A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops

30

From the moment the bill to ban genetically engineered crops on the island of Hawaii was introduced in May 2013, it garnered more vocal support than any the County Council here had ever considered, even the perennially popular bids to decriminalize marijuana.

Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees.

Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”

“You just type ‘G.M.O.’ and everything you see is negative,” he told his staff. Opposing the ban also seemed likely to ruin anyone’s re-election prospects.

Yet doubts nagged at the councilman, who was serving his first two-year term. The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease. A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

Written By: Amy Harmon
continue to source article at nytimes.com

30 COMMENTS

  1. This article has nothing to do with an honest debate. It is full of strawmen, cherry-picking, special pleadings, and appeals to confirmation biases.

    @OP link – Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones.

    Scientific facts are not dependent on political leanings – biased reporting is!

    The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease.

    Such cases should be looked at on their merits.

    A new GM variety of an existing crop looks as if it has a good case to support it being licensed for cultivation.

    A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

    This reference to one poor study is just a red-herring, and is no evidence of the merits of anything else. It merely serves as a distraction from real environmental issues which are crucial on isolated island ecosystems.

    And University of Hawaii biologists urged the Council to consider the global scientific consensus, which holds that existing genetically engineered crops are no riskier than others, and have provided some tangible benefits.

    This “global consensus claim” is dishonest, when there are ignored references to masses of environmental concerns later in the article. It glibly gives assurances on “risks” without itemising what risks it is talking about or which ones it is ignoring.

    When I look at the “global consensus link” I find it is talking almost exclusively about the safety of GM FOOD:-

    @ “global consensus link” – This is the premier scientific body in the United States. They have repeatedly found genetically modified food safe, noting that after billions of meals served, “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”

    The merits of individual crops should be evaluated separately. The risks of environmental damage are much greater than that of producing unhealthy food, – although it is possible to introduce toxins to food crops from related species.

    They’ve also found that genetically engineered crops are kinder to the environment than non-genetically engineered crops.

    No they haven’t! They have compared it with chemically intensive environmentally polluting cultivation techniques, and claimed it does less damage.

    The National Academy of Science’s 2010 report, Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States, found that GM crops planted to date had reduced insecticide use, reduced use of the most dangerous herbicides,

    Which is precisely what I pointed out above. .

    increased the frequency of conservation tillage and no-till farming, reduced carbon emissions, reduced soil runoffs, and improved soil quality.

    An absence of chemical pollutants will “improve soil quality”, but this would be equally achieved with organic methods. the other cultivation factors are not directly linked to GM.

    The report said that, “Generally, GE (GMO) crops have had fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GE crops produced conventionally.”

    That is “conventionally” using high levels of toxic chemicals. The whole thing is a bunch of cherry-picked propaganda which simply ignores the vulnerability of remote island ecosystems to introduced and invasive species.

    Nothing should be introduced without careful independent individual evaluations of environmental impacts on that specific environment of the species or strain involved.

    On a similar note – the Galapagos Island ecosystems are being ravaged by invasive species.

    @OP So many emails arrived in support of the ban that, as a matter of environmental responsibility, the Council clerks suspended the custom of printing them out for each Council member. But Mr. Ilagan had only to consult his inbox to be reminded of the prevailing opinion.

    So they just quoted the largely irrelevant food safety issue and ignored and dismissed the environmental issues – not even bothering to print out the emails for the representatives!

    • In reply to #4 by Alan4discussion:

      This article has nothing to do with an honest debate. It is full of strawmen, cherry-picking, special pleadings, and appeals to confirmation biases.

      @OP link – Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution,…

      You make some excellent points.

      Opinions? Votes? Popularity? that’s just back biting nonsense.

      S G

    • In reply to #4 by Alan4discussion:

      Such cases should be looked at on their merits.

      You can’t do that if you enact an indiscriminate ban of all GMO crops. Which was the basic thrust of the entire article.

      A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

      This reference to one poor study is just a red-herring

      ” A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked”
      That’s not a red herring, the person committing a red herring has to be the one who brought it up. They’re addressing something the critics brought up, documenting it and responding to it.

