Super-humans and the end of all disease, that is the supposed agenda of biotechnology. But in reality, these scientists just don’t want to die, most likely because they know who they’ll have to meet.

Impact: Future

There is stark concern that over the next several years, science will bring about baby farming and designer babies using technology such as CRISPR CAS9 the gene editing tool that would allow scientists and researchers to alter the human germ-line forever. But, there is another far more secretive yet far more omnipotent technology that would permit the rise of “designer adults.” This technology, could, in theory, be used today, on adults, and would not forever alter the Human genome. It’s called epigenetics.

Rising in the background of genetic research, the field of epigenetics has sprung to life like a virus. This study would allow researchers to alter the expression of genes, but what exactly does that mean? According to the LA Review of Books;

Ongoing efforts at self-regulation among leading scientists in the field certainly deserve our respect and support. But what seems to have gone relatively unnoticed over the last decade is the development of a separate but equally potent pathway for genetically engineering — and thus redesigning — human bodies and minds: epigenetics. Over the coming decades, altering our kids’ DNA may not be the most appealing way to proceed. In fact, if the cutting-edge field of epigenetics fulfills its promise, the hoopla over designer babies may end up being misplaced. “Designer adults,” created through epigenetic modification, may instead be the real game-changer. In such a world, bioenhancement tools used by today’s “body hackers” like Peter Thiel and Ray Kurzweil — transfusions of youthful blood, elaborate daily regimens of pills and potions — would seem as crude and quaint as the leeches of yesteryear….

The advantages of this indirect method would be significant. Epigenetic modifications would be much easier to implement than genetic ones because our epigenomes are already primed to respond to shifting environmental conditions or trigger events. When we go on a diet, for example, our bodies respond by altering our metabolism, and part of this adjustment is carried out via epigenetic modulations. Even when we engage in transitory acts like stepping into a sauna, our bodies make epigenetic adjustments as they struggle to maintain homeostasis in the sweltering heat. Such mechanisms could eventually be systematically harnessed to bring about far-reaching changes to our bodies and minds.

Designer adults?

The field of genetic enhancement often raises the question, what happens if one class can afford to alter their DNA and the other cannot? However, using epigenetics, what happens if one class of adults can modify the expression of their DNA and another cannot? It’s rather simple, depending on the motivation behind an individual’s pursuit of mortal enhancement, one class of people could systematically wipe another out.

Impact: Now

The field of epigenetics is still in its early stages, and much has yet to be understood by scientists. However, going back just a few years in this field, it would substantially appear as though large corporations such as Nestle are interested in the field.

The following comes from NutraIngrediants;

The company said it hoped epigenetics, the study of how environmental factors including eating behaviours could impact genetics of the consumer and therefore future generations, would help it understand more about the importance of maternal nutrition.

Chief technology officer for the firm Stefan Catsicas said it was particularly interested in the areas of pregnancy-related conditions such as gestational diabetes.

Heiko Schipper, CEO of Nestlé Nutrition, said: “Science shows that the nutrition infants and young children receive in the first 1000 days from conception has a long-lasting influence on their health, wellness and quality of life.”

University of Southampton’s Keith Godfrey, head of the EpiGen science management group, said the project would study mothers and infants from three distinct populations, which he said would provide further insight into the, “relationship between genetic background and nutritional influences on disease burden for the mother and infant”.

Corporations such as Nestle are interested in how eating behaviors impact consumers’ genetics and future generations? Well, now that places a bit of a game changer on it doesn’t it. Corporations armed with this sort of research could be altering the genetic expression of their consumers, and creating addictions at this level by what is placed in their products made for consumption. In other words, large corporations could create lifelong customers based on the science behind their products and how they are produced, all while making them sick and diseased.

By far the most disturbing aspect is that corporations such as Nestle are going after the children, babies in particular, because of their Gerber products line. Nestle has had its fair share of scandals about what is exactly in their products.

Nestle’s scandal of the 1970’s

The company’s most infamous misdeeds lie in the highly profitable industry behind infant formula. In the 1970s, Nestlé attracted global attention with a boycott centered around its formula division. Critics of the company claimed that it was “hooking” new mothers in the Global South on expensive formula with the use of misleading advertising, representatives wearing nurse’s uniforms and pushing formula, and goodie bags with free samples.

Once breastfeeding women started weaning and transitioned to formula, they weren’t able to go back—and they were forced to keep buying the expensive product or run the risk of allowing their babies to starve. Pro-breastfeeding activists argued that inadequate access to breastmilk exposed babies to increased health risks—as breastmilk carries antibodies from the mother and is also uniquely formulated to infant nutritional needs, perhaps unsurprisingly—and that poorly balanced formula could leave babies with health problems.

Activists organized an international boycott that was officially sustained until 1984, when Nestlé agreed to reform its practices. However, when the firm continued to violate labeling laws and its own promises, activists took up the cause once more, and the controversy rages on. Baby Milk Action, a major player in the dispute, has outlined a four-point plan with demands for Nestlé, but the company hasn’t responded.

To place this into perspective Nestle also is in the field of water, and to prove that; the top echelons of their company do not care about anything other than profits, here is in their own words, how they view the importance of water.

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Taking Nestle corporate perspective on something as essential as water; can you imagine their view on babies and children? And this is only one company who aligned their labs up with the Epigen Consortium.

The Epigen Consortium is the organization behind a significant portion of the research contributed to epigenetics;

Established in 2006, EpiGen Global Research Consortium is an international research network with 5 partner institutions in 3 countries. The key groups within these organisations have synergistic skills and world leadership in the technology and science of applied epigenetics.

EpiGen represents a collaborative research network with interests in developmental plasticity, nutrition, epigenetics, human health and animal productivity. Our work ranges from public policy, advocacy and educational interventions, to fundamental epigenetics and mathematical biology and to undertaking clinical trials. EpiGen has developed substantial and productive relationships with the private sector. These research contracts have provided in the region of SGD$60m in funding to enable us to advance the fields of applied epigenetics and maternal and infant nutrition.

Given the not-so-futuristic impact of epigenetics, it is quite obvious that one day a single class of ‘rulers’ will have super-human abilities as they design their utopia, while the lower class will be fed their products. What say you reader?

Works Cited

Michael Bess. “Beyond Designer Babies: Epigenetic Modification May Be the Next Game-Changer.” LARB. . (2017): . .

Annie Harrison-Dunn. “Nestlé puts €18m on table for epigenetics research.” Nutraingredients. . (2015): . .

Cristina Florean. “Food that shapes you: how diet can change your epigenome.” Science in School. . (2014): . .

Jill Krasney. “Every Parent Should Know The Scandalous History Of Infant Formula.” Business Insider. . (2012): . .

EpiGen. “EpiGen Global Research Consortium.” EpiGen. . (NA): . .

S.E. Smith. “5 shocking scandals that prove it’s time to boycott Nestlé.” The Daily Dot. . (2015): . .