<The current exchange seems to be centered around the presence of the
hormone itself. Since BSt is a naturally occurring hormone, presence or
absence within milk does not seem to be a matter of choice.>
Even if one cannot choose between presence and absence, there remains the
question of quantity. One drink or a glass of wine a day is good for your
heart, the scientists now way. A bottle a day will kill you eventually.
Radioactivity appears to have some medical value in small quantities, but
nuclear waste from a nuclear power plant is another matter. I can remember
thinking it great fun to see the bones of my feet in the shoe-store x-ray
machine, later those were determined to be too risky.
It is my understanding, please correct me if I am wrong, that BSt itself
reduces the productive life expectancy of cows.
Marc then posed a most thought provoking question:
<This leads me to the derivative question for those involved in the
discussion: is there more concern about the use of bioengineering
technology or about the type of evaluation its products have received?
If trials funded by laboratories approved and selected by organic farmers
showed that there was no greater risk than from products
grown/produced with generally accepted organic practices, would there
still be the opposition to its use?>
Personally, I am highly skeptical about any evaluation of risks from
bioengineering technology no matter who does it. Almost by definition,
evaluation requires a) isolation, to avoid interference from extraneous
factors, and b) a relatively short time interval, so that testing costs do
not eat up potential profits, and c) relatively small samplings being tested.
No evaluation can determine the risk of turning a new product loose in the
"real world," where an infinite number of variables can combine to affect the
product or be affected by it, where effects can accumulate for years before
they are recognized, where those effects can spread around the world.
Consider just a few of many examples.
Phen/fen is a combination of two weight-loss products, each of which was
determined safe, and the combination of the two appeared to be far more
effective. In this case it was only a matter of months before the risk of
this combination appeared.
Mercury poisoning from fish - fish has always been a highly valuable food
from a nutritional point of view, now we find that we should not eat it more
than twice a week and pregnant women should not eat it at all, because of
mercury content which we now know accumulates over time, in fish and in
humans. (I don't know about mercury in the ocean, but in Lake Champlain it's
availability for absorption seems to be due to acid rain, which comes mostly
from the midwest, far removed from the fish in question.)
Fats - an enormous wave of fat-avoidance followed scientific research showing
that cholesterol from fats increased risk of heart attacks, now scientists
(maybe the same ones) are saying certain fats are good for us, specifically
olive oil and canola oil (other oils are still bad).
DDT was used widely for many years before enough risk evidence accumulated to
lead to its being banned altogether.
Dieldrin (deildrin?) was banned many years after its initial use.
While Ford and General Motors can recall vehicles when they find a problem
after the fact, bioengineered products become part of the environment. They
cannot be recalled. The Bollgard cotton fiasco in Mississippi affected
neighboring cotton fields as well as the test fields. I read that 30% of
bees in the area were killed. Atrazine sprayed by airplane on a cornfield
here in Vermont killed, within a week, all the produce on a neighboring
certified organic farm.
I would also like to point out that organic farming practices were in use for
10,000 to 18,000 years before the introduction of what is now called
"conventional" agriculture. They have been improved on recently because we
have learned a lot more about the life of the soil itself and how to nurture
and protect it. Organic farming today can be just as productive as
conventional in the short term, and far more so in the long run.
I try to keep an open mind, but from what I have read and heard so far,
bioengineering does not seek to nurture and protect anything but Big Bucks
Thank you for asking this timely question.
161 Landon Road
South Hero, Vermont 05486
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