      This “global consensus claim” is dishonest, when there are ignored references to masses of environmental concerns later in the article. It glibly gives assurances on “risks” without itemising what risks it is talking about or which ones it is ignoring.

      What masses of environmental concerns? Maybe you should itemize these risks rather than referring to them offhandedly?

      An absence of chemical pollutants will “improve soil quality”, but this would be equally achieved with organic methods. the other cultivation factors are not directly linked to GM.

      Good point. So you didn’t actually bring up any environmental concerns that strictly deal with GMOs by your logic.
      In any case you might check out this, which does deal with environmental concerns.
      http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/10/11/with-2000-global-studies-confirming-safety-gm-foods-among-most-analyzed-subjects-in-science-genetic-literacy-project#

      • In reply to #6 by NMLevesque:

        In reply to #4 by Alan4discussion:

        Such cases should be looked at on their merits.

        You can’t do that if you enact an indiscriminate ban of all GMO crops. Which was the basic thrust of the entire article.

        The article is poorly informed nonsense which full of strawmen and fallacies as I pointed out @4. A total ban is probably the best option until a competent body is put in place to evaluate the ecological impacts. Food quality, while important, is irrelevant to these issues.

        @OP- Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were:

        If the debate in the supervising committee is at the level of this article, they need to start over again after seeking some expert opinion. The islands already have enough ecological problems, without a bunch of rank amateurs adding to them by missing key items off the agenda altogether..

        This “global consensus claim” is dishonest, when there are ignored references to masses of environmental concerns later in the article. It glibly gives assurances on “risks” without itemising what risks it is talking about or which ones it is ignoring.

        What masses of environmental concerns? Maybe you should itemize these risks rather than referring to them offhandedly?

        I pointed out that in isolated island habitats such as Hawaii and the Galapagos, which are very vulnerable to invasive species, even the concept of a properly regulated system was absent from the article. Anyone who does not understand the vulnerability of remote island ecosystems, is in no position to present an informed view on this subject. I am not interested in “Hippy anti-GMO claims”, versus the confused personal opinion of an uninformed politician expressed in this article. The important issues are simply missing!

        An absence of chemical pollutants will “improve soil quality”, but this would be equally achieved with organic methods. the other cultivation factors are not directly linked to GM.

        Good point. So you didn’t actually bring up any environmental concerns that strictly deal with GMOs by your logic.

        The environmental issues relate to the introduction of any new species, not specifically GMOs. – A highly relevant topic which is notable in its absence from the article.

        http://www.state.hi.us/lrb/rpts02/gaps.pdf

        FOREWORD

        This study was prepared in response to Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 45,
        H.D. 1 (2001). The concurrent resolution directed the Legislative Reference Bureau to
        conduct a study on policy recommendations and funding options for a comprehensive
        alien invasive species protection and control program for the State of Hawaii.

        Highlights

        • A. The alien invasive species problem in Hawaii is both serious and daunting.
          The damage that invasive species cause and may potentially cause
          affects the State’s health and safety, as well as its economic and
          environmental well being.
        • B. The present system to fight invasive species is comprised of dedicated
          state, federal and private agencies. The system, however, is plagued with
          serious gaps and leaks.
        • C. Two of the more major gaps involve funding problems and administering
          invasive species programs.

        Invasive species is a major problem throughout the USA.

        Overall, it is estimated that 50,000 non-native species have been introduced to the United States, including livestock, crops, pets, and other non-invasive species. Economic damages associated with invasive species’ effects and control costs are estimated at $120 billion per year.

        @OP – The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease.

        I would have to ask, how did they manage to introduce a devastating disease to a remote island, other than by failing to regulate imported invasive organisms?

    • In reply to #8 by Stuart Coyle:

      The best argument I have seen against GMOs is actually the problem with intellectual property claims and monopolization of various genetic varieties.

      For sure I really can’t see how a ‘genome’ can be anyones property at all…its the epitome of the concept of commercialization gone crazy. Mother nature designed it a long time before Monsanto decided that crude modifications to it made the whole thing their property. Using that very same ‘commercial property’ logic one could argue that my daughter who is a modification of my Genome and my wifes is our own personal intellectual property and will be until I leave her that genome (or 50% of it) in my will… and by the same logic that my genome belongs to my parents who should charge me perhaps licensing fees for its usage?

