>Date: Mon, 30 Mar 1998 22:32:29 -0500
>From: Richard Wolfson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: two GE articles
>Financial Times (London) March 28, 1998,
>Why alien genes can run amok: Genetic engineering can seriously damage
>your health, argues Moyra Bremner:
>GENETIC ENGINEERING: DREAM OR NIGHTMARE?
>THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF BAD SCIENCE AND BIG BUSINESS by Mae-Wan Ho]
>If timing is everything, Mae-Wan Ho's Genetic Engineering: Dream or
>Nightmare? has it. This month the UK National Consumer Council's report
>highlighted the dangers of genetically modified (GM) food, and America
>held the first international conference on the alarming increase in new
>infectious diseases. One "nightmare" in Dr. Ho's impassioned expose is that
>genetic engineering can foster the rise of new diseases and spread more
>severe, and antibiotic resistant, strains of old ones - threats which help
>to make genetic engineering "the biggest single danger facing mankind
>This is no luddite attack: bio-physicist Ho is reader in biology at the
>Open University and a Fellow of the US National Genetics Foundation. The
>trenchant criticism is not of all bio-technology, but of irresponsible
>bio-technology: of scientists, and their pay-masters in big business, who
>exploit an "outdated and reductionist" view of biology to talk-up the
>benefits of GM and deny the enormous risks.
>The science at the heart of the argument is this; that to stop alien genes
>being rejected, geneticists must smuggle them in. And the best Trojan
>horses are carriers which are inherently invasive: viruses and bacteria,
>including those carrying antibiotic resistance.
>The conflict is over what happens to these micro- Frankensteins.
>"Reductionists" say they are stable and self- contained. Ho argues that no
>organism is an island, and that its elements always interact both
>internally and with the environment. When host and invader interact, GM
>crops may fail, or food plants may produce new, unidentified, allergens
>while interaction with the environment can cause dangerous and antibiotic
>resistant "carrier" pathogens to infect the soil, plants, animals - and
>us. What price human fertility if the virus engineered to make mice
>infertile adapts to find a host in us?
>Such risks are, however, only factors in Ho's case. For the book seeks to
>expose all the complex worldwide dangers - human, social, ecological and
>financial - which arise from genetic engineering and bio-piracy thanks to
>an alliance between "bad science and big business".
>That goal isn't fully achieved, but nonetheless this controversial book
>deserves attention - not least for its medical implications. Familiar
>pathogens, such as E.Coli, are taking more dangerous forms; 50 new
>infectious diseases have erupted in a decade; and some serious diseases are
>already resistant to most antibiotics. The economic implications of Ho's
>thesis are no less great.
>Apart from sharing the theme of genetics, Professor Lee Silver's Remaking
>Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World could hardly be more
>different. Where Ho offers commitment, Silver tiptoes through the moral
>minefield of human reproductive science and genetics as if the Angel of
>Mons was guiding him.
>His trick is to use science fiction to present the more controversial
>points. Page one, "Dateline 2010", sees Barbara nursing a newborn baby
>selected "from an embryo pool" to ensure that it isn't "overweight or
>alcoholic". But, before we warm to such benefits, Silver whisks us forward
>to 2350 AD, to a society split between the dominant "Gene-enriched" and
>the poor "Naturals". And eugenics, which - but no, that would spoil the
>The factual body of the book details the seemingly harmless, extraordinary,
>and often beneficial, steps in reproductive science which, from the first
>artificial insemination to Dolly the sheep, have been leading inexorably to
>some of the greatest moral dilemmas mankind has ever faced. And, as Silver
>points out, all this has consistently been deemed impossible, and therefore
>we are morally and legally unprepared. He offers no easy answers: simply
>disquieting facts about what is, and may soon be, possible in human
>fertility treatments and genetic engineering - facts which provoke very
>Of course, if Ho is right, few characteristics can be traced reliably to
>single genes, and genes are too interactive, and childhood too formative,
>for scientists to be able to cut out an alcoholic gene, splice in a musical
>one and give parents a Mozart, not a drunk. Yet will that be what people
>want to hear? As Silver points out, sperm banks for "superior" genes
>already exist and, faced with a crowded planet and rising medical costs,
>governments (and insurance companies) may prefer to believe that screening
>is infallible: pressure may grow to abort foetuses carrying even a small
>potential for health, or other, problems. Saturday
> These thought- provoking books are worth reading in tandem. For, between
>them, Silver and Ho raise questions not just about genetic engineering,
>fertility treatment and eugenics, but even about the extent to which the
>law lets us own our own bodies and the cells, sperm, ovum, and embryos that
>stem from them: about what it is to be alive - and human.
>The Canberra Times, March 28, 1998
>COMING TO A FIELD NEAR YOU ... THE TERMINATOR
>MONSANTO'S standard contract for those using their genetically engineered
>seeds has an almost feudal ring to it. The farmer can use herbicides made
>only by Monsanto, which has the right to inspect his crops for three years.
>If there is a dispute, the farmer may appeal only through one court in
>Kansas City (Monsanto is based in Missouri). And no seeds from the crop may
>be sold on to other farmers, or sown for future crops.
>Tough, but how do you enforce it? How, for example, do you keep a farmer
>from saving the seed from his crop, planting it next year instead of buying
>more from Monsanto, and then saving more money by buying cheaper glyphosate
>herbicides instead of Roundup? You could send inspectors around to every
>field each year, of course, but how much simpler it would be if the mutant
>seeds just didn't germinate when replanted.
>Farmers would then have to go back to the seed shop for a fresh supply to
>plant each year.
>Enter "terminator" seeds. Late last month the US Department of Agriculture
>and the American seed company Delta and Pine were granted a patent on a
>genetic technique that accomplishes exactly that goal: the original seed
>will grow into the desired plant, but no further seeds taken from that
>plant will germinate.
>So far the technique works only on cotton and tobacco seeds, but within a
>few years it should give the agri-giants a stranglehold on wheat, rice, and
>the other major food crops as well.
>This is great for business, but now just imagine some really major
>catastrophe that knocks out the industrial centres - a meteor strike or a
>nuclear war, say. The distribution systems break down, and the
>survivors are on their own for a year or two.
>But all that the crops in their fields will produce for next year's
>planting is useless "terminator" seeds. - Gwynne Dyer
>Richard Wolfson, PhD
>Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
>for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
>Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
>500 Wilbrod Street
>Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
>tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596
>Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
>contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
>previous genetic engineering news items
>Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months
>See website for details.
Address all questions directly to Dr. Wolfson.
--Dan in Sunny Puerto Rico--
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