GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Survey Shows Americans Want Labels On Genetically Altered F

Hi Janelle,

I agree that one should be aware that there is often a "middle ground"
between opposing statements, and I have personally found some
contradictions such as the one you mention regarding reduced spraying
as a result of using genetically engineered crops.

But, I would like to point out the problems with some of your benefits
listed below...
>  While I agree that Genetic engineering IS a new technology, quite 
>  distinguishable from traditional breeding practices, I wish to comment 
>  on the view that there are no benefits to be had from the technology for 
>  the public, the environment or for consumers and that the only benefit 
>  is to be enjoyed in terms of profit by the companies involved.  It is a 
>  view quite often expressed by posts to this list.  But take for example 
>  these projects:

Beware. These benefits are often required because of the drawbacks of
previous "technology improvements". e.g. monoculture farming is very
susceptible to pests. Therefore it requires pesticides. Therefore now
people are worried about pesticides, so we have another hi-tech
solution: biotech food. 
The best solution to the *root causes* of these problems is often to
go back to natural crop species and more traditional (organic) and
diverse agricultural methods.

>  Comsumers in the UK have been quite impressed with the (clearly 
>  labelled) "genetically modified" tomato paste.  They have commented on 
>  the superior taste of the product, are pleased that it costs less, and 
>  the fact that in now occupies 17% of the paste market is testimony to 
>  this.
I'd love to know your source for this.
As a UK resident,
   1. I have never seen such labelling on any products (i.e. they are
      not widely available).
   2. I have never met anyone who has seen such labelling (and I talk
      to a lot of folks about this topic)
   3. UK consumers (a generalisation coming up here) are notoriously
      bad at considering taste as an important buying factor. Just
      look at the tasteless array of intensively produced bread,
      chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, apples etc etc that is
      predominantly bought buy us Brits. The two criteria used by
      consumers here are price and appearance, *not* taste or

>  "Bt cotton" in Australia has led to decreased spraying of cotton fields 
>  with chemical pesticides (from between 6 and 16 spray runs a season down 
>  to 2) - surely an environmental benefit.  (I spoke to a farmer recently 
>  who said he was very pleased with this aspect and would use the cotton 
>  again next season despite that it offers no  cost savings to him - 
>  though Monsanto IS making a profit !!).  Similiarly, potatoes 
>  genetically engineered to be resistant to viral attack are decreasing 
>  the need for chemical spraying proviously used to control aphids which 
>  transmit the virus.
But as previously posted by many sources here, this is short term (a
few seasons).
Resistance to Bt will develop, and then pesticides will have to be
used in even greater quantites, or another genetically engineered crop
will be created, providing and ever growing market for biotech
companies. Classic vicious circle.
The root cause is monoculture farming on a huge scale.
Root cause fix: organic farming and mixed crops, crop rotation etc.

>  Various projects worldwide aimed at changing oil compositions in canola 
>  and other common vegetable oil providers to increase the amounts of 
>  unsaturated fats - a health benefit to those eating the product.
Oh dear! This is the same theme as the great American dream of a
"slimming drug".
Root cause of obesity, much heart disease etc: consuming more calories
than you use.
Root cause fix: eat less or do more excercise!
		There are also plenty of natural foods around that are
		low in saturated fats. Olive oil for starters. You
		also don't have to eat huge amounts of fat at all!
		Meat & dairy intensive diets of many westerners is
		another source of saturated fat.
		Eat more naturally farmed fruit and veg for goodness
>  Various projects aimed at increasing the nutritional value of various 
>  foods or increasing the levels of natural anti-cancer agents produced in 
>  some fruits.  I'm think comsumerrs will be interested in the benefits of 
>  such products.  
Again, western diets and lifestyles are a major cause of diet.
Green veg such as brocolli (and many others) that naturally occur will
give you this protection already.
Eat natural fruit - lets demand a wider variety of fruit and veg in
our supermarkets rather than meekly accepting a few "one meets all"
genetically derived plasticised versions that never rot no matter how
long they've languished in transit or on a shop shelf.

There's a wealth of existing natural diversity of fruit and veg out
there that will meet our needs far better than any lab will.

We just don't need "biotech fixes" for these problems.

It's all classic marketing to generate markets out of nowhere. 

>  While Big Companies ARE making Big Money with genetic engineering, let's 
>  face it, the technology wouldn't go ahead if there wasn't a buck to be 
>  made.  And there ARE benefits to be found in the new technology - for 
>  the general good (even if that is not what motivates the Big Companies).
>  It is unfortunate that the first genetically engineered organism 
>  generally released (in the US) is the RoundUp ready soybeans - the 
>  benefits to consumers, to the environment (while expoused by Monsanto) 
>  ARE,in this case, DUBIOUS.  But let's not tar all genetic engineering 
>  with the same brush.  It's a technology that can be used for a wide 
>  variety of purposes.  Each needs to be assessed individually before it 
>  is condemed or accepted.  Some are "beneficial", others will not benefit 
>  society and only make a quick buck for those with plenty already.  It's 
>  a big ask, but  thought, understanding and individual assessment is 
>  neccessary.
I fundamentally disagree when it comes to food (food for humans *and*
All these benefits exist in natural food already.
And there are many, many *major* risks with biotech stuff which have been well
documented by others on this reflector.

Rant over.


  Jon Buckingham

  Northavon Friends of the Earth