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Dec 18 2016

Ice Nine

Ice-nine is a fictional material that appears in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle. Ice-nine is described as a polymorph of water which instead of melting at 0 °C (32 °F), melts at 45.8 °C (114.4 °F). When ice-nine comes into contact with liquid water below 45.8 °C (thus effectively becoming supercooled), it acts as a seed crystal and causes the solidification of the entire body of water, which quickly crystallizes as more ice-nine. As people are mostly water, ice-nine kills nearly instantly when ingested or brought into contact with soft tissues exposed to the bloodstream, such as the eyes or tongue.

In the story, it is invented by Dr. Felix Hoenikker and developed by the Manhattan Project in order for the Marines to no longer need to deal with mud. The project is abandoned when it becomes clear that any quantity of it would have the power to destroy all life on earth.

So… bad. The worst thing about it is the chain reaction propogation, the least little speck dropped in any ocean anywhere would rapidly freeze 99.9% of the Earth’s water.

Now the interesting thing is that this was an actual proposal by Nobel Prize Winning Chemist (1932) Irving Langmuir who worked for General Electric. As it turns out Ice Nine is impossible because of chemistry and physics beyound my current understanding (hey, I’m a bright enough guy but I’m a Historian and Writer not a theoretical Chemist or Physicist and like Sherlock there are things I don’t need to know because they’re not relevant) but there are some polymorphic ices that have been created in laboratories, just not ones that are stable at Earth tempuratures and pressures (might want to check incoming space debris though).

There are some chemical polymorphs that do share some the qualities of Ice Nine, Wikipedia mentions Ritonavir, an anti-AIDS medicine, and Prion based diseases where protein folding can be warped extensively with a tiny amount of Prion catalyst.

In any event it’s a chilling future (though not necessarily a cold one, 114 °F is pretty damn hot if you ask me) and one that could easily be duplicated by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

As I mentioned in passing earlier this week one of the leading developers and promoters of GMOs is Monsanto, a Mega-Corporation Agri-Business and Chemical company. Their motivation for this research is primarily to develop crops that are resistent to their “Weed Killer” RoundUp. RoundUp itself is simply a civillian commercial variant of the Agent Orange Defoliant that was used in Vietnam and some people consider a Chemical Warfare Agent because of the toxic effects of the active ingredient, Dioxin, on the human body. Thousands of Veterans died in agony from poisoning, albiet years after their exposure.

The danger is (you know, outside of direct contact with RoundUp) that GMO crops will cross-pollinate with less desireable and more invasive plants and create colonies of Super-Weeds that are uncontrolable with normal methods and must be, as the Internet meme puts it, killed with fire.

With that background in mind I give you this alarming report from Alternet (nope, still not ‘Fake News’)-

The Sordid Tale of Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Bentgrass, the Dangerous Grass That Never Dies
By George Kimbrell, AlterNet
December 17, 2016

Earlier this month, the Department of Agriculture quietly greenlighted the first-ever genetically engineered grass. The GE creeping bentgrass, a product of Monsanto and Scotts, is genetically engineered to be immune to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

You may not have heard of it, but GE grass has quite a horror-film backstory. Once destined for golf courses nationwide, Monsanto first petitioned USDA for approval in 2002. Scientists were very worried: like all GMOs, the GE grass could cross-pollinate with related wild species, and spread uncontrollably. Because their tiny seeds and even lighter pollen can be carried on the wind for many miles, and they have lots of relatives they can cross-pollinate, GE grasses are even more assured to spread and contaminate other plants than other GE crops, like GE corn or GE soy, are. And like all of Monsanto’s GE products, they were engineered with the sole purpose of selling more Roundup to douse on them, which has resulted in dramatic increases in the pesticides entering our waters and native ecosystems. So when the GE grass did escape, farmers and regulators would have a superweed to deal with, one that would require even more toxic herbicides to kill.

Despite these concerns, the process moved along. The chemical companies that engineer patented GE seeds first do outdoor experiments—trials that are overseen by USDA, albeit usually poorly. And the 2003 GE grass experiments turned into a spectacular nightmare for USDA, Monsanto, and Scotts.

First, the Center for Food Safety successfully sued over the field trials, resulting in a federal court finding them unlawful. Remarkably, USDA had failed to analyze the environmental impacts of the GE grass escaping the trials. It got worse from there: as we and others had warned, the GE grass did indeed escape the trials and spread, even contaminating a National Grassland over a dozen miles away. A USDA investigation ended in a half a million dollar penalty.

Farmers were also extremely worried. They did they not want a novel superweed invading. Also, the experiments were in Oregon, the grass seed capital of the world, where grass seed is a 300 million dollar a year industry to the state. So the crop contamination risks could not be any higher. Nor are they hypothetical risks, far from it: Repeated GMO contamination incidents in other U.S. crops have cost farmers literally billions over the past decade in rejected sales, lost exports and closed agricultural markets, with new episodes “cropping” up regularly.

This should have been the end of GE bentgrass – and everybody thought it was. Field trials were halted, and Scotts and Monsanto stopped pushing for a commercial approval. Until 2011, when, out of the blue, Oregon farmers found new feral populations thriving in the wild, five years after Scotts and Monsanto promised it was all cleaned up. USDA initially tried to keep the new discovery a secret, but the findings became public because of testimony in another case of ours. Scotts/Monsanto and USDA swooped back in, unveiling a new plan and assuring local farmers and Oregon state regulators that this time, they actually would eliminate the rogue GE grass.

However after four years of failing, the chemical companies devised a new Machiavellian scheme: in exchange for a promise to USDA they would not commercialize the GE grass, USDA would finally grant their petition to commercial it. Why? Because once USDA granted the approval, USDA would lose the authority it has to make the companies clean up the mess, pushing the problem instead onto the shoulders of the local farmers and the state. And the “promise” not to commercialize? Only good, at most, through 2023, and revocable at any time by Scotts.

Oregon opposed. So did the local farmers and public interest organizations. FWS restated its alarm. Yet in the dying days of this administration, USDA apparently prioritized doing the chemical companies’ bidding, issuing the approval for GE bentgrass anyway. And those acknowledged harms to farmers and the environment? The agency refused (again) to weigh them, this time saying it didn’t have to because they would not come to pass, since the companies have promised not to sell the harmful product USDA just relinquished authority over. Because corporations, including Monsanto, have never lied before, right? Perhaps they have some oceanfront property out in eastern Oregon to sell farmers too.

And all just to make Golf Courses prettier for our elites and money for Monsanto. To quote from Ian Welsh.

Lie repeatedly, fail to keep your promises, and things like Trump and Brexit will happen. It is that simple.

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