Hard Assets Alliance Featured on Peak Prosperity Show with Chris Martenson

Hard Assets Alliance Featured on Peak Prosperity Show with Chris Martenson
Hard Assets Alliance General Manager Ed D’Agostino joined Gold Bullion International Co-founder and President Savneet Singh for an exclusive interview on the Peak Prosperity Show with Chris Martenson

By Hard Assets Alliance Team

Hard Assets Alliance General Manager Ed D’Agostino joined Gold Bullion International Co-founder and President Savneet Singh for an exclusive interview on the Peak Prosperity Show with Chris Martenson.

Given the recent mercurial nature of precious metals markets, D’Agostino, Singh and Martenson engage in an informative dialogue on supply and demand issues as well as paper vs. physical markets.

Listen to the full interview below.

For those who are not aware of Chris Martenson… he’s a former biochemical scientist and served as Vice President at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He is now known as one of the most prolific trends forecasters in the world.

Ego is the spirit’s protector

Archetypes, pre-conscious experience and spiritual naivety feed our spirit with unfilterred content…

If that content is not filterred and discerned through awareness of context and honest judgement of experience… then spirit and intuition become full of bias, dogma and falsehood.

Want to trust your intuition? Remember GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out…

Because without due diligence of what goes into our system, our feminine aspect experiences deep conflict, confusion and mistrust. The world doesn’t make sense… Ego (our sense of self, individuality and uniqueness) becomes an easy target to blame. In fact, it is to blame, because it wasn’t strong enough to do it’s real job…

(Sidenote: In emotional turmoil the feminine side of us then claims that judging, hostility and blame come FROM the ego and should be eliminated. Hence the double contradiction of judging judgement. This doubles-down the efforts to suppress ego. Ultimately this blocks the flow of love.)


  • Emotional clarity only emerges from the focus of our penetrative masculine energy: our ego.
  • Ego thrives in the expansive dancing universe of our emotionally open and ecstatic feminine energy: our spirit.


As such:

  • Ego is the protector of spirit.
  • Spirit is the vessel of ego.

Or more simply:

  • Ego is consciousness (left brain).
  • Spirit is emotion (right brain).

Why give yourself a lobotomy, cutting off one side of your fullness of being?

Embrace symbiosis. Balance the swirling tension between opposite poles.

  • Spirit around ego.
  • Ego in spirit.

A chat on the characteristics of Ego

‘Eve’ shared the following graphic on Facebook…


“The ego is a false sense of self based on mental concepts. It is identification with the body and mind – identification with form, which primarily means thought forms” – Eckhart Tolle

I commented:

In the very act of saying ‘the ego is… something’, Eckhart Tolle uses identification of thought form (the ‘is’ of identity) in attempting to criticise the use of identification thought forms. He demonstrates dependence on the very thing he wants to eliminate and thus sinks into a quagmire of inner conflict and contradiction.

This list is not a result of strong ego, it’s a result of weak ego. Strong ego brings individuality, which correlates with value-based toleration, clarity-based independence, and self-based acceptance.

Eve then replied saying: there’s only EGO, no strong or weak. Ego is EGO.

And here’s how the conversation unfolded…

I said:

Does strong and weak love exist?

Eve said: i have no idea.? and if I did have a clue.. I’d say.. LOVE is LOVE… and there’s only ONE LOVE.? ?you won’t be able to understand ego until you have a strong sense of your own emotions

Do you love your yoga classes to the same degree that you love brushing your teeth? Does strong and weak anger exist?

Eve JEEEEEEZ Gav…. I don’t analyze my love for everything I do that way. I just live it. I don’t judge and measure my love for yoga and brushing my teeth… I just know that it feels good when I do.? ?Like how angry are you right now because I’m challenging your ego identifications about ego and love? the only difference of strong and weak is your perception

Then why do you attempt to persist in analysing and judging ego and claim with such dogmatic certainty that strong or ego does not exist, only ego? or only ‘one love’?

Eve this is how angry I am (smiley) (heart)

So the only different of strong or weak starbucks coffee is your perception of it, not what’s actually in the cup?

Eve read the 2nd last paragraph of the list. that’s you.

As to the 2nd from last paragraph, I don’t believe arguing like this is futile, because I have hope for you and others stuck in this self-destructive anti-ego dogma.

Eve yes, exactly. you may like the coffee… and drink it. but i prefer tea.

I didn’t ask if you like the coffee, I asked if the coffee being strong or weak is only about your perception or if it’s also about the amount of ingredients in it?

