I saw a picture of orange petunias the other day. Very pretty. However, after I read the accompanying article, I was horrified. Apparently, petunias just don't come in orange, the genes aren't there. Or rather, they weren't until recently.
Apparently, a Finnish researcher discovered that these plants are genetically modified, and may have been available for sale for several years, but never went through any approval process or testing for safety. It isn't at all clear how they reached the retail market, but there are now around a dozen varieties. They appear to have been originally created by Syngenta by inserting genes from Bt corn, but never commercialized. Even though they are illegal in the UK and most of Europe, and the USDA has asked nurseries (though they've refused to order them pulled off the market) to destroy current stocks of seed and plants, I found that it is still easy to buy them. There were several sellers on eBay. Here's one on Etsy who describes them as "rare."
So, since the USDA claims these flowers pose no risk to human health or the environment, and have requested stocks be destroyed merely as a compliance issue, why am I so disturbed by this? Think about it. What has this incident just proven? It's simple and obvious; this is glaring, damning evidence that all the fears of GMO opponents have been realized. Genetically modified organisms cannot be contained, controlled or effectively regulated. Safe or not, these petunias have been sold for several years. They're in gardens all over the world, they've had plenty of time to cross with wild relatives in Europe, and with other petunias in North American flower beds. Growers have already hybridized them into over a dozen varieties, so it can also be assumed that there are now varieties of other colors that carry these foreign genes. To be fair to the USDA, a recall now is pointless. The genie is out of the bottle.
What's worse, it has apparently occurred to nobody, or at least nobody who's voiced this suspicion, that these plants are probably the tip of the iceberg. They are, for practical purposes, the first black market GMO product that has been discovered, and then only because of a color that should not have occurred in the species. How did they get away from Syngenta in the first place? Employee theft? Some sort of seed mix up? This forces me to ask, how many other genetically engineered life forms have also entered the market under the RADAR? How many are in the food supply, even organics? How much of the epidemic of relatively new health problems we're seeing, diabetes, cancer, IBS, gluten intolerance, fibromyalgia, etc. are due to undiscovered contamination of food and personal care products, among other things?
I don't suppose it matters how the petunias escaped, as they may not actually be Syngenta's at all. The technology itself has escaped. Any hobbyist with a credit card has been able to buy their very own CRISPR kit and brew up designer bacteria to their heart's content for a couple of years now. Never mind that the much celebrated new CRISPR technique has already been proven to produce the same types of unintended mutations as older methods. There have been communities of people experimenting in home labs, referred to as biohackers, for over a decade. Not to mention the work that has no doubt been, and is being, conducted in military and corporate labs around the world, without proper safeguards, as is rumored at Plum Island and similar locations. I find myself wondering about the origins of some new diseases, as well as sightings of never before seen cryptids.
I think at this point, Pandora's box isn't just open, the lid's been blown off with dynamite. Our choice to partake of this technology, in our diets or any other part of our lives, has been taken from us, perhaps deliberately. Jeffrey Smith may as well pack up his tent. I'm all for creative innovation, that's what this site is really about. That doesn't mean we should jettison common sense and prudence. The biotech industry is acting like a five year old who's found the kitchen matches, and I fear it's too late to prevent them from burning down the house.
The disingenuous public conduct of the political class no longer surprises me, but I am still appalled and disgusted at the contempt with which many of them apparently view their constituents. It's obvious that they believe us to be vapid, stupid and easily manipulated. The sad thing is, their opinion of us appears to be justified, based on the results their lies usually achieve.
My current Congressman, Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), is a good example of this. I've written letters and signed a couple of petitions in support of the Hearing Protection Act, which would remove firearm sound suppressors from National Firearms Act regulation (the entire law was unConstitutional to begin with), making them easily available to the general public without having to jump through all the silly legal hoops and pay the $200 tax.
