GENTECH archive


RE: trangenic/ hybrid seed

 >Below is an item I picked up from the GENTECH list that partly answers
 >the question what do you do with a country like Bangladesh. A lot of
 >so-called "help" from other countries and corporations have done
 >Bangladesh farmers more harm than good, