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Biotech United States

The President, The State of the Union, and Genetics 921

At last night's State of the Union, the president said "Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research, human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling or patenting human embryos." Jamie happened onto a link today which humorously and insightfully addresses this bit from the speech. It's worth your time. Relatedly segphault writes "Ars Technica has an interesting look at scientific research and technology proposals included in Bush's State of the Union address."
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The President, The State of the Union, and Genetics

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  • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:14PM (#14619875) Homepage
    If you have examples of the same people making both arguments, you have a point. Otherwise, just chalk it up to the fact that a bazillion people post here, and it's likely there are a lot of people on both sides of the issue. "Slashdot" is not a guy with two sets of opinions that contradict, it's a lot of people with their own opinions in one place.

    I'm not opposed to GM anything. I do, however, wish we'd spend a little more time testing things out before deploying them on a large scale, and a little less time suing farmers whose crops accidentally cross-pollinated with a patented GM species next door.
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:15PM (#14619882) Homepage Journal
    This is slashdot. Why we didn't invent the double standard, we did manage to patent it!

    Let me clue you in. Microsoft, Corporations and Bush are Evil(tm). Keep that simple fact in mind and you will be able to easily understand the apparent contradictions in the Slashdot psyche. Genetically altered foods are bad because Evil(tm) Agribusiness Corporations are behind it. Genetically altered humans are good because Evil(tm) Bush doesn't want them. See, it's simple!
  • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:19PM (#14619936) Homepage
    Picking my own nit: yeast is a fungus, not an animal. The broader point still stands.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:35PM (#14620131)
    Okay, I really want to hear your opinion on these illegal wiretaps.

    From what I understand, they are only monitoring phone calls that come in from overseas and are from KNOWN parties of interest. The governement CAN NOT tap calls made from the US to other countries (not totally clear on this) or calls that remain within the US without a court order.

    Can you clarify any of these or are you trying to feed me the slippery slope argument? Thanks!
  • Re:Oh, Democrats (Score:2, Informative)

    by daremonai ( 859175 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:56PM (#14620391)
    Urban legend alert! Contrary to your talking point, Congressmen have been part of Social Security since 1984. []
  • OK...49% (Score:4, Informative)

    by FatSean ( 18753 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:02PM (#14620458) Homepage Journal
    The rates of various nations [] are available.

    The point is, that these fundamentalist nutters claim the USA to be a "Christian Nation" when they push to have their specific religious rules codified in secular law. This high divorce divorce for every two marriages in recent years...goes strongly against this claim.

    And besides, the Founding Fathers were Deists...not Christians!

  • Re:Oh, Democrats (Score:5, Informative)

    by demachina ( 71715 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:04PM (#14620497)
    Not sure I want to see any Republican sponsored social security reform but it is a completely broken program and I would be overjoyed if tomorrow it went away and they just gave me a lump sum payment back of what I've paid in. Of course they can't since everything I've paid in has long since been squandered much of it on pork, fraud, waste and abuse and recently to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. Only way I get my money back is from more payroll taxes on workers younger than me.

    I guess I'm saying the Dems are just as wrong in defending the status quo as the Republicans are in their "reform" programs which are scams in their own right.

    Social Security as conceived by Roosevelt was kind of scam since very few people lived long enough to collect it and the tax rates could as a result be very low. Unfortunately most people live long past retirement age now and as of around 1980 the tax burden on working people went through the roof. Counting the hidden employer contribution payroll taxes are now an inescapable 12.5% of your wages. People say low and middle income people don't pay a lot of taxes, well they conveniently leave out this inescapable payroll tax.

    What we have today is America's greatest generation, the World War II generation, who paid very little in payroll taxes and are now living to their 80's and 90's thanks to better medical care. They are making out like bandits, with a huge return on their investment. Baby boomers will also reap big windfalls though not as big a windfall. Where does this windfall come from, why off the backs of younger workers who are paying a STEEP percentage of their income to fund the program PLUS a big surplus that Congress and various Presidents are squandering on other programs. These younger workers may discover when they retire the program has been eviscerated and they get back less than they paid in if they are lucky. At present Social Security and Medicare are cannibalizing young workers to support seniors.

    So can Social Security be reformed today? Not really because the greatest generation and the baby boomers are a powerful lobby and they wont let anyone touch their windfall. They vote in disproportionately high numbers while young people vote in low numbers. They are a powerful lobby.

    The result is the only reform you will see will impact younger workers and end up cutting their benefits compared to today's seniors or end up costing them or younger generations even more in taxes. NO ONE IS TOUCHING THE WINDFALL TODAY'S SENIORS ARE REAPING OR BABY BOOMERS WILL SOON REAP and which will push the system in to the red in a decade or so.

    What do the Republicans want to do. They want to force you to put payroll taxes in to private financial funds which they will strictly define and regulate. It kind of sounds like a good idea but it has a few problems:

    - You still wont really have control of the money because they will tell you exactly what you can and can't do with it.