There are a number of sensible reasons to end restrictions on sound suppressors, ranging from protecting the hearing of lawfully armed citizens or first responders and bystanders during a self defense incident, to reducing the potential disturbance to wildlife and other outdoors enthusiasts on public and private lands. The former is especially important. Firearms are already loud enough to damage human hearing. When fired in an enclosed space, such as a bedroom or hallway, it's a given that some permanent hearing loss will result. While a homeowner might have time to don electronic hearing protection, it generally isn't feasible for police officers and CCW holders to have such equipment on their persons, nor will they usually have time to put it on during a violent encounter. If it were up to me, firearms manufacturers from this moment on would be required to include a sound suppressor with every gun they manufacture, preferably integrated into the design. Ruger's new integral barrel/suppressor for the 10/22 Takedown, and Silencerco's new maxim9 are indicators that at least some manufacturers agree with me.
However, each time I've written to Representative Ruiz, I've received the same canned response, word for word:
"Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding H.R. 367, the Hearing Protection Act of 2017. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the issues important to the individuals I serve. It is an essential part of our democratic process, and I am grateful for your input.
This is the usual thinly veiled anti-civil rights drivel, but the line that jumps out at me is "However, according to the EPA's noise reduction ratings, hearing damage occurs at 85 decibels. As such, even with the reduced decibel, shooters still risk damaging their hearing even if they use a silencer." There are a serious factual errors in this statement. Dig into the book, "Occupational Exposure To Noise: Evaluation, Prevention and Control" which you can download by chapter at the World Health Organization's website, and you'll quickly discover that the subject is just a wee bit more complicated than the good doctor makes it out to be. For starters, there's a big difference between continuous and intermittent noise, evaluated with different standards. Sound pressure also matters, which has a lot to do with distance from the source and reflective surfaces in the vicinity, such as the above mentioned hallway. Someone standing fifty feet away from a jet turbine is probably at less risk than someone using a circular saw in a small, closed room, even though the turbine is magnitudes louder. Length of exposure also matters a great deal, and this is where the Congressman gets into trouble.
The 85 decibel limit he cites is real, but it's the lower limit at which hearing damage can begin to occur for exposures exceeding eight hours! The actual upper limit at which no amount of exposure is considered safe (by anybody; OSHA actually links to the book I mentioned above, that's how I found it) without hearing protection is 140 dB. As sound energy rises above that 85 dB threshold and approaches the 140 dB cutoff, the (relatively) safe length of exposure drops quickly. When you get up around the levels of the average firearm discharge, it drops to under one second. Of course, it's possible to suffer hearing damage with shorter exposures at any given noise level above 85 dB. It depends somewhat on the individual's unique anatomy and health status, but these are the medically established guidelines.
Looking at the table from NIH, we see that for a great many activities we engage in, we should probably be wearing hearing protection, starting with your kitchen blender. Rock concerts and orchestras excepted, the reason most of us aren't deaf by the age of twenty five is length of exposure; we don't do most these things long enough to cause real damage at the given energy levels (though it could explain the booming business in hearing aids as we near our sixties. Damage can accumulate over time). I think the Congressman may have pulled his other numbers off of the Silencerco website, since they are pretty close to what the company quotes for some of their .22 silencers. Usually, a .22 Longrifle is somewhere around 130 dB. Given that the concussion from a gunshot lasts only milliseconds, a drop from 130 to 116 dB is very good, putting it well into the safe range for the length of exposure.
Congressman Ruiz is an intelligent man, and like Ron and Rand Paul, he is a licensed physician. I find it hard to believe that he doesn't understand the medical literature and established safety standards pertaining to human hearing, so why is he misrepresenting them? It would appear that the Congressman has another agenda that has nothing to do with the health and safety of his constituents, or defending their Constitutional rights. That he would attempt to confuse and conflate such easily verifiable facts doesn't say anything good about his opinion of his constituents either.
I am, and have always been, unafraid to voice my opinions. In fact I believe everyone needs to vent now and then, and we all have a God given right to do so. I despise willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty, and take a perhaps perverse pleasure in puncturing the politically correct proclamations of those who have anointed themselves as our betters. I could be described as a contrarian and a bit of a curmudgeon, having now reached an age at which those labels no longer sound odd. Not everything I'll address here will be controversial. In fact, I would rather keep that sort of thing somewhat limited (and it should surprise no one that I probably won't succeed in doing so). We already have our fill of whining talking heads on the 'net. However, if you are easily offended or thin skinned, you might want to skip this blog. You have been warned.