Re: unexpected effects, archives 489 and 491
- To: "Rick Roush" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Re: unexpected effects, archives 489 and 491
- From: "Clive Elwell" <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 22:45:17 +1300
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For the first time that I can remember, I will go
beyond a simple recitation of the facts in answering your question. I will
Of course genetic engineering causes unexpected effects.
So do most new medical procedures when first tried.
So the first thing you do is draw some arbitary comparison, some
analagy. Comparisons can prove nothing, there is always some point at which
the comparison fails. Where is that point? People generally use comparisons to
justify themselves, or some action. (as in,"well, everyone does it"
or "well, I didn't do it as much as x did" or" this country
doesn't have as much poverty as Mongolia" etc
However, we don't call for a indefinite moratorium
on new medical procedures.
The consequences of a medical procedure going wrong might be the
death of an individual -who might have died anyway. the consequences of the GE
of crops going wrong in some way are - well incalcualable. I'm sure you heard
some of the worst case scenarios.
Also, if I undergo a medical procedure, the risk is for myself.
And I decide. The risks generated by a few companies experimenting for their
own profit might extend to every person on this planet, and all those yet
unborn. Most of the people put at risk, like myself, have not been allowed any
say in the matter. It is forced upon me.
And once the procedures are approved to go beyond trial
phase, the risks are considered to be minimal, at least compared to the
So I utterly deny the validity of the comparison you have
chosen to make.
The opponents of genetic engineering would like
you to confuse the unexpected effects of the trial phase with actual use in
the field. They like to cite examples such as experimental insect resistant
plants with proteinase inhibitors and lectins, which are not being
I have been collecting examples of unexpected results of GE
crops. They are almost all examples which occured in the field, under
But in any case, unexpected behaviour ( I am not sure that the
word pleiotropy exactly covers unexpected behaviour - we can't be sure where
this UB stems from) in the lab seems to me just as disturbing as in the field.
Because such UB points to the fact that the scientists don't really know what
they are doing, and are not in control of what they create.
The obvious question arises, If UB happens that can be observed,
that can be detected, how much UB is going on that we can't see, or can't
detect at all? Or is going to show up in the future, or under a different set
of environmental circumstances?
cling desparately to claims that EMS was caused by genetically engineered
bacteria because they have no other example of an unexpected effect that
affected either health or the environment and that was not caught in the
extensive testing that all products must undergo. And they like to claim that
weaknesses of Bt cotton and Round-up Ready cotton were unexpected (both were
either predicted or easily predictable).
In reply to CAM, it is a
cartoon of modern population genetics to suggest that any organism reaches a
"perfect" state even for a natural environment. It is even less
likely for a human altered environment, in which we change conditions all the
time. Starting perhaps 5,000-10,000 years ago, our ancestors bred grain crops
so the seed does not "shatter" so that we can more easily harvest
it. Dobzhansky starting more than 40 years ago began to erase the notion that
there is any such thing as a "normal set of genes".
I must say I'm suprised to see a professor doing what so many
proponents of GE do - confuse selective plant breeding with GE. You must know
the clear differences.
Breeders and molecular biologists have
most certainly not forgotten gene interaction or pleiotropy (multiple
expressions of the same gene in different traits). To the contrary, as an
example, classical breeders work hand-in-hand with molecular biologists to
select cotton for improved performance once BT genes have been introduced into
a new cultivar.
Ultimately, the question is not unpredictability but
risk. I am convinced that for at least the genetically engineered crops that I
have defended on this server, the risks are far lower than the benefits.
You may well be convinced, the Biotech companies may well be,
the politicians and regulatory bodies appear to be convinced. But I am not
convinced, and I resent strongly having to eat your convictions, and feed them
to my children. I too live on this planet, why should i and my children, and
all children, and those unborn, be exposed to risks because of your
You know well the list of things "declared safe", and
later found to be anything but is enormous, and the consequences have been
enormous. PCB's, dioxin, DDT, Agent Orange, nuclear radiation, BST. A quote
comes dimly to mind, from the manager of the firm selling thalidimide, how its
safety was beyond question.
The difference between me and many of my critics is that
I will criticise some genetic manipulations while defending others. The
critics appear to reject all of them. (Will either you or Jaan Suurkula name
one genetically manipulated crop that either of you can accept?) How can it be
that no genetic manipulation is worthwhile?
I have never said that no genetic manipulation is worthwhile. I
reserve judgement on that.
But I don't think that I can accept any GE crop at the moment,
because I see that the testing procedures are inadequate and incomplete. And
often carried out by people who are not independent, to say the least. In fact
who have a long history of falsyfying data and lying to regulatory bodies, and
I want to ask if you accept, or not, that the
process of genetically engineering can, and does, bring about unexpected,
unpredictable effects in the plants which are the recipients of foreign
From: /fontfamily>CAM <<mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org>
Clive Elwell <<mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sunday, 6 December 1998 05:43
Subject: Re: unexpected effects
/fontfamily>/paraindent>I wonder about the DNA set of any
organism, that took thousand of years to get to a "perfect" and
competitive equilibrium to survive; Then we humans distort it by breeding
methods to induce it to a "Better" type to get economic benefits
from some of hid parts, Now, we want more and disrupt the "normal set of
genes" with any foreign gene. Afterwards we expect that it must continued
being "NORMAL" for our commercial purposes. We forgot of gene
interaction, of pleiotropic gene effects, and said that it doesn't occurs,
that everything continues being "normal".
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