    - The main thing they are trying to achieve is to take a mandatory payroll tax and put it under the control of giant private financial institutions who are huge contributors to the Republican party. They in turn will reap huge windfalls from manipulating this huge influx of money workers will have to give to them by law. Chances are it will cause a large bubble in the stock marker or wherever else it is invested. You can hope it goes in to stable investments that always appreciate but there is a fair chance it will land in investments where the workers actually end up losing money while Wall Street fat cats profit.

    - When all this money disappears in to private funds there will be a huge shortfall in paying benefits to current seniors and SOME LUCKY TAX PAYER is going to get to pick up the tab, and it probably isn't going to be the rich, OR the government is going to borrow ever more staggering sums to cover the shortfall which will further destabilize the dollar and the U.S. economy.

    The Republicans have made huge payoffs to their
  • by tinkerghost ( 944862 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:44PM (#14620952) Homepage
    It bears mentioning in mind that virtually all of our nation's supply of insulin is generated by human-animal hybrids.
    I thought it was produced from GM bacteria.
  • by CosmeticLobotamy ( 155360 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:11PM (#14621262)
    That's not hybridization, it's symbiosis.
  • Re:because... (Score:2, Informative)

    by babyphatman ( 842626 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:25PM (#14621376)
    Sperm is a cell carrying half of the genetic information to form an embryo witch is a different kind of cell. You are confusing it's function with it's form.
  • by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:26PM (#14621392)
    "the east is beginnig to eclipse the west"

    Are you kidding?

    Nature just published an article that touches on what you say in your post. I don't think you have a solid grasp of what is ACTUALLY happening. Take a look...

    This article [] seems to suggest that, not only are you wrong, but the countries you cite (China, India and "the east") are actually at the BOTTOM of the scales in terms of scientific output. Now, you can argue that it's an American publication/study (and you may have a point) -- but I think you make my point by doing so. By any measure, American scientific output is at the top of the charts. And by any measure, "the east" trails behind by a wide margin.

    I'm not saying that there isn't progress by the East. There is. But there is a loooooong way to go before their output "eclipses" the US in terms of scientific research and production.

  • Re:huh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Newman ( 444192 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:36PM (#14621453)
    The attempted humor in the replies pains me, because this is actually a *very* serious issue that could cripple human disease research in this country if gone about ham-handedly.

    For all you non-bio-geeks out there, we use animal models to study disease because there are many experiments you can do on a mouse or a fly that are either impractical or wholly unethical to do on humans. The trouble is that mice and men are different, so it's rare to find an animal model that perfectly replicates the human disease. But we often get close. One way we get close is by inserting human disease genes into mice. Or rats. Or frogs. Or worms. Or flies. So we can study in great detail exactly what those malfunctioning genes do. These animal models are technically chimeras - animals carrying human genes. But without them applied medical research, the stuff that finds cures for disease, would grind to a halt.

    Then there's the issue of biotechnology, actually creating and producing those cures. Another poster said that recombinant insulin is made by inserting the human insulin gene into other organisms - usually, I think, bacteria. Every recombinant drug is made the same way. So are the many antibody-derived drugs now reaching market (Herceptin, etc.). There's fundamentally no way around this. It's utterly uneconomical to mass-produce these drugs in vitro, using all-purified enzymes, and we don't even always understand how to do that. These drugs are already absurdly expensive, and much research has been devoted to developing new methods to produce them more cheaply (in cows' milk, for example).

    So this is all no joke. Given the record of the people in charge in all branches of government, I don't think we can assume that they thoroughly understand the issues and will craft appropriately rational legislation. If dealt with flippantly, through the usual partisan talking points, this *will* become a medical and scientific train wreck.
  • by msbsod ( 574856 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:44PM (#14621513)
    Some people like to argue that the current administration is actually increasing funding for research, something in the order of billions of dollars. True, missions like the one to Mars, which may not be feasible, do get more attention. Now, let me illustrate what effect the actual decrease of funding in nuclear research has on science. Last year, Dr. Christoph Leemann [], Director of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab []) sent a clear message [] (read it!) to all staff and users at JLab. This is alarming! For most people outside the scientific community it is probably hard to imagine what the loss of 45 jobs at JLab means. The situation at other labs, such as the Brookhaven National Laboratory [] is very similar, if not worse. Let me assure you that this cut has serious consequences for a lot of people at many research labs and universities in the US. We will see how this changes education in the US.
    There is more information available at the APS Public Affairs [] web site.
  • by RecycledElectrons ( 695206 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:57PM (#14621624)
    I'm a type 1 diabetic. I have given up on a cure in my lifetime because of the fundamentalist rants that have changed the research culture that was, once, 18 months from a cure for type 1 diabetes. We will now never see a cure in my lifetime.

    The reasoning of these fundamentalists is this: abortion is endangered, so it must be said to lead to something good. Therefore, they claim that embryonic stem cells are a cure-all. These fundamentalists find it trivial to ignore the fact that EVERY human who ever received an injection of embryonic stem cells had terminal cancer 18 months later resulting from the injection. These fundamentalists also find it trivial to ignore the miracle cures arising from adult (e.g., bone marrow & cord blood) stem cells.

