Manipulating Nature

How Far Should We Go in Our Campaign to Take What We Want?

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The imposition of human will on nature seems to have its benefits, but it certainly has it drawbacks as well. The fol­lowing illustrates some of the issues we need to consider.

BAD SEED: The Truth About Our Food

This is a documentary that sets out to expose a vast conspiracy to contaminate and control the world’s food supply through genetic engineering of food crops. These opponents believe that genetic modifications in major crops has caused a power shift in agriculture towards biotechnology companies, which are gaining more control over the pro­duction chain of crops and food, and over the farmers that use their products, as well.

I ask the question, “Just because you can, should you?” That could open up an evening’s worth of conversation on several topics. But for this review, we’re referring to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Scientists have discov­ered how to manipulate DNA, the blueprint of life, and they claim they can produce stronger, more disease-resistant crops. But should they, even if they don’t know for sure if it’s safe for humans or the environment? The obvious an­swer has sparked violent protests worldwide. Leading scientists, researchers and activists present the facts that you need to know about GMOs. They stress that the methods used to genetically engineer plants are imprecise and ex­tremely dangerous. Stating that 80% of food sold in North America today already has ingredients made of GMOs that have not been adequately tested for safety, they present a program that exposes what could be the great fallacy behind the FDA’s approval system.

Man has been “genetically modifying” everything from food to dogs for many centuries; but in the past, the only tool had been selective breeding. For example, if you wanted to create a breed of corn with resistance to a certain fun­gus, you would plant a plot of corn and see how individual plants did with the fungus. Then you would take seeds from the plants that did well, plant them, look at their performance against the fungus…and so on over the years un­til you had created a strain of corn plant that had very high resistance to the fungus in question.

Using selective breeding techniques, people have created everything from variegated roses to giant pumpkins to strains of wheat with twice the yield and very high disease tolerance. In the same way, you can take chickens, analyze their eggs and find chickens with eggs that contain less cholesterol. Then you can breed them to create a strain of low-cholesterol chickens. You can select any detectable trait and selectively breed members of the species that do well on that trait.

Genetic engineering techniques now allow scientists to insert specific genes into a plant or animal without having to go through the trial-and-error process of selective breeding. Genetic engineering is therefore extremely rapid com­pared to selective breeding. With genetic engineering, you can also cross species very easily (for example, you can create a plant that produces human insulin). There really is no limit to what can be done!

And then there’s the issue of the loss of biodiversity, a threat to food security. In agriculture and animal husband­ry, green revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield many times over by creating “high-yielding varieties.” Often the handful of breeds of plants and animals hybridized originated in developed coun­tries and were further hybridized with local varieties, in the rest of the developing world, to create high-yield strains resistant to local climate and diseases. Local governments and industry since have been pushing hybridization with such zeal that several of the wild and indigenous breeds that had evolved locally over thousands of years with high re­sistance to local extremes in climate and immunity to diseases, etc., have already become extinct or are in grave dan­ger of becoming so in the near future. Due to complete disuse because of unprofitability and uncontrolled intention­al—compounded with unintentional—cross-pollination and cross-breeding (genetic pollution), formerly huge gene pools of various wild and indigenous breeds have collapsed causing widespread genetic erosion and genetic pollution resulting in great loss in genetic diversity and biodiversity as a whole.

It is being said that genetic erosion coupled with genetic pollution is destroying that much-needed genetic base thereby creating an unforeseen, hidden crisis which will result in a severe threat to our food security for the future when diverse genetic material will cease to exist and we’ll no longer be able to further improve or hybridize weaken­ing food crops and livestock against more resistant diseases and climatic changes.

So, do “they” know what they’re doing? Have they sufficiently evaluated the risks? Must we demand labeling? In many countries, and especially in the European Union, consumers demand the choice between foods of genetically modified, conventional, or organic origins. This requires a labeling system as well as the reliable separation of GM and non-GM organisms at production level and throughout the whole processing chain. This program presents the facts about this alarming controversy and will help you decide if this is something you’re willing to tolerate.

DVD – 112 min.