      If we managed somehow to find the genome of a shared ancestor of the entire human species and incubated this individual…when they are born are we all their property?

      • In reply to #14 by mickelodian:

        For sure I really can’t see how a ‘genome’ can be anyones property at all…its the epitome of the concept of commer…

        Intellectual property is simply an official recognition that works of the mind can be just as productive as work that produces physical objects (sometimes more so). The protection of intellectual property is an attempt to encourage innovation by allowing works of mind to be exploited by their creator for a limited period of time.

        To suggest that the protection of crop varieties is equivalent to owning genomes is like saying that copyright for novelists is an attempt to own words. On a superficial level it is true, but the work is not in the words themselves (or the genes) but in their arrangement. It is real work and deserves protection.

        I am fairly convinced that patents for the DNA sequence of genes is a bad idea (for the reasons I set out below amongst others) but the fact remains that the cloning and functional characterisation of genes, along with the incorporation of these genes into crop varieties represents real work which deserves protection. How to do that is a different question…

      • In reply to #14 by mickelodian:
        >

        For sure I really can’t see how a ‘genome’ can be anyones property at all…its the epitome of the concept of commercialization gone crazy. Mother nature designed it a long time before Monsanto decided that crude modifications to it made the whole thing their property. Using that very same ‘commercial property’ logic one could argue that my daughter who is a modification of my Genome and my wifes is our own personal intellectual property and will be until I leave her that genome (or 50% of it) in my will..

        There are corporations which will try to monopolise anything!

        http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/jun/24/human-genome-project-patent-genes
        >

        Human genetic information must be kept in the public domain to allow researchers to analyse it and to give members of the public fair access to medical treatments, the Nobel prizewinning scientist who led the British contribution to the Human Genome Project said today.

        Speaking at a briefing at the Science Museum in London to mark the 10th anniversary of the first draft of the human genome, biologist John Sulston said scientists and lawmakers must resist attempts by corporations and individuals to patent human genes.

        In the US, for example, it costs a woman between $3,000 and $4,000 to be tested for familial breast cancer because a corporation owns the patent for the two genes involved. “The fact of the matter is that many human genes have patent rights on them and this is going to get in the way of treatment unless you have a lot of money,” said Sulston. “And it’s going to get in the way of research.”

  2. The best argument I have seen against GMOs is actually the problem with intellectual property claims and monopolization of various genetic varieties. That is purely a political/legal problem, and is appropriate to be debated on ideological lines.

    The science may be complex but it does seem that we have been modifying the genes of organisms for millennia without great problems. The scientific arguments should be made without ideological bias.

    • In reply to #8 by Stuart Coyle:

      The best argument I have seen against GMOs is actually the problem with intellectual property claims and monopolization of various genetic varieties. That is purely a political/legal problem, and is appropriate to be debated on ideological lines.

      The science may be complex but it does seem that we…

      Exactly what I was thinking. There are of course real health and environmental concerns with all new products. That’s why we need regulation. The whole idea that a corporation could own a certain form of life seems completely absurd to me. Of course the corporations will say that it’s inevitable in order for them to be able to spend money on research and development, but I think we have to draw the line somewhere. A world where everything (including life in itself) can be trademarked and owned by corporations seems very bleak to me.

    • In reply to #8 by Stuart Coyle:

      The best argument I have seen against GMOs is actually the problem with intellectual property claims and monopolization of various genetic varieties. That is purely a political/legal problem, and is appropriate to be debated on ideological lines.

      That’s interesting, and something that I hear a lot (I work in crop genetics). I think it’s a little bit misleading though. For a start, it isn’t really monopolization if there are other varieties available; just because your variety is the best doesn’t make it a monopoly. Secondly, it ignores the fact that plant breeders have had intellectual property rights (Plant breeder rights) since the 1930s. PBRs give them exclusive rights over their varieties with certain conditions. Commercial crop breeding wouldn’t happen without them.

      One of the really great things about PBRs is that they are conditional on you making the genetic variation that you use in your varieties available to other breeeders (so long as they produce something distinct). This is really healthy for the entire sector and strikes a good balance between protecting investment and benefiting the wider society. Unfortunately GM varieties don’t really fit into this framework because adding single genes doesn’t generally result in a distinct variety. As such GM varieties tend to be protected by patenting the gene, meaning that nobody else can use it.

      I suspect that what is needed is a radical rethinking of how we grant IP to the developers of new plant varieties, but I’m really not sure how that would be done.

  3. I am saddened that many atheists, who otherwise use rational thought to approach most questions, become like hysterical “anti-vaxxers” when it comes to GMOs. Rather than base their assessment on science, they jump on the emotional fear mongering bandwagon. Most of that fear mongering does center on the perceived health threat of eating GMOs. The article presents arguments against both that alleged threat and environmental threats also trumpeted by the anti-GMO crowd. I am no friend of Monsanto which does have monopolistic tendencies. But genetic manipulation science is done by many more organizations and has immense potential to improve our lives. We have been eating it for a long time already, and some farmers must obviously like it. Organic food is fine for those who can afford the higher prices, but as the world population grows toward 9 billion, GMOs are simply too important to reject for unscientific reasons.

  4. I think given what we know of pollination in ecology denying insects the ability to consume and destroy plants whilst spreading them hither and dither is the only true argument against GMO’s, and certainly not enough is known about how cross pollination takes place to guarantee that one or more species of insects that carry out an important function in the rest of the environment is not ignored in a rush for cheap, affordable pest free farming.

    The rest of the arguments against GM are essentially rubbish based on vapourware at best and nonsense more likely.

    What this does illustrate is that the general public should not have any say in what new technologies are introduced without having an informed education on the matter because asking a bunch of scientifically illiterate woo mongers if they should have some ‘magic’ technology demonstrated by the ‘evils’ of science will always result in a resounding NO!

    Its an important point because many of the technologies that will come about this century will be utterly indistinguishable from magic by the base population. Unfortunately in the USA the views of one person with no education whatsoever are equal to that of a biologist with a phd and 40 years experience and education in genetics.

    One of the main reasons that democracy sucks is that its based on the false assumption that people vote based on an informed opinion…nothing could be further from the truth.

  5. We’ve been genetically modifying plants and animals for at least the last 10,000 years. None of the cereal grains or corn we grow are anything like their wild ancestors, many of which are now extinct. Practically every plant we grow for food, as well as flowers and other garden plants, trees, fruit, etc., have been genetically modified beyond anything our distant ancestors could have ever imagined. Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, cats – all genetically modified by humans for our own use over thousands of years. Yet no one is freaking out over that, because it’s just “artificial selection”. What’s the real difference between then and now? More sophisticated methods? Scary mad scientists cooking things up in beakers? Really, that’s what I think it comes down to – mistrust of modern science. I do think that care and precautions against unintended effects on the environment need to be taken into careful consideration when implementing these modifications, and I have reservations about “gene patenting” and monopolization of food supplies by corporations, but nothing is happening that we haven’t already been doing at a slower pace for thousands of years.

    • In reply to #18 by Sue Blue:

      What’s the real difference between then and now? More sophisticated methods?

      Isn’t the difference that you can make sudden large leaps and produce DNA that is dramatically different to what existed previously rather than incrementally different. I don’t see anyone artificially selecting fluorescent bunnies in the past.

      Scary mad scientists cooking things up in beakers? Really, that’s what I think it comes down to – mistrust of modern science.

      In this area I do mistrust modern science. Partly because I live in a country full of pests that someone in the past introduced because they thought it was a good idea. Cane toads and rabbits anyone ? Partly because it isn’t just science it’s business. Money always leads to a temptation to take a bigger risk and make a shortcut.

      but nothing is happening that we haven’t already been doing at a slower pace for thousands of years.

      Fluorescent bunnies!

      Michael

      • In reply to #19 by mmurray:

        I don’t see anyone artificially selecting fluorescent bunnies in the past.

        Actually it is known that melanin pigmentation is a suppressor of tryptophan fluorescence. So, by selecting for unpigmented (i.e. white) rabbits, breeders have indeed selected for fluorescent bunnies by artificial selection.

        • In reply to #20 by HDV:

          In reply to #19 by mmurray:

          I don’t see anyone artificially selecting fluorescent bunnies in the past.

          Actually it is known that melanin pigmentation is a suppressor of tryptophan fluorescence. So, by selecting for unpigmented (i.e. white) rabbits, breeders have indeed selected for fluorescent…

          But white rabbits don’t fluoresce do they ?

          Michael

          • In reply to #23 by mmurray:

            But white rabbits don’t fluoresce do they?

            Yes they do. Excite unpigmented fur at 290nm and you will see fluorescence at 360nm.

            However, I’m not really sure what the autofluorescent properties of common biological molecules has to say about the relative costs and benefits of GM crops!

          • In reply to #26 by HDV:

            In reply to #23 by mmurray:

            But white rabbits don’t fluoresce do they?

            Yes they do. Excite unpigmented fur at 290nm and you will see fluorescence at 360nm.

            Interesting thanks.

            However, I’m not really sure what the autofluorescent properties of common biological molecules has to say about the relative costs and benefits of GM crops!

            It was supposed to be an example of where we have made a genetic modification that we couldn’t have made by artificial selection.

            Michael

          • In reply to #27 by mmurray:

            In reply to #26 by HDV:

            It was supposed to be an example of where we have made a genetic modification that we couldn’t have made by artificial selection.

            OK, but I still don’t understand the distinction. What about interspecific grafts? Or artificial mutagenisis? Or in-vitro polyploidy for generating interspecific crosses.

            None of these could be achieved by selection alone, and all have the potential to generate novel combinations of genes that may behave in unexpected way. GM is certainly a different technology, but I think that the differences are more quantitative than qualitative compared to what we already use.

          • In reply to #29 by HDV:

            In reply to #27 by mmurray:

            In reply to #26 by HDV:

            It was supposed to be an example of where we have made a genetic modification that we couldn’t have made by artificial selection.

            OK, but I still don’t understand the distinction. What about interspecific grafts? Or artificial mutagenisis? Or…

            Hmm. Probably I should read some more before commenting. I think my knowledge is a little out of date!

            Michael

      • In reply to #19 by mmurray:

        In reply to #18 by Sue Blue:

        What’s the real difference between then and now? More sophisticated methods?

        Isn’t the difference that you can make sudden large leaps and produce DNA that is dramatically different to what existed previously
        rather than incrementally different. I don’t see anyone art…

        Cane toads and rabbits were not introduced by scientists. In the first instance, cane toads were accidentally introduced; in the second, rabbits were introduced by European farmers who wanted to raise them. Both of these were wild animals that were introduced into a foreign ecosystem where they lacked natural predators. This has nothing to do with genetic modification or selection. The viral disease myxomatosis WAS introduced by scientists to kill off the rabbits back in a day when genetic principles of susceptibility and resistance weren’t as well-understood as they are now. It killed vast numbers of rabbits but some were resistant; eventually only the resistant were left.
        In answer to your second concern about incremental versus sudden genetic modification – what is the real difference besides a matter of time? The only problem I can see with the practice of artificial selection by any means is the ethical problem involved in altering animals for human use or aesthetic ideas, such as inbreeding dogs or creating dairy cows that are all udder to the point where they can’t walk. If we can engineer plants that need less fertilizer and less land to produce the same yields, where is the harm or ethical problem? Pollution and habitat destruction can be reduced, while still feeding the human population. I am in agreement with you that corporations are monopolizing this technology and reducing genetic diversity by controlling the seed supply for crops, and that’s bad both for small farmers and for genetic diversity. Monocrops can be susceptible to complete destruction by viruses or pests that evolve to take advantage of them, and these pests can squeeze out more beneficial organisms. I think such genetic patent-owning and crop monopolization by corporations should be illegal. But the fact remains that genetic engineering is probably the only way to effectively fight human disease and address the food needs of our population without destroying more wild habitat.

        • In reply to #21 by Sue Blue:

          Cane toads and rabbits were not introduced by scientists. In the first instance, cane toads were accidentally introduced; in the second, rabbits were introduced by European farmers who wanted to raise them.