Eve Actually I love my ego, its what’s teaching me to become better. I would like to study my thought patterns and feelings and understand why I re-act the way I do when I have ego-trips.

I know the monsters within me, they’ve been with me for as long as I can remember. My ego is the hurt that I had ignored my whole life and getting to know these feelings help me heal. As I pay attention to these emotions and embrace them, I heal myself.

which is the reason why I posted the caption above the photo, to ask spirit for guidance.

ego and spirit are the two guiding forces of the soul.

A big kiss for you Eve. I love you (‘this much’) and I prey for your ego realisation to happen sooner rather than later, for your own sake, your own enjoyment of life, and because I believe you’ll make an incredible huntress for change.

Yes I appreciate you expressing your ‘ego is hurt that you ignored’. It’s not the enemy. It’s not to be eliminated. It’s to be strengthened!

Eve I know you PREY for my EGO and not PRAY for it.

Prey! haha

Eve watch those thought patterns… I’m a huntress. (smiley)

I then thought about the issues involved and wrote this blog titled Ego is the spirit’s protector.

Externalisation of the Soul

So long as we remain in the womb of this externalized and public existence, we are spared the terror and the dignity of becoming a self – William Barrett

Dear fellow spiritual being,

Are you faking it to make it? Are you riding the great intoxicating wave of the Mayan age, into the Age of Aquarius… or are you just delirious?

Are you hanging your soul out to dry in the breathless pause,
Flinging your own selfhood high into the air in expression of what you value most,
But gush out of your centre like an uncontrollable hose?

Your teachers have told you that the nameless can not be named, the word is not the experience… yet in no other time in history has mankind spewed forth so much in the way of lofty ascension, chakra sparks and indigo children…

The majority of well-adapted individuals…have lost their own self at an early age and replaced it completely by a social self offered to them by society…They have no neurotic conflicts because they themselves, and, therefore, the discrepancy between their selves and the outside world have disappeared – Erich Fromm

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars: and they pass by themselves without wondering – St. Augustine of Hippo

The collectivist fails to notice that by way of his compulsive “sharing,” his thoughts and ideas cease to be his own… the hyper-extrovert collectivist empties out his consciousness without stint, becoming a hollow, vapid specimen without realizing it. – Michael Tsarion

So stop. Turn inwards. Return to the Tao. It is nameless.

If you want to worship the Tao, first discover it in your own heart. Then your worship will be meaningful – Lao Tzu

I entreat you, my brothers, remain true to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of superterrestrial hopes! They are poisoners, whether they know it or not. They are despisers of life, atrophying and self-poisoned – Friedrich Nietzsche

Do you know who you are?

A ridiculous question? Superficial? Boring? Or a swirl of possibilities that you have well under control in your pursuit of Kundalini, Bhuddhist, Yogic, Meditation?


But have you read the Sutras of Patanjali?

No? And you claim to practice Yoga? Shame on you. Literally.

If you’re not feeling a twinge of anxiety right now, I haven’t done my job.

My hope is that you’ll forgive my approach and walk with me into the underworld of spirituality.

For only there, deep below the surface, glows the true light of individuality. Dare I say it, the gift of Lucifer. The bringer of light. The morning star. The rising sun. The source of illumination. It’s metaphor.

Only the advanced can enter past these prickly thorns,
for they are all but a mirage for the one who owns the inner self.

Atop the Temple at Delphi?

“Know thy Self”

But why? Why such a ‘simple’ plea from such a great centre of enlightenment, education and spirituality?

Because it really is The Key.

Self-realization is necessary before God-realization wrote the ancient Vedic scribes – Michael Tsarion

And no, no book like that of Patanjali can show you truth.

But that’s the point. Truth can be found only in your self.

Waiting for discovery.

Anyone who is forced from his own course, either through not understanding himself, or through external imposition, comes into conflict with the order of the Universe, and suffers accordingly – Aleister Crowley

I offer you this:

The externalisation of the soul relates to the self-directed destruction of one’s own soul by externalising your pursuit of truth, fulfilment and experience.

The taoist path places our internal world as the most important, and through self connection and health… care of the body, can we rise into power and vitality… in the external world.

But people chase fantasies, abstractions, stimulation, fanciful ideas about god, the universe, and sacred geometry…

Thus they miss out on the only real key to ascension: the inner journey of unfolding the self in full integrity.

