During a discussion panel in Arizona State University’s Biotech department that took place on February 2, 2012, the inventor of genetically engineered edible vaccines joked about wiping out 25% of the population with a genetically engineered virus. Dr. Charles Arntzen, head of The Biodesign Institute for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, responded to a question pertaining to whether feeding the 8 billion people of the world was worth it, or whether population reduction should be pursued. The scientist quipped: “Has anybody seen ‘Contagion’? That’s the answer! Go out and use genetic engineering to create a better virus… 25 percent of the population is supposed to go in Contagion.”
Arntzen was the first to pursue an edible vaccine for use in the developing world while at the Boyce Thompson Institute in 1996 under funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. His signature delivery vehicle is the banana. He noted the possibilities for its use in both poor countries as well as the wealthier Western world: “Children of developing countries may not be the only beneficiaries of this new technology. Says Arntzen: ‘American kids will also probably prefer being vaccinated by an edible vaccine rather than by a needle.'”
Perhaps even more startling is the fact that Dr. Arntzen — and perhaps some of his colleagues in the room — developed the first effective, stable and storable synthetic Ebola vaccine capable of being stockpiled under grants from the Department of Defense and Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. According to a news report from Arizona State University: “If early efforts bear fruit, an Ebola vaccine could be stockpiled for use in the United States, should the country fall victim to a natural outbreak or a bioterrorism event in which a weaponized strain of the virus were unleashed on soldiers or the public.”
If not downright creepy and nihilistic, it is surely poor bedside manner to joke about depopulating the masses of the planet via an engineered virus when he and his department are actively involved in tinkering with such stuff. The Ebola vaccine, while overtly for defensive measures, is the natural research companion to weaponized Ebola viruses that have been refined over the years by military researchers, including those in the United States, and classified as a Class A bioweapon.