We think we’re so smart messing with Nature

Virgo 2012

And we are sometimes. But as this is Virgo time I want to get picky about something – the world’s obsession about dividing things up into their parts, thereby being able to specialise in a particular area. Now don’t get me wrong. The Virgo talent of seeing detail and analysing data is very useful. However we shouldn’t lose the overall plot.

I encountered this problem very clearly when I went to several hospital appointments with a friend who had cancer. There was no-one responsible for the whole picture apart from her local doctor who was too snowed under with other work to do anything other than occasionally read hospital test results. That meant that we had to visit several specialists and departments and I frequently had to call the doctor responsible for pain management. In the end I was the one with the overall picture. The only person who understood what treatment was needed. This is a common complaint in healthcare.

Virgo constellation

Constellation Virgo from scientificlib.com

Our Lady of Grain

On another note, I’ve been studying the goddess Ceres for a while. Since 2006 in fact, when her cosmic namesake, previously known as an asteroid, was upgraded to a dwarf-planet and Pluto was reclassified as having the same status. It seems fitting to talk about one of her areas this month, as Virgo (see the grain in her hand) is harvest time in the northern hemisphere. Ceres is the goddess of grain and so I have been researching crops. Indeed I have never read so much about (to name a few) wheat crops, harvests, farm implements, tractors, seed drills and genetic modification. And of course crop circles. It is riveting stuff!

Setting Science Free

At the same time I am reading Rupert Sheldrake’s book, ‘The Science Delusion’ which has recently been released in the US as ‘Science Set Free’. In it, he challenges ten principles of science which he thinks are dogmas. His view is that they should really be turned into questions. One of his ‘dogmas’ has to do with heredity and genes. There is a wager that sums it up (from Sheldrake’s website): Professor Lewis Wolpert has bet Rupert Sheldrake a case of fine port that:
“By 1 May 2029, given the genome of a fertilised egg of an animal or plant, we will be able to predict in at least one case all the details of the organism that develops from it, including any abnormalities.” What this means is that Wolpert, along with many others, believes that DNA will be analysed in enough detail to be able to predict what the organism will be like physically.


So it’s not junk…

This goes against research in epigenetics which is showing that environment plays a part in turning genes on and off. In fact in the last few weeks scientists have discovered that what was previously known as ‘junk DNA’ (which many people thought of as non-junk, including me), may well be part of the heredity mechanism and may play a role in disease. The ‘software’ of genetics so to speak. This is a really important breakthrough but it doesn’t affect the wager between the two scientists. Sheldrake maintains that there is still no complete explanation for traits that are passed on from generation to generation. Genetics is not the same as heredity, or biological inheritance is not only material.

Parts vs. Whole

This may seem off the subject but it is relevant to harvests and wheat because scientists use genome research in modifying crops. They modify individual genes (i.e. ‘Virgo’ parts) to create, for example, a resistance to certain pests. The premise is that the physical gene is then fixed in this strain of wheat which will then remain resistant. Very clever.

However what is now coming to light is evidence of ‘plot-losing’ – i.e. not taking the bigger picture of nature all being connected – into account. With disastrous effects it seems. Maybe playing God is not a good idea after all. Or as I would describe it  – messing with Ceres – who has a bit of a temper to say the least. In the myth she refused to allow food to grow at all when she was angry. And judging by the news I think she is not too happy! A small sample of recent headlines:

    • Chance of massive harvest failure becomes greater
    • We won’t have enough grain
    • Price explosion in grain and soy – hunger threatens

A video from futureearth.org updated after this post was originally written.

Whether this can be laid at Ceres’ feet is of course debatable.

Whether it has anything to do with genetic modification is also open to debate. But what is clear is that bees are in trouble with a possible cause being lack of plant variation. Not to mention heavy duty insecticides. More interesting to me (and getting back to plot-losing) is that there is evidence that insects have adapted and are back to enjoying a veritable feast of GM crops! And new super-weeds that are now resistant to Monsanto’s Round-up are alive and well and living amongst crops. Messing about with nature is coming back in the form of super bugs to bite us in the backside.

Enough already

I just heard a ray of hope in a piece on BBC radio. However it was also reported that part of Agent Orange was being considered for weed elimination! Finally it is dawning on scientists that nature will always have the upper hand. They are considering using old techniques that organic farmers use to control weeds naturally. Ceres was the goddess of cultivation. What she knew was how to use and cooperate with the cycles of nature. Pluto energy tries to control nature and I think Ceres is saying ‘enough already’.

Monsanto, a company heavily involved in GM, has had a lot of criticism, particularly about its Round-up product. Many people have been involved in trying to expose Monsanto’s operations and if you believe everything you read it is scary. Whatever the truth is, and there are many conspiracy theories, the evidence of insects adapting and weeds becoming resistant is clear and is, in my view, pointing to of an overdose of negative Virgo combined with misuse of power at the top of companies. And of course it’s all about money. See the film on Monsanto below.

It takes two to Tango

We need the sign opposite Virgo to keep the balance. Pisces is a sign that knows about the interconnectedness of everything. Whatever we mess about with in nature WILL affect something else. There is a Gaia principle of a living, breathing earth. Nature knows far more than we do. And she can wipe us out with earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis and droughts whenever she likes.


Drought in Australia – Hay Plains – photo by Tim Keegan

If Pluto has got out of hand in his use of power, we need Ceres to help us get him back under control. I think this means that women need to step up to the plate and negotiate in areas where there is misuse of power, as Ceres does in the myth. She seems to be doing that in the heavens – withdrawing food, changes in seasons and weather are her area. And people who have misused power are being brought to justice.

So two bits of advice this month:

If you are doing anything involving detail or specialisation, try to take the whole picture into account.

And discover what you have to negotiate with, to take on the misuse of power. There is always something!

And a follow-up

Round 2 (of 5) of the Uranus – Pluto clash of the Titans.

I want to talk about genetic engineering but first a quick update. As I write, the second meeting of Uranus and Pluto is upon us. The tension in the world seems palpable to me as the themes of these two planets dominate the world stage. War, revolution, rebellion, heavy protests about being offended by a film. The publishing industry flexing its muscle again in the printing of photos of Kate Middleton’s naked top half. I recently saw two programmes on TV, one after the other on why the badger cull (by shooting) was necessary in the UK because of bovine TB. The second on how volunteers are saving and vaccinating badgers against this disease. The Netherlands now has to form a government consisting of a coalition of parties with opposite views. There are heavy disputes at all levels and in all areas between who has power and control (or wants to have it) and who wants to rebel or stand up against it.

Photo of Brian May protesting

As I have written before, this is a time of major change and it is not easy to hold your nerve. Like many people, I see it as the chaos before a major shift and hopefully we will come out the other end (in 2015) better off. But we can’t avoid it. The Euro is hanging in there but a bandage won’t do the trick. We really need to bite the bullet. So if anything is not working then the best (if somewhat daunting) strategy is to have the courage to change it. The universe will support it.

Faye Blake-Cossar

Interesting Websites of the Month

Rootworms adapt in the Midwest.

More of the same.

The  Monsanto film I mentioned above. The World according to Monsanto is long but worth watching if you want to decide for yourself how you feel about GM foods and how they are grown.

And a post on Facebook by one of my favourite writers Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes who wrote Women Who Run with the Wolves. It is about Monsanto.

Rupert Sheldrake talking about his book.

Quotes of the Month

“The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.”
Lewis Thomas, US physician, poet, etymologist and researcher.

“The first time I tried organic wheat bread, I thought I was chewing on roofing material”
Robin Williams, comedian and actor.

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