Internalisation of Selfhood

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens – Carl Gustav Jung

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! (Dare to Know!). “Have courage to use your own understanding!” – that is the motto of enlightenment – Immanual Kant

There have always been sickly people among those who invent fables and long for God: they have a raging hate for the enlightened man and for that youngest of virtues which is called honesty – Friedrich Nietzsche

Ironically, and thus shrouded in secrecy, integrity requires selfishness, individuality, separation, and identity.

(many of the things that new age spiritualists condemn)

But only then, can we come to real unity.

Orwell expressed it well. “Brotherhood and Solidarity” as chains that bind us, gears that grind us, weights that suppress us under the powers that be.

Ayn Rand’s ‘The Anthem’ opens the door.

I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.
And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.
This god, this one word: “I.”

Or hark back to the Vedas if you prefer:

In the beginning this world was only the self, in the shape of a person. Looking around he saw nothing else than the self. He first said “I am” –  – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

One should worship with the thought that he is one’s self, for therein all become one. This self is the footprints of that All, for by it one knows the All…One should reverence the Self alone as dear. And he who reverences the Self alone as dear – what he holds dear, verily, will not perish – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Make the choice, strengthen your resolve, refresh your focus…

Just a few of the people I believe are doing the right work in leading us towards the simple practical realisations of self:

And in my own small way, myself.

Are you with us too?

Unity in individuality. Synergy in mutual harmony. Collaboration in value creation.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance… nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. – Immanual Kant

Given that for each man the center of the universe is his own Self, it alone must be placed at the head of the list of philosophical priorities…. where there is no Self there is no Truth… there is no enlightenment to be found outside the Self… – Michael Tsarion

Civilization is the process of setting man free from men – Ayn Rand

Give your gift through fractal unfoldment of your own Flower of Selfhood.

Grasp the meaning behind these prickly posts:

Passion, ego and surrender?

The word ‘passion’ comes from the Greek for ‘abandonment’.


Abandonment… like surrender, can mean to be fully in the moment, giving over to something, letting something go, releasing something from restriction, opening up completely, vulnerably. Naked.

Now, some well-intentioned people make a major mistake by seeing ‘surrendering the ego’ as a good goal…

Ego is inner drive. Individuality. Sense of your true self. See?

So the real goal is ‘surrendering TO ego’, because ego means inner self-hood, without your social masks.

Think of surrender as ‘to abandon restriction’.

Blossoming like a flower freed from its closed petals, able to spread in fullness. To give its gift. To share its colours. To abandon restriction and show its passion and hunger for warmth, light and morning due.

This is ego. Ths is passion. This is what it means to surrender. Not what politically or religiously correct culture wants us to do…

  • Surrendering the ego is self destruction.
  • Surrendering to the ego is the secret of secrets within all new age mysticism and old age religion.

If you surrender your ego, there is no polarity, no contrast, no rainbow. Only grey.

Freed egos unite in harmonic mutual sharing. Love. Acceptance due to alignment. Compromise due to benefit. Difference creates learning. Adventure. excitement. Movement. Masculine and feminine. Yin and yang. Fire and water.

Your social programming may not let you hear this. Your knee jerk reactions reject selfishness because your mind-control handlers through 3000 years have tortured, pillaged and suppressed your ancestral DNA, now coded in the great Jungian collective unconscious within your very own mind.

Break out of your binds. Cut the chains. Reject corruption of vision of thought of emotion.

Discover the clarity of self in honesty, integrity and responsibility.

Passion has similar significance to enthusiasm, which comes from the latin ‘en theos’ (in god) or ‘like god’. To be god-like. The ultimate goal of religion.

Free your mind. Own your individuality. Unleash your passion. Surrender TO your ego.

Ancient Egypt, the Israelites and the Hyksos

Wow. Realisations of biblical proportions…

This picture may usually be taken as depicting King Pharaoh chasing after the Israelites during the Biblical Exodus after Pharoah’s heart changed and he decides to get back his slaves.


History reveals a different picture than the child stories of the bible.

The picture historically depicts a group of people known as the Hyksos, who in the 17th century BC, invaded Egypt and defeated the Egyptians due to advanced military might including Chariots!

The Hyksos?

“Asiatic semites.. and what later came to be known as the Israelites.”

What a turn of events.


Egyptians called these kings “rulers of foreign lands,” translated in Egyptian as “hega-khase”. Greek authors later rendered this as “Hyksos,” which was mistranslated as “shepherd kings.” For this reason many scholars believed the Hyksos to be the Hebrews, although there is no archaeological basis for this assumption. They were probably city dwellers from southern Canaan (later called Palestine by the Romans). –

So were they Palestinians?

