Immediate action needed -Reply
Bob MacGregor (RDMACGREGOR@gov.pe.ca)
Mon, 19 Jan 1998 12:43:03 -0400
I don't agree with the Rhizobium alarm.
There appear to be a variety of reasons for many list members to object
to the creation and use of GMO's. Interestingly, one of the arguments
used to bolster the case for caution actually weakens it, in my opinion.
The fact that bacteria and viruses move bits of genetic material around
from one organism/species to another has been cited as a cause for
concern about the spread, or escape, of novel genes. I question the
use of the term "novel" since the genetic engineers haven't yet gone
beyond the replication and reshuffling stage, but a more important
consideration is that mother nature is creating and releasing these
genetic "monsters" by the hour. There is probably as much genetic
recombination going on among bacteria in a human gut in a day as
Monsanto does in the lab in a year. The only control on this natural
genetic recombination has been environmental fitness. Most such
creations do not fit into existing ecological settings and are not able to
compete; they die out when left to their own devices and can only be
maintained by continual re-application. That is why Bt hasn't taken over
the world, despite fairly widespread use.
Following the Rhizobium argument, one would have expected Bt to have
spread everywhere by now and either killed off all the target organisms
in the world or, at least, engendered universal resistance.
I mentioned above my quibble about the term "novel". These genes
already exist, they are just being moved. I don't see these GE organisms
as fundamentally different than, say, triticale (a hybrid) or even a stray
mongrel dog cross between a purebred shepherd and a spaniel! In the
first case, a cross occured that would not normally happen in nature. In
the second, an everyday occurence resulted in genetic recombination;
so, why is one categorically different in terms of genetics?
Following this thought, I am sometimes a bit confused by what
constitutes "synthetic". Earlier today I read an e-note about someone
considering using hydrogen peroxide or some sort of copper compound
to control mould on organic spinach. I would be willing to bet that the
peroxide is synthetic and those copper compounds are not entirely
benign (though often effective, what about non-target organisms or
I am not inclined to worry a lot about carefully-planned and monitored
development of genetically-engineered organisms; I'd be a lot more
concerned about some nut undertaking a bit of intentionally harmful
genetic engineering. Still, this is a genie that can't be put back into the
bottle. I know this will sound like and echo of the NRA line, but if GE is
officially banned, only clandestine GE operations, pursuing their own
ends, will still exist; by doing this, we would be foregoing any beneficial
uses in medicine, agriculture, forestry, etc.
I don't have any immediate plans to buy GE seeds for my garden
because I am content with the varieties available to me now. However I
am not disturbed by the thought that my neighbour might decide to plant
Newleaf potatoes or roundup ready corn or soybeans, or, even,
N-enhanced Rhizobium treated legumes.
I just don't believe that this will bring the end of the world.
To Unsubscribe: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email email@example.com with the command