saving GM in NZ?

When the smallpox vaccine was introduced, 19th century anti-vaxxers panicked that they would sprout cow’s heads. Opposition to GMOs is hardly more sophisticated. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Mary Beth Sweetland is an animal rights campaigner and former vice-president of PETA. Sweetland is also a diabetic who uses daily injections of insulin – insulin developed using animal testing. Proving just how malleable peoples’ principles can be, she handwaved away her hypocrisy by claiming that, “I need my life to fight for the rights of animals”. She had to kill the animals to save them, as it were.

Like the animal rights movement, there is a widespread and fierce opposition to so-called “GMOs” (”genetically modified organism”: as if every living thing isn’t the result of genetic modification). GMOs are banned, in defiance of all scientific evidence, in many countries. One wonders just how staunch the naysayers will be if a new, GMO-based treatment for a scourge of modern medicine lives up to its promise. quote.

[…] A British teenager has made a remarkable recovery after being the first patient in the world to be given a genetically engineered virus to treat a drug-resistant infection. end quote.

Multi-resistant infections are a growing menace in modern medicine. Some bacteria are rapidly evolving resistance to almost every antibiotic (they are, in fact, entirely naturally-occurring GMOs). The new GMO-based treatment promises a potential paradigm shift in the treatment of some, currently deadly infections. quote.

Isabelle Holdaway, 17, nearly died after a lung transplant left her with an intractable infection that could not be cleared with antibiotics. After a nine-month stay at Great Ormond Street hospital, she returned to her home in Kent for palliative care, but recovered after her consultant teamed up with a US laboratory to develop the experimental therapy.

The scientists behind the breakthrough have said bacteria-killing viruses, known as phages, have the potential to be used as an alternative treatment to counter the growing crisis of human resistance to antibiotics…

Phages work by infecting bacteria cells and killing them, but they are very specific in which infections they can target. [Prof Graham ] Hatfull and colleagues identified dozens of phages known to infect bacterial relatives of the patients’ strains, and tested thousands of combinations of them in petri dishes to see which wiped out the patients’ bacteria.

“The idea is to use [phages] as antibiotics – as something we could use to kill bacteria that cause infection,” Hatfull said.

[…] Hatfull’s lab identified a phage that wiped out the infection, and another two phages that could infect it but not kill it efficiently. By removing a single gene, they were able to increase the efficiency of these two phages, making a cocktail that they believed could kill the infection. A combination was used to avoid the possibility of the infection becoming resistant to the phage.

In June 2018, Isabelle returned to Great Ormond Street and after some safety tests, was given the cocktail twice daily via an intravenous drip and on her skin. Six weeks later a liver scan revealed the infection had essentially disappeared…There were almost no side effects. end quote.

There are naturally a number of caveats to keep in mind: most importantly, a single patient does not constitute a clinical trial. But treatments like this may well become part of a wider scheme of what is hoped to be a new era of genetically-personalised medicine. quote.

Finding the right phages for each patient is a big challenge. In the future, scientists hope it may be possible to conduct automated searches of phage libraries to identify personalised treatments. Some infections, such as the hospital superbug Staphylococcus aureus, are known to be genetically homogeneous enough that a few phages could treat almost all strains of the infection, raising the prospect of phage therapy becoming routine. end quote.


So, will such matters of life and death be enough to overcome mostly uninformed public resistance to GMOs? What’s particularly interesting is that both anti-GMO and anti-vax ideology is especially the redoubt of wealthy, educated whites, who are also the most likely to vote Green. Both ideologies spring from their obsession with “natural”: organic, whole foods, unvaccinated and “GMO-free”.

At best, it’s certain that the anti-GMO lobby will simply come up with new, even sillier, arguments that GMOs are somehow acceptable in medicine but not in food. More likely, they’ll just reject what they’ll no doubt dub “frankenmedicine” with the same, idiotic fervor that they reject vaccination.

“If you wouldn’t put it in your canola, why would you put it in your medicine?” Oops, I think I’ve given them their first dumb slogan.