Now now… no need to insight world war for what happened several thousand years ago. But clarifying history is important for clarity of the future. Right now, y’all just need to get along.

Yet the Hyksos by various accounts seems to be a mix of sources including Babylon and Biblical Joseph’s family (the original Israelites) who became Egyptian rulers..

Hyksos, group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics who immigrated into Egypt’s delta region and gradually settled there during the 18th century bce. Beginning about 1630, a series of Hyksos kings ruled northern Egypt as the 15th dynasty (c. 1630–1523 bce). The name Hyksos was used by the Egyptian historian Manetho (fl. 300 bce), who, according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (fl. 1st century ce), translated the word as “king-shepherds” or “captive shepherds.” Josephus himself wished to demonstrate the great antiquity of the Jews and thus identified the Hyksos with the Hebrews of the Bible. Hyksos was in fact probably an Egyptian term for “rulers of foreign lands” (heqa-khase), and it almost certainly designated the foreign dynasts rather than a whole nation.

So in fact, y’all just a big mix of various lineages divided by the modern Abrahamic religions.

Get over it.

Get back to your real roots.

Spiritual yogic naturalism, paganism, shamanism, taoism, druidism.

Drop all this superficial modern religious dogma.


…before your ignorance let’s the worlds’s shadow government elites drop da bigger bombs.

Now here’s the technical bit:

it appears that the biblical, historical, and archaeological data are best served by theorizing that it was a Hyksos monarch before whom Joseph stood as an interpreter of dreams (Gen. 41:14-37) and who later ceded a choice parcel of land (Goshen) to Joseph’s family (Gen. 47:6). According to such a theory, the “new king” of Exodus 1:8 would have been one of the native Egyptian monarchs of the New Kingdom who, as part of his Hyksos purge, resolutely refused to recognize the validity of the Goshen land grant. Discerning in the Israelites a multitude who might very well join with his Asiatic enemies in war, this new king moreover acted quickly to enslave the Israelites.


The Hyksos (“heqa khasut” in Ancient Egyptian) were not in fact a distinct racial grouping, but rather the term used to refer to the rulers of the area around Avaris and Sharuhen during the Second Intermediate Period (Asiatics were more generally known as “Aamu”). Their subjects comprised of a number of Semitic peoples driven from Western Asia into Africa by instability and famine during the Second Intermediate Period (Dynasties Thirteen to Seventeen) and native Egyptians. They appear to have established themselves in Lower Egypt where they ruled from the city of Avaris for about two hundred years. Their occupation was later described as a highly traumatic event for the Egyptian people but it is not clear whether this was the view of contemporary Egyptians who lived under their control.

The Hyksos migrated into Egypt during the late Middle Kingdom (ca1800-1650BCE) and that “process was gradual and peaceful”. The biblical evidence points to the first wave of Israeli immigrants entering Egypt ca1860 and that it was a peaceful process

This takeover of the country would appear to refer to the arrival of Joseph and his brothers who made the Egyptians “slaves of the Pharaohs” as described in the Bible

the last Hyksos Pharaoh was deposed and an Egyptian installed ca1550. “The new king over Egypt did not know Joseph” and “set taskmasters over them (those Israelites not residents of Avaris).

Manetho says “They (the Hyksos refugees from Avartis) built a city in that country which is now called Judea and that large enough to contain a great number of men and called it Jerusalem”.

Josephus Flavius, Jewish historian of the 1st century CE and author of The Antiquities of the Jews, identified the Hyksos with the Hebrews.

Josephus states that “these shepherds, as they are called here, who were no other than our forefathers who were delivered out of Egypt and came thence to inhabit this country (Judea)”.

The evidence we have clearly points to the Hyksos being the forefathers of the Israeli people.

he evidence points to the Akkadian-Sumerians, the inhabitants of the Tigris-Euphrates valley, being the forefathers of the Hyksos.

It is very interesting that in “Against Apion” Josephus states that the Exodus was associated with the legendary expulsion of the Hyksos. It is especially odd considering that the idea does not come from Josephus himself but Manetho’s (now lost) history of Egypt and that the Hyksos were remembered as oppressors in Egypt rather than oppressed. It seems extremely suspicious that Josephus would seize upon this account of Manetho and adopt it as his own people’s history. It is true however that we have no idea who the Hasmoneans were, from whom Josephus claimed descent. Did Josephus actually think this is how his particular Hasmonean ancestors arrived in Israel from Egypt? If so, that’s quite a revelation! I seriously doubt it, but even so would not be incompatible with my view of things. The Hyksos were part of the same royal family from which the Jews later branched off.