$24.95

1-800-228-8381

TUNGUSKA: The Russian Roswell

In the United States the modern flying saucer era began in the desert of Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, but in Rus­sia the modern flying saucer era began at 7:17 a.m. on June 30,1908, in central Siberia, near the Tunguska River. The devastation was enormous. A fireball as bright as the sun was seen streaking across the sky. Observers 300 miles away heard deafening bangs. Trees were flattened in a radial pattern over an area of 850 square miles. Seismic vibra­tions were recorded by instruments as far away as 600 miles. Fires burned for weeks. Forty miles from ground zero, people were thrown to the ground and knocked unconscious. One man was hurled into a tree and killed. Scientists examining the area calculated that the explosion was equivalent to 40 megatons of TNT, 2000 times the force of the atomic bomb released on Hiroshima in 1945; yet there was no crater.

Other, more enigmatic effects were recorded: disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field; a local geomagnetic storm; a reversal of soil magnetization; an electromagnetic pulse, similar to what would be created by a nuclear ex­plosion; aurora displays before and after the event; unusually bright nights seen before and after the event; genetic mutations in plants and animals; accelerated growth of plants afterward; radiation-like burns and deaths of exposed people. Detailed, eyewitness reports were systematically collected as late as 1959, when interviews were conducted with many of the indigenous people who had been within 60 miles of the explosion. Most of these accounts claimed that the local people had been covered with boils after the explosion, with whole families dying off.

Many scientists are trying to prove that it was not of alien origin, of course.

Here are just a couple of examples, of which there are many more:

The astronomers, D’Alessio and Harms, suggested in 1989 that some of the deuterium in a comet entering the earth’s atmosphere may have undergone a nuclear fusion reaction, leaving a distinctive signature in the form of car­bon-14. They concluded that the release of nuclear energy may have been almost negligible. Independently, in 1990, Cesar Sirvent proposed that a deuterium comet (a comet with an anomalous high concentration of deuterium in its composition) may have exploded as a natural hydrogen bomb, generating most of the energy released. The sequence would be first a mechanical or kinetic explosion, and an instant later a thermonuclear reaction generated by this first explosion. It was pointed out by those in the know that it is inconsistent with knowledge both of the composition of comets and of the temperature and pressure conditions necessary for initiating a nuclear fusion reaction.

And as late as June of this year, 2007, scientists were still trying to convince others that a crater had been found. They identified a lake in the Tunguska region as a possible impact crater from the event. Lake Cheko is a small bowl-shaped lake northwest of the epicenter. But that hypothesis has been challenged by other impact crater specialists. A 1961 investigation had dismissed a modern origin of Lake Cheko, saying that the presence of meters-thick silt depos­its at the lake’s bed suggests an age of at least 5000 years. Casting further doubt on this hypothesis are three separate accounts indicating that Lake Cheko was a well-known landmark on the Strelka-Vanavara trail long before the Tun­guska event, hence could not have been formed by the impact.

So, was it an asteroid? A comet? Was it a nuclear-powered alien spacecraft? Was it antimatter? Was it a black hole? OR—was there a Tesla connection? On this DVD you’ll hear from the eyewitnesses as well as NASA/JPL scien­tists, and others, as these various hypotheses are explored.

Geophysical origin or extraterrestrial impact? Nearly 100 years later, the debate continues.

DVD – 50 min.

$19.95

1-800-228-8381

LOST CITY

Speaking of Tesla, this legendary serial, presented here in 12 full chapters, was shown in theaters in 1935 and fea­tured Tesla’s wireless transmission of power and other inventions. It’s in the “so-bad-it’s-good” category for those who find interest in these oldies.

The series begins with electrical disturbances causing turmoil all over the world. Scientist Bruce Gordon invents a device to track these disturbances and he determines that they are coming from a secluded area in central Africa. Traveling there he finds Zolok, last of the Lemurians, in a secret complex under a mountain. (It’s been said that this may be partly the source of the “myth” of Marconi’s secret city in the jungles of South America.) Zolok had created the natural disasters as a prelude to his attempt to take over the world. Here Gordon finds lots of Tesla technology and futuristic hallways and rooms with numerous gadgets on the walls, plus a remote viewing television screen, and a death ray that eats through metal. There’s even a scene similar to Goldfinger’s laser burning toward James Bond’s crotch.

