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DARPA plans to end swine flu using Triffid drugs

Possible minor zombification side effect

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Crazed US military boffins, their plans for the eradication of humanity in a machine-rebellion bloodbath at a stand, have adopted an alternative strategy. They plan now to develop a "plant-based production system", ostensibly for the harvest of valuable products beneficial to humanity - but which seems certain to unleash a terrifying unforeseen Triffid-like vegetable horror upon suffering humanity.

The crazed boffins in question, it seems needless to say, are those of DARPA, the famous Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. It's important to remember that very few of DARPA's ambitious plans - which often involve a significant risk of wiping out the human race - ever come to anything. But they only have to be (un)lucky once.

In this case, the federal warboffins appear to be motivated by the ongoing swine flu outbreak. They say (Word doc):

The 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic has highlighted the national need for larger scale vaccine manufacturing capabilities ... Recent advances funded by DARPA and others have demonstrated the viability of plant-based protein expression technologies for the production and purification of cGMP-compliant medical countermeasures ...

Requested are approaches that demonstrate a proof-of-concept facility capable of growing adequate plant biomass for the production of protein ... Emphasis should be placed on infrastructure requirements and design, as well as equipment needed for the growth, processing, purification and validation of products ...

It won't have escaped readers of John Wyndham's dystopian classic The Day of the Triffids that there are some parallels here. The eponymous shuffling vegetable assassins of the book were theorised to have arisen as "the outcome of a series of ingenious biological meddlings - and very likely accidental, at that", most probably by secret government labs in Russia. In the book, large-scale cultivation and processing of Triffids began because "the extracts they give were very valuable in the circumstances".

Just as rapidly-produced vaccines could be in an age of global pandemics, in fact. Open and shut case.

You could argue, of course, that this kind of foolish scaremongering could stifle all scientific and technological progress - even lead to a new dark age of ignorance and poverty. But if there's one thing that "science" fiction has taught us, it's that attempts to better the lot of humanity and/or achieve military superiority through new technology always misfire. You get Triffids, zombie/vampire plagues, robot rebellions, murderously hostile computers, giant mutant creatures and so forth.

In real life, you sometimes get penicillin or radar or integrated circuits. But shh! Don't tell anyone.

So, anyway. Aiee! Triffids! etc. ®

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