Excerpt and image via Biohacking ? – Free Fermentology Foundation.
There exists a so called “dogma of molecular biology“, which, although considered as obsolete by most researchers, is still widely used by biotech companies to promote their products to the masses (GM crops, Monsanto, etc…). Using this dogma, they can pretend that they are doing a precise, predictable cut and paste work on the DNA.
According to this dogma, life is mainly encoded into the DNA, which is a kind of computer program for the cell and eventually the superior organisms like us. It is now clear that a human being cannot be encoded with 30,000 words (genes), and hopefully living organisms are inextricably interconnected with their environement, and involved in a number of complex feedback loops which makes a reductionist approach very naïve. The very notion of gene is not even well defined.
Furthermore, it is still very common to hear some stupid announcements (“we have found the gene of schizophrenia”), often made by serious scientists in search of fundings, which generates in the non-specialist audience a reaction of blind admiration (and sometimes of fear).
On the other hand, modern biology tells us that life has “discovered” an incredible number of very clever mechanisms. For example a muscle is much more efficient and flexible than most of our motors. And we don’t even understand how to mimic photosynthesis (from which solar energy can be turned into gasoline). All this was not obtained by using a down-top, reductionist design, from the DNA to the cell and then to Mozart. On the contrary, it is the macroscopic process of evolution which is at work behind all this.
This is this global approach that we will follow in these pages. Most of our work will stay at the macroscopic level, with populations of bacteria, symbiosis, etc. Evolution lead to the emergences of complex systems in interaction. A typical example are the few symbiosis discussed in these pages (Kefir, Kombucha, …) which are not well fitted for a standardized industrial process. Their commercial potential is limited, and so is the corresponding academic research. Here alternative structures like hacklabs and networks of amateurs working in an open source spirit can play a crucial role.