Prof fears rise of home-brewed heroin

Home-brewed heroin production: The 2015 05 21 print edition of the Edmonton Journal carried a front-page story promoting fear about breaking-bad style, home-brewed heroin production.

The alarmist nature of the Edmonton Journal article by Sheila Pratt motivated me to look for more credible sources of less alarmist news on home-brewed heroin production.  I am glad that I did. The journalistic integrity of the Edmonton Journal most definitely appears to have taken a hit since the days Lorne Gunter was a member of its editorial board.

It turns out that clues and motivation for that article were apparently obtained from an earlier article on the same topic that had appeared in the  British tabloid ‘The Daily Mirrror’.

Fortunately, there is a much more sedate source of realistic information on home-brewed heroin production than can be found at either newspaper, the Daily Mirror or the Edmonton Journal.  That is the National Health Service in the UK, who published yesterday a good summary of the history and origins of the media-fueled alarmism about home-brewed heroin production.

The NHS article,”Bioengineeering advances raise fears of ‘home-brew heroin’,” does an excellent job of reporting on the progress with making the idea reality of using yeast to mimic some of the processing steps in the opium poppy for heroin or other opioids production.  It makes it clear as well that the bioengineering (genetic modification) of yeast to be able to do the mimicking still needs to be done and is a long way off.

However, the NHS search into the origins of the home-brew-heroin alarmism made something else clear that is perhaps a lot worse than the sort of alarmism spread by the Daily Mirror and the Edmonton Journal.  That is that the study of the possibility of using yeast for heroin production done by researchers from the University of California and Concordia University in Canada,

…was funded by the US Department of Energy, the US National Science Foundation, the US Department of Defense, Genome Canada, Genome Quebec, and a Canada Research Chair.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Chemical Biology. It is open access, meaning it can be read online for free.

The last paragraph in that quote contains three link that you can look up in the NHS report.

It is odd that the Edmonton Journal’s Sheila Pratt neglected to report on what the NHS found and published.  It is not an omission that a seasoned journalist worthy of making the front page should be permitted to make.

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