The Medrash, which is a compilation of Jewish allegories and legends, tells us that Moses was a king in the Sudan for a long period of time, and we do have evidence that the Hyksos people ruled not only in Egypt, but in the Sudan and Libya.


  • http://www.freemaninstitute.com/Gallery/joseph.htm
  • http://www.thescrollsandthesect.com/hyksos/hyksos.htm
  • http://www.jewishhistory.org/hyksos-or-hebrews/
  • http://www.domainofman.com/ankhemmaat/moses.html
  • http://www.domainofman.com/forum/index.cgi?noframes;read=2318

And here is a further collection of references if you want to go deep into the subject of human history, egyptology, the bible, etc

Explore a matrix of dots…

 Enter the Success-Matrix


How Dangerous Is Genetically Modified Food?

Re-published with permission from Casey Technology

Last month, a group of Australian scientists published a warning to the citizens of the country and of the world who collectively gobble up some $34 billion annually of its agricultural exports. The warning concerned the safety of a new type of wheat.

As Australia’s number-one export, a $6-billion annual industry, and the most-consumed grain locally, wheat is of the utmost importance to the country. A serious safety risk from wheat – a mad wheat disease of sorts – would have disastrous effects for the country and for its customers.

Which is why the alarm bells are being rung over a new variety of wheat being ushered toward production by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia. In a sense, the crop is little different than the wide variety of modern genetically modified foods. A sequence of the plant’s genes has been turned off to change the wheat’s natural behavior a bit, to make it more commercially viable (hardier, higher yielding, slower decaying, etc.).


What’s really different this time – and what has Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, NZ, and Associate Professor Judy Carman, a biochemist at Flinders University in Australia, holding press conferences to garner attention to the subject – is the technique employed to effectuate the genetic change. It doesn’t modify the genes of the wheat plants in question; instead, a specialized gene blocker interferes with the natural action of the genes.

The process at issue, dubbed RNA interference or RNAi for short, has been a hotbed of research activity ever since the Nobel Prize-winning 1997 research paper that described the process. It is one of a number of so-called “antisense” technologies that help suppress natural genetic expression and provide a mechanism for suppressing undesirable genetic behaviors.

RNAi’s appeal is simple: it can potentially provide a temporary, reversible off switch for genes. Unlike most other genetic modification techniques, it doesn’t require making permanent changes to the underlying genome of the target. Instead, specialized siRNAs – chemical DNA blockers based on the same mechanism our own bodies use to temporarily turn genes on and off as needed – are delivered into the target organism and act to block the messages cells use to express a particular gene. When those messages meet with their chemical opposites, they turn inert. And when all of the siRNA is used up, the effect wears off.

The new wheat is in early-stage field trials (i.e., it’s been planted to grow somewhere, but has not yet been tested for human consumption), part of a multi-year process on its way to potential approval and not unlike the rigorous process many drugs go through. The researchers responsible are using RNAi to turn down the production of glycogen. They are targeting the production of the wheat branching enzyme which, if suppressed, would result in a much lower starch level for the wheat.

The result would be a grain with a lower glycemic index – i.e., healthier wheat.

This is a noble goal. However, Professors Heinemann and Carman warn, there’s a risk that the gene silencing done to these plants might make its way into humans and wreak havoc on our bodies. In their press conference and subsequent papers, they describe the possibility that the siRNA molecules – which are pretty hardy little chemicals and not easily gotten rid of – could wind up interacting with our RNA.

If their theories prove true, the results might be as bad as mimicking glycogen storage disease IV, a super-rare genetic disorder which almost always leads to early childhood death.

“Franken-Wheat Causes Massive Deaths from Liver Failure!”

Now that is potentially headline-grabbing stuff. Unfortunately, much of it is mere speculation at this point, albeit rooted in scientific expertise on the subject.

What they’ve produced is a series of opinion papers – not scientific research nor empirical data to prove that what they suspect might happen, actually does. They point to the possibilities that could happen if a number of criteria are met:

  • If the siRNAs remain in the wheat in transferrable form, in large quantities, when the grain makes it to your plate. And…
  • If the siRNA molecules interfere with the somewhat different but largely similar human branching enzyme as well.

Then the result might be symptoms similar to such a condition, on some scale or another, anywhere from completely unnoticeable to highly impactful.

They further postulate that if the same effect is seen in animals, it could result in devastating ecological impact. Dead bugs and dead wild animals.