    Who are there fundamentalists? I would like to indict, on capital charges:
    (1) The American News Media, who talk about cures from "stem cells" when they mean adult stem cells, and then talk about a ban on research using "stem cells" when they mean embryonic stem cells. They know the difference, but they lie and kill diabetics.
    (2) The American Congress, who take about cures from "stem cells" when they mean adult stem cells, and then talk about a ban on research using "stem cells" when they mean embryonic stem cells. They know the difference, but they lie and kill diabetics.
    (3) The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is run by genocidal left-wing nuts. They monopolized all research money intended to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and now refuse to let one dime go to finding any possible cure that does not involve the known-fatal embryonic stem cells. They know better, but they lie and kill diabetics.

    Andy Out!

  • by danwesnor ( 896499 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:00PM (#14621642)
    It may be there for us, but it will be coming out of children's and grandchildren's paychecks. If I offered to write my father a check for $100 every week, there's no way in hell he'd take it. But every week, that's exactly what Social Security does.
  • by bvwj ( 473084 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:03PM (#14621667)
    egg != embryo

    fertilized egg == embryo
  • Re:huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by John Newman ( 444192 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:53PM (#14622017)
    What is the source of the human genes in your experiment ?

    Do you have to kill a human embryo to get human genes ? I don't think so.
    Can't you just take a few cells from an adult human ?
    This is different from stem cells and cloning. Unlike those two hot-button issues, whose impact is still largely theoretical, human-animal disease models have been in widespread use for decades, and are fundamental to how we understand human diseases.

    Specifically, no, you don't use DNA from embryos. When studying human genes, the physical DNA itself can come from any human cells. You can even synthesize it chemically for very short genes. Most research using human tissue is performed on immortal lines of one specific type of cell - often derived from cancers, sometimes custom-made for the purpose - that are grown in petri dishes in incubators. The limitations inherent to this approach (how do you study Alzheimer's disease in a petri dish?) are exactly why animal models, which let us study the whole organism, are so incredibly valuable.
  • by Tim ( 686 ) <`ude.notgnihsaw.inmula' `ta' `rmit'> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @09:47PM (#14622313) Homepage
    "The NSF's budget has increased every year during the Bush administration."

    That's a totally meaningless statement. The NSF budget has increased almost every year since its inception, regardless of presidential administration.

    "Oh yeah, and the NIH budget doubled[pdf] from 1999 to 2003. For several of those years, a man named George W. Bush was president."

    Yeah, that's nice. Bush also added an entirely new research arm to the NIH (bioterrorism), capped NIH budget growth to 2.5% in 2004 and 2005, and is proposing a nearly 30% cut in NIH funding in 2006. He's a real friend to the sciences. But, least he dramatically increased funding for weapons development! Yay! have to be either stupid or willfully ignorant to think that George Bush has done anything to help the sciences. And IAAS, so I know what I'm talking about.
  • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:12PM (#14622474) Journal
    Embryos develop these qualities around week six. []
  • Re:Oh, Democrats (Score:3, Informative)

    by rtechie ( 244489 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:35AM (#14623530)
    Social Security as conceived by Roosevelt was kind of scam since very few people lived long enough to collect it and the tax rates could as a result be very low. Unfortunately most people live long past retirement age now

    Okay, let me correct your biggest misconception. You seem to think that Social Security was INTENDED as a retirement program for many elderly Americans. This is false. It was false when it was written, it is false today.

    The purpose of Social Security is to serve as a social INSURANCE policy to rescue needy people from extreme poverty or destitution. It's intended to keep widows, children, the disabled, and yes, the elderly off the streets. That's it. Getting rid of Social Security LITERALLY means throwing blind children into the streets. We are not getting rid of Social Security.

    Right-wing blowhards who are philosophically opposed to the concept of charity continually moan about how the program is going "bankrupt" (in approximately 50 years) and that the Federal government will collapse, and that cloned Commie supermen will conquer the Earth. The reality is that in the distant future, assuming that there are not steep decreases in revenue, Social Security may have to start dipping into the general fund to cover it's liablities. God forbid we spend money to help people in wheelchairs rather than spend it on weapons. Or the SS tax might have to be raised marginally, assuming the military can't live without the newest Lockheed-Martin Death Ray(tm).

  • by Kirth ( 183 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @09:47AM (#14625026) Homepage
    Embryos aren't human beings and as I'm not a religious fanatic I see no reason to treat them as such.

    And christianity thought the same for several hundered years. According to the (catholic, it's the early middle ages) church an embryo only evolved into a human, and got a soul, after 10 to 16 weeks (there was, of course a discussion, and whether males had a soul already with 10 weeks, whereas femles only had one with 12 weeks or whatever), and abortion was thus allowed before that.

    It's only recently some religious zealots invented this absolutist anti-abortion nonsense.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard