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Saturday, February 28, 2015 8:20 PM

In Memory of Spock: Live Long and Prosper; Is He or Isn't He? Fish Tomatoes, Hand Transplants, Sci-Fi vs. Reality

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One of my favorite characters in TV history was Star Trek's "Spock". Yesterday, Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Died at 83.

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).
There's much more in the article. Inquiring minds may wish to take a look.

Is He or Isn't He?

Nimoy is author of two contradictory autobiographies:

Vulcan Greeting

Nimoy Explains Origin of Vulcan Greeting

Link if video does not play: Leonard Nimoy Explains Origin of Vulcan Greeting.

In Memory of Leonard Nimoy

Science Friday has an interesting article Memory of Leonard Nimoy.

In an enclosed video in the above link, Nimoy talks with Ira Flatow, physics professor John Kramer, and science fiction writer Robert Sawyer about the relationship between science and science fiction.

Sci-Fi vs. Reality

The Science Friday video was from 1998.  The video mentioned among other things, artificial hands and transplanting fish genes into tomatoes to make them more resistible to frost.

Artificial hands are here. Fish genes in tomatoes?

Let's investigate hand transplants and "fish tomatoes" in more detail.

Hand Transplants

Hand transplants are a success. The March 27 issue of BBC Future has the story of Rose Eveleth who says "I had a double hand transplant".

Rose considers the operation a success although it required much intensive therapy.

Genetically modified tomatoes were not a success to say the least. A couple of stories will explain.

Does Your Tomato Have Sole?

UC Santa Barbara asks Does Your Tomato Have Sole? If So, Is It Still a Veggie?

“Fish tomatoes,” are transgenic tomatoes that have been genetically engineered with a gene from winter flounder, which are also known as lemon sole. Fish tomatoes have become an icon in the debate over Genetically Modified Foods, especially in relation to the perceived ethical dilemma of combining genes from different species.

Killer Tomatoes

The above article explains the intent. The following article will explain the success or failure of the experiment.

Please consider Throwing Biotech Lies at Tomatoes
Remember the pictures of the fish tomatoes? For years they were an unofficial emblem of the anti-GMO movement. They depicted how anti-freeze genes from an Arctic fish were forced into tomato DNA, allowing the plants to survive frost. Scientists really did create those Frankentomatoes, but they were never put on the market. (Breyers low-fat ice cream, however, does contain anti-freeze proteins from Arctic fish genes, but that's another story.)

The tomato that did make it to market was called the Flavr Savr, engineered for longer shelf life. Fortunately, it was removed from the shelves soon after it was introduced.

Although there are no longer any genetically modified (GM) tomatoes being sold today, the FDA's shady approval process of the Flavr Savr provides a lesson in food safety—or rather, the lack of it—as far as gene-spliced foods are concerned. We know what really went on during the FDA's voluntary review process of the Flavr Savr in 1993, because a lawsuit forced the release of 44,000 agency memos.

Bleeding stomachs

Calgene, the tomatoes' creator-in-chief (now a part of Monsanto), voluntarily conducted three 28-day rat feeding studies.

The rats that ate one of these Flavr Savr varieties probably wished they were in a different test group. Out of 20 female rats, 7 developed stomach lesions—bleeding stomachs. The rats eating the other Flavr Savr, or the natural tomatoes, or no tomatoes at all, had no lesions.

If we humans had such effects in our stomachs, according to Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a top GMO safety and animal feeding expert, it "could lead to life-endangering hemorrhage, particularly in the elderly who use aspirin to prevent thrombosis."

Oh yeah, some rats died

The team that had obtained the formerly secret FDA documents sent the full Flavr Savr studies to Dr. Pusztai for review and comment. While reading them, he happened across an endnote that apparently the FDA scientists either did not see or chose to ignore. The text nonchalantly indicated that 7 of the 40 rats fed the Flavr Savr tomato died within two weeks.

But the endnote summarily dismissed the cause of death as husbandry error, and no additional data or explanation was provided. The dead rats were simply replaced with new ones.

When I discussed this finding with Dr. Pusztai over the phone, he was beside himself. He told me emphatically that in proper studies, you never just dismiss the cause of death with an unsupported footnote. He said that the details of the post mortem analysis must be included in order to rule out possible causes or to raise questions for additional research. Furthermore, you simply never replace test animals once the research begins.

Questionable follow-up study

Calgene repeated the rat study. This time, one male rat from the non-GM group of 20, and two females from the GM-fed group of 15, showed stomach lesions. Calgene claimed success. They said that the necrosis (dead tissue) and erosions (inflammation and bleeding) were "incidental" and not tomato-related.

In reality, the new study was not actually a "repeat." They used tomatoes from a different batch and used a freeze-dried concentrate rather then the frozen concentrate used in the previous trial. Dr. Martineau explained to me that by freeze-drying, it allowed them to put more of the concentrated tomato into each rat.

In spite of the outstanding issues, the political appointees at the FDA concluded that the lesions were not related to the GM tomatoes. To be on the safe side, however, Calgene on its own chose not to commercialize the tomato line that was associated with the high rate of stomach lesions and deaths. The other line went onto supermarket shelves in 1994.

Faulty science rules the day

This was the very first GM food crop to be consumed in the US. It was arguably the most radical change in our food in all of human history. It was the product of an infant science that was prone to side-effects. Yet it was placed on the market without required labels, warnings, or post-marketing surveillance. One hopes that the FDA would have been exhaustive in their approval process, holding back approvals until all doubts were extinguished. But the agency was officially mandated with promoting biotechnology and bent over backwards to push GMOs onto the market. As a result, their evaluation was woefully inadequate.
Federal Death Agency

I was at a Casey conference last September and Doug Casey commented the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) ought to be reclassified as the Federal Death Agency.

Those articles help explain why.

I conclude "Live long and prosper" ... and don't eat "fish tomatoes".

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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