Luckily for us, as potential consumers of these foods, all of these are easily testable theories. And this is precisely the type of data the lengthy approval process is meant to look at.

Opinion papers like this – while not to be confused with conclusions resulting from solid research – are a critically important part of the scientific process, challenging researchers to provide hard data on areas that other experts suspect could be overlooked. Professors Carman and Heinemann provide a very important public good in challenging the strength of the due-diligence process for RNAi’s use in agriculture, an incomplete subject we continue to discover more about every day.

However, we’ll have to wait until the data come back on this particular experiment – among thousands of similar ones being conducted at government labs, universities, and in the research facilities of commercial agribusinesses like Monsanto and Cargill – to know if this wheat variety would in fact result in a dietary apocalypse.

That’s a notion many anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) pundits seem to have latched onto following the press conference the professors held. But if the history of modern agriculture can teach us anything, it’s that far more aggressive forms of GMO foods appear to have had a huge net positive effect on the global economy and our lives. Not only have they not killed us, in many ways GMO foods have been responsible for the massive increases in public health and quality of life around the world.

The Roots of the GMO Food Debate

The debate over genetically modified (GM) food is a heated one. Few contest that we are working in somewhat murky waters when it comes to genetically modified anything, human or plant alike. At issue, really, is the question of whether we are prepared to use the technologies we’ve discovered.

In other words, are we the equivalent of a herd of monkeys armed with bazookas, unable to comprehend the sheer destructive power we possess yet perfectly capable of pulling the trigger?

Or do we simply face the same type of daunting intellectual challenge as those who discovered fire, electricity, or even penicillin, at a time when the tools to fully understand how they worked had not yet been conceived of?

In all of those cases, we were able to probe, study, and learn the mysteries of these incredible discoveries over time. Sure, there were certainly costly mistakes along the way. But we were also able to make great use of them to advance civilization long before we fully understood how they worked at a scientific level.

Much is the same in the study and practical use of GM foods.

While the fundamentals of DNA have been well understood for decades, we are still in the process of uncovering many of the inner workings of what is arguably the single most advanced form of programming humans have ever encountered. It is still very much a rapidly evolving science to this day.

For example, in the 1990s, an idea known simply as “gene therapy” – really a generalized term for a host of new-at-the-time experimental techniques that share the simple characteristic of permanently modifying the genetic make-up of an organism – was all the rage in medical study. Two decades on, it’s hardly ever spoken of. That’s because the great majority of attempted disease therapies from genetic modification failed, with many resulting in terrible side effects and even death for the patients who underwent the treatments. Its use in the early days, of course, was limited almost exclusively to some of the world’s most debilitating, genetically rooted diseases. Still – whether in their zeal to use a fledgling tool to cure a dreadful malady or in selfish, hurried desire to be recognized among the pioneers of what they thought would be the very future of medicine – doctors chose to move forward at a dangerous pace with gene therapy.

In one famous case, and somewhat typical of the times, University of Pennsylvania physicians enrolled a sick 18-year-old boy with a liver mutation into a trial for a gene therapy that was known to have resulted in the deaths of some of the monkeys it had just been tested on. The treatment resulted in the young man’s death a few days later, and the lengthy investigation that followed resulted in serious accusations of what can only be called “cowboy medicine.”

Not one of science’s prouder moments, to be sure. But could GM foods be following the same dangerous path?

After all, the first GM foods made their way to market during the same time period. The 1980s saw large-scale genetic-science research and experimentation from agricultural companies, producing everything from antibiotic-resistant tobacco to pesticide-hardy corn. After much debate and study, in 1994 the FDA gave approval to the first GM food to be sold in the United States: the ironically named Flavr Savr tomato, with its delayed ripening genes which made it an ideal candidate for sitting for days or weeks on grocery store shelves.

Ever since, there has been a seeming rush of modified foods into the marketplace.

Modern GM foods include soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and a number of squash and greens varieties, as well as products made from them. One of the most prevalent modifications is to make plants glyphosate-resistant, or in common terms, “Roundup Ready.” This yields varieties that are able to stand up to much heavier doses of the herbicide Roundup, which is used to keep weeds and other pest plants from damaging large monoculture fields, thereby reducing costs and lowering risks.

In total it is estimated that modern GM crops have grown to become a $12 billion annual business since their commercialization in 1994, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Over 15 million farms around the world are reported to have grown GM crops, and their popularity increases every year.

