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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Some hope for your holidays

In an attempt to steer away from covid related news, this week’s Sunday Summary will look at some rather different stories from around the globe. While it is understandable, and highly necessary, that modern science is focused so intently on a vaccine for the pandemic; a recent study on the effects of CRISPR has been published. For those of you who have not heard of CRISPR, it is a gene editing tool that has allowed us to tackle many previously incurable or difficult to treat diseases through the artificial manipulation of human genes. Currently, as CRISPR stands, stem cells are taken from the patient, the genes causing the disease - such as sickle cell disease, alzheimer’s, various cancers, and HIV - are altered to represent ‘normal’ genes, and then the cells are inserted back into the host body; the idea being that the now-healthy stem cells will replace the undesirable ones. Yes, this is changing the face of humanity on a fundamental level but no, it is far from a dystopically super-race future. As of yet, this treatment allows for therapeutic treatment rather than straight out enhancement, a key element in the ethical understanding of modern medicine. You may find out more about CRISPR here.

Paul Stamets, the Steve Irwin of Mycelium, is another force to be reckoned with within modern medicine. Except, he is rather more of the maverick than of the potentially dystopian kind. You may have seen his TedTalk, here, or you may have heard him on the Joe Rogan Podcast, here, or you may have never heard of him at all. Mr Stamets is widely considered to be at the forefront of mycology studies, or ‘magic mushrooms and what they can do for us’ - with claimed benefits from effective oil spill clean up and nuclear radioactivity absorption to plastics breakdowns and depression relief . Lately, Mr Stamets has begun a campaign to preserve islands off the coast of British Columbia with the claim that a rare type of ancient funghi has been discovered there - with the argument that they may hold more cures to the ails that besets the human race and the planet at large. Despite being largely self-taught, holding a degree no higher than a bachelor’s, his voice is growing in stature in the scientific community and with the world going up in flames, perhaps it is time to start looking outside the establishment for answers.

In keeping with the environmental focus, Tesco’s, the British grocery chain and third-largest in the world, has announced that it will remove twenty million pieces of single-use plastic from its Christmas-related products this season. While this is a step in the correct direction, as an astounding amount of plastic waste in the West comes from our food packaging, the upcoming ignominious divorce from the continent will undoubtedly force British grocers to take more even radical steps in providing the people with responsible foodstuffs in 2021. The UK government is clearly not up to the task.

There it is, this week’s roundup of some interesting headlines. Hopefully this will provide something to chew on as we get into holiday mode. Merry Christmas!

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