          Rabbits were introduced as a potential food animal. Cane Toads were introduced as a badly thought out attempt at biological control of other pests.

          Both of these were wild animals that were introduced into a foreign ecosystem where they lacked natural predators.

          It really does not matter if organisms without natural predators, are introduced from foreign environments, or as engineered organisms. The potential for some of them to become serious pests is similar, except that those from foreign habitats are likely to have natural predators in their native lands, whereas engineered organisms may have no natural predators at all. Any alien genome should be competently and independently evaluated for ecological impact, before being released into a new environment.

          This has nothing to do with genetic modification or selection.

          This is a common misconception due to a widespread lack of understanding of the damage caused by invasive species, such as Cane-Toads, Opuntia Prickly Pears, rats, Japanese Knotweed, Tumbleweed Walking Catfish, and many others. An engineered invasive species is no less damaging than a natural one.
          (Some “Round-up-Ready” crops which are known to leak genes into related weeds, are actually being bred to be herbicide and insect/ fungal predator resistant!)

        • In reply to #21 by Sue Blue:
          >

          The viral disease myxomatosis WAS introduced by scientists to kill off the rabbits back in a day when genetic principles of susceptibility and resistance weren’t as well-understood as they are now. It killed vast numbers of rabbits but some were resistant; eventually only the resistant were left.

          So how can we be confident that in 100 years time contemplating the zombie apocalypse of 2070 someone won’t be saying “well it seemed like a good idea at the time but of course didn’t understand that modifying the mosquito DNA like that to eliminate malaria would cause zombiosis to spread in humans”.

          I haven’t spent a lot of time researching biological controls that have gone wrong but here are some more:

          Another example of a poorly researched introduced biological control is the sap sucking lantana bug (Aconophora compressa) also from South America that was introduced into Australia in the 1995 to eat the lantana. Unfortunately, the lantana bug also attacks other trees including fiddlewood trees which has caused distress to some gardeners. The lantana bug had been tested for six years on 62 different plants.

          Science I think gets to the truth in the long run but individual scientists make mistakes.

          In answer to your second concern about incremental versus sudden genetic modification – what is the real difference besides a matter of time?

          But time is extremely important when you are talking about the ability of human societies and ecosystems to cope with change. If climate change could be slowed we might survive it.

          The only problem I can see with the practice of artificial selection by any means is the ethical problem involved in altering animals for human use or aesthetic ideas, such as inbreeding dogs or creating dairy cows that are all udder to the point where they can’t walk. If we can engineer plants that need less fertilizer and less land to produce the same yields, where is the harm or ethical problem? Pollution and habitat destruction can be reduced, while still feeding the human population.

          The problem I see is potential risk — introducing changes whose consequences we failed to predict with possibly catastrophic results. Of course feeding more people is a good thing but now you are talking about balancing risk.

          Michael

          • In reply to #24 by mmurray:

            In reply to #21 by Sue Blue:

            The viral disease myxomatosis WAS introduced by scientists to kill off the rabbits back in a day when genetic principles of susceptibility and resistance weren’t as well-understood as they are now. It killed vast numbers of rabbits but some were resistant; eventually on…

            The bigger problem is that feeding people food with genetic modifications carries the same risks as giving patients new drugs. Both can result in complications that are difficult to predict even if you have a detailed knowledge of the drug/GMO. A gene that makes a wheat crop resistant to insect attacks, for instance, might also make it dangerous to certain people with, say, an allergy to the proteins involved, for whatever reason. I don’t see as clearly why the environmental impact should be given a high weighting, considering that all that would happen is that an existing crop will get retooled.

            Also, most of your examples are of non-native continental species getting introduced to smaller environments. I can kind of see where you’re coming from, but the comparison does have a certain “oranges-apples” aspect to it.

          • In reply to #25 by Zeuglodon:
            >
            Also, most of your examples are of non-native continental species getting introduced to smaller environments. I can kind of see where you’re coming from, but the comparison does have a certain “oranges-apples” aspect to it.

            I understand. They are only supposed to be examples of where well intended scientific intervention has gone wrong. The implication being that the current well intent ended scientific intervention might also go wrong.

            Michael

Leave a Reply