They’ve brought huge improvements in shelf life, pathogen and other stress resistance, and even added nutritional benefits. For instance, yellow rice – which was the first approved crop with an entirely new genetic pathway added artificially – provides beta-carotene to a large population of people around the world who otherwise struggle to find enough in their diets.

However, the race for horticulturalists to the genetic table in the past few decades – what could be described accurately as the transgenic generation of research – has by no means been our first experiment with the genetic manipulation of food. In fact, if anything, it is a more deliberate, well studied, and careful advance than those that came before it.

A VERY Brief History of Genetically Modified Food

Some proponents of GMO foods are quick to point out that humans have been modifying foods at the genetic level since the dawn of agriculture itself. We crossbreed plants with each other to produce hybrids (can I interest you in a boysenberry?). And of course, we select our crops for breeding from those with the most desirable traits, effectively encouraging genetic mutations that would have otherwise resulted in natural failure, if not helped along by human hands. Corn as we know it, for example, would never have survived in nature without our help in breeding it.

Using that as a justification for genetic meddling, however, is like saying we know that NASCAR drivers don’t need seatbelts because kids have been building soapbox racers without them for years. Nature, had the mix not been near ideal to begin with, would have prevented such crossbreeding. Despite Hollywood’s desires, one can’t simply crossbreed a human and a fly, or even a bee and a mosquito, for that matter – their genetics are too different to naturally mix. And even if it did somehow occur, if it did not make for a hardier result, then natural selection would have quickly kicked in.

No, I am talking about real, scientific genetic mucking – the kind we imagined would result in the destruction of the world from giant killer tomatoes or man-eating cockroaches in our B-grade science-fiction films. Radiation mutants.

Enterprising agrarians have been blasting plants with radiation of all sorts ever since we starting messing around with atomic science at the dawn of the 20th century. In the 1920s, just when Einstein and Fermi were getting in their grooves, Dr. Lewis Stadler at the University of Missouri was busy blasting barley seeds with X-rays – research that would usher in a frenzy of mutation breeding to follow.

With the advent of nuclear technology from the war effort, X-rays expanded into atomic radiation, with the use of gamma rays leading the pack. The United States even actively encouraged the practice for decades, through a program dubbed “Atoms for Peace” that proliferated nuclear technology throughout various parts of the private sector in a hope that it would improve the lives of many. And it did.

Today, thousands of agricultural varieties we take for granted – including, according to a 2007 New York Times feature on the practice, “rice, wheat, barley, pears, peas, cotton, peppermint, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit, sesame, bananas, cassava and sorghum” – are a direct result of mutation breeding. They would not be classified as GM foods, in the sense that we did not use modern transgenic techniques to make them, but they are genetically altered nonetheless, to the same or greater degree than most modern GMO strains.

Unlike modern GM foods – which are often closely protected by patents and armies of lawyers to ensure the inventing companies reap maximum profits from their use – the overwhelming majority of the original generations of radiation-mutated plant varieties came out of academic and government sponsored research, and thus were provided free and clear for farmers to use without restriction.

With the chemical revolution of the mid-20th century, radiation-based mutations were followed by the use of chemical agents like the methyl sulfate family of mutagens. And after that, the crudest forms of organic genetic manipulation came into use, such as the uses of transposons, highly repetitive strands of DNA discovered in 1948 that can be used like biological duct tape to cover whole sections the genome.

These modified crops stood up better to pests, lessened famines, reduced reliance on pesticides, and most of all enabled farmers to increase their effective yields. Coupled with the development of commercial machinery like tractors and harvesters, the rise of mutagenic breeding resulted in an agricultural revolution of a magnitude few truly appreciate. In the late 1800s, the overwhelming majority of global populations lived in rural areas, and most people spent their lives in agrarian pursuits. From subsistence farmers to small commercial operations, the majority of the population of every country, the US included, was employed in agriculture.

Today, less than 2% of the American population (legal and illegal combined) works in farming of any kind. Yet we have more than enough food to feed all of our people, and a surplus to export to more densely populated nations like China and India.

The result is that a sizable percentage of the world’s plant crops today – the ones on top of which much of the modern-era GMO experiments are done – are already genetic mutants. Hence the slippery slope that serves as the foundation of the resistance from regulators over the labeling of GM food products. Where do you draw the line on what to label? And frankly, how do you even know for sure, following the Wild-West days of blasting everything that could grow with some form or another of radiation, what plants are truly virgin DNA?

The world’s public is largely unaware that many of the foods they eat today – far more than those targeted by anti-GMO protestors and labeling advocates – are genetically modified. Yet we don’t seem to be dying off in large numbers, like the anti-RNAi researchers project will happen. In fact, global lifespans have increased dramatically across the board in the last century.

The Rise of Careful

The science of GM food has advanced considerably since the dark ages of the 1920s. Previous versions of mutation breeding were akin to trying to fix a pair of eyeglasses with a sledgehammer – messy and imprecise, with rare positive results. And the outputs of those experiments were often foisted upon a public without any knowledge or understanding of what they were consuming.

Modern-day GM foods are produced with a much more precise toolset, which means less unintended collateral damage. Of course it also opens up a veritable Pandora’s box of new possibilities (glow-in-the-dark corn, anyone?) and with it a whole host of potential new risks. Like any sufficiently powerful technology, such as the radiation and harsh chemicals used in prior generations of mutation breeding, without careful control over its use, the results can be devastating. This fact is only outweighed by the massive improvements over the prior, messier generation of techniques.

And thus, regulatory regimes from the FDA to CSIRO to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are taking increasing steps to ensure that GM foods are thoroughly tested long before they come to market. In many ways, the tests are far more rigorous than those that prescription drugs undergo, as the target population is not sick and in need of urgent care, and for which side effects can be tolerated. This is why a great many of the proposed GM foods of the last 20 years, including the controversial “suicide seeds” meant to protect the intellectual property of the large GM seed producers like Monsanto (which bought out Calgene, the inventor of that Flavr Savr tomato, and is now the 800-lb. gorilla of the GM food business), were never allowed to market.

Still, with the 15 years from 1996 to 2011 seeing a 96-fold increase in the amount of land dedicated to growing GM crops and the incalculable success of the generations of pre-transgenic mutants before them, scientists and corporations are still in a mad sprint to find the next billion-dollar GM blockbuster.

In doing so they are seeking tools that make the discovery of such breakthroughs faster and more reliable. With RNAi, they may just have found one such tool. If it holds true to its laboratory promises, its benefits will be obvious from all sides.

Unlike previous generations of GMO, RNAi-treated crops do not need to be permanently modified. This means that mutations which outlive their usefulness, like resistance to a plague which is eradicated, do not need to live on forever. This allows companies to be more responsive, and potentially provides a big relief to consumers concerned about the implications of eating foods with permanent genetic modifications.

The simple science of creating RNAi molecules is also attractive to people who develop these new agricultural products, as once a messenger RNA is identified, there is a precise formula to tell you exactly how to shut it off, potentially saving millions or even billions of dollars that would be spent in the research lab trying to figure out exactly how to affect a particular genetic process.

And with the temporary nature of the technique, both the farmers and the Monsantos of the world can breathe easily over the huge intellectual-property questions of how to deal with genetically altered seeds. Not to mention the questions of natural spread of strains between farms who might not want GMO crops in their midst. Instead of needing to engineer in complex genetic functions to ensure progeny don’t pass down enhancements for free and that black markets in GMO seeds don’t flourish, the economic equation becomes as simple as fertilizer: use it or don’t.

While RNAi is not a panacea for GMO scientists – it serves as an off switch, but cannot add new traits nor even turn on dormant ones – the dawn of antisense techniques is likely to mean an even further acceleration of the science of genetic meddling in agriculture. Its tools are more precise even than many of the most recent permanent genetic-modification methods. And the temporary nature of the technique – the ability to apply it selectively as needed versus breeding it directly into plants which may not benefit from the change decades on – is sure to please farmers, and maybe even consumers as well.

That is, unless the scientists in Australia are proven correct, and the siRNAs used in experiments today make their way into humans and affect the same genetic functions in us as they do in the plants. The science behind their assertions still needs a great deal of testing. Much of their assertion defies the basic understanding of how siRNA molecules are delivered – an incredibly difficult and delicate process that has been the subject of hundreds of millions of dollars of research thus far, and still remains, thanks to our incredible immune systems, a daunting challenge in front of one of the most promising forms of medicine (and now of farming too).

Still, their perspective is important food for thought… and likely fuel for much more debate to come. After all, even if you must label your products as containing GMO-derived ingredients, does that apply if you just treated an otherwise normal plant with a temporary, consumable, genetic on or off switch? In theory, the plant which ends up on your plate is once again genetically no different than the one which would have been on your plate had no siRNAs been used during its formative stages.

One thing is sure: the GMO food train left the station nearly a century ago and is now a very big business that will continue to grow and to innovate, using RNAi and other techniques to come.

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