I read with interest about proposals to genetically engineer yeast to make it produce heroin as a by product of fermentation. This is being proposed not to create a new generation of home brew junkies, but to allow industrial production of medical opiates for use in pain relief. What really interested me though is not how this will save money for the NHS but the effect on world politics when the inevitable happens and illicit drug producers get hold of the yeast.
At present, Afghanistan is the epicentre of the world heroin trade. This generates billions of dollars a year for warlords and their allies. Organisations such as the Taliban extort a 'tax' on production and this is used to help spread radical Islamic policies. Warlords are well aware that if a political settlement is ever reached, allowing Afghanistan to become a governable entity, the gravy train will inevitably come to an end. As a result, the best thing for business is total chaos. IS in Syria and Iraq has the same backers and supporters as the Taliban. IS has only achieved success due to billions of dollars being pumped in. Bullets cost money as do armies. It is 100% clear that IS is good for the drug dealing business, and whilst Iraq is in flames, no one is too interested in ending the drug trade in Afghanistan. What I find intriguing is how we never see any discussions on how IS is funded. Armies do not run on fresh air. Bullets, food, fuel and wages have to be paid. Anyone who thinks IS is self funding are deluded. It is clearly a well funded and well organised organisation. You don't route a national army without training and excellent logistics.
But what happens if you can make heroin in the shed for a few pounds? Now, expensive couriers bring the drugs in, and bribes and taxes are paid to the Taliban. If the trade dries up, as cheap home brew smack replaces the Afghan crops, there will be no lucrative stream of income for the warlords. In short the primary tumour in the middle East will have been removed.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that a nation of junkies brewing home brew smack will be anything other than a huge social disaster in the UK. This will inevitably lead to a massive upheaval in attitudes to drugs and enforcement. Unlike cannabis factories, home brew kits will be virtually undetectable. There is no great need for light and heat, which are the tell tale signs of cannabis production. Of course drug gangs will set up huge factories, but I can see a huge cottage industry spring up. I am of the opinion that this will lead to a more rational approach to drugs and law enforcement, where education and licensing are the key aspects.
I also predict that it could spell the end of radical Islamic politics. Once the billions dry up for the warlords, the Taliban and all of the other unpleasant side effects of the drug trade will hopefully fade away. If we can have a sensible approach to managing this seismic shift, we may well find the world becomes a much better place. Once the billions are no longer rolling in, the poppy growers may actually find a reason to grow products that benefit society and ordinary local people may start to realise that education rather than drug money is the real key to a better life.