In addition to Gordon and Zolok, we find Zolok’s reluctant assistant, the brilliant Dr. Manyus, who is being forced to cooperate lest harm befall his beautiful daughter Natcha. And perhaps the most enjoyable character is renegade trader, Butterfield, who goes from good guy to villain to good guy again, depending on the dictates of the script.

William Boyd (Zolok) is listed in the lead role, but this is not the William Boyd who played Hopalong Cassidy! It was actually William “Stage” Boyd who played Zolok with, what one historian called, “alcoholic intensity” (an apt de­scription, I’d say). Unfortunately for William Boyd (of later Hopalong Cassidy fame), his picture was mistakenly run in a newspaper story about the arrest of William “Stage” Boyd on gambling and liquor charges, and by the end of the 1920s his career had begun to deteriorate. Then later, when he was offered the role of Hopalong in 1935, he changed the original pulp-fiction character from a whisky-guzzling wrangler to a cowboy hero who didn’t smoke, drink or swear, and always let the bad guy start the fight. So finally, fortunately for him, he was able to redeem his reputation and became indelibly associated with the Hopalong Cassidy character, and he gained lasting fame in the Western film genre because of it. In fact, he purchased the rights to the character of Hopalong, as well as the rights to the 66 Hopa­long Cassidy movies. He released these to television, where they became extremely popular. As a private individual and an actor, he was a hero to a generation of American children. Interestingly, both Clark Gable and Robert Mitch­um experienced their first big breaks in movies playing bearded villains in westerns starring William Boyd. But, I di­gress. As for William “Stage” Boyd—he worked in two Broadway plays, so when making the crossover into film he found out that another William Boyd (the Hopalong Cassidy one) was already in the business. Loath to change his name, it was suggested that he play on his theater background by literally making “Stage” his middle name, thereby differentiating himself from the other Boyd. His bad behavior not only wrecked his career, but the other Boyd’s as well. Stage Boyd died of a liver ailment the same year “The Lost City” was completed.

The other actor some might recognize is George “Gabby” Hayes, who played Butterfield. He was one of the most famous Western-movie sidekicks of the 1930s and 1940s. We might not have seen him in this role had he not lost much of his money in the 1929 stock market crash. He and his wife, Olivia Ireland, had become quite successful on the vaudeville circuit and had already retired in the 1920s. They moved to California and he began working steadily in roles in westerns as well as non-westerns. Then in the mid-1930s he settled into an almost exclusively western career. In fact he gained fame as Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick, Windy Halliday, but left the Cassidy films in a salary dispute. Precluded from using the “Windy” nickname, he took the nickname of “Gabby.” After the mid-1930s (the era of this film), he worked almost exclusively as a western sidekick to stars such as John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Randolph Scott. We got these catchphrases from him: “yer durn tootin” and “young whipper snapper.” Interestingly, offstage he was the exact opposite of the characters he played on film—an elegant and well-appointed connoisseur and man­about-town, well-read, serious and highly philosophical. He died of cardiovascular disease in 1969.

As for the other characters:

Claudia Dell—Natcha—was a showgirl in the 1927 Ziegfeld Follies. After this film she later worked as a beauty shop receptionist and appeared in early television dramas.

Josef Swickard—Dr. Manyus. His later fillms were mostly in the low-budgeted category and included several ac­tion serials. In 1939 the veteran actor suffered a terrible tragedy when his former wife, Margaret Campbell, was bru­tally slain by their son. He did not, however, commit suicide by jumping from the Hollywood sign as erroneously re­ported, but died from natural causes the following year.

Bruce Gordon—Kane Richmond—retired from films in 1948 and went on to make a fortune in the fashion busi­ness.

So, there you have it—the “good ol’ days”!

This film tries to keep you on your toes as peril follows peril, but this is not a big budget (translate “cheap”!) pro­duction, by any means, so if you’re prepared for silly, campy fun in order to get to see the influence of the Tesla age, this might be worth your time. Keep your clicker handy, though, because you’ll want to fast-forward through the re­peating introduction and credits. (As for chapters, the two DVDs are incorrectly labeled as 1-7 and 8-12, while they should be 1-6 and 7-12.) As for the music score, it’s grating on the nerves—but it ends up being part of the “so-bad­it’s-good-campy-fun”!

2-DVD Set – 236 min.

$19.95

1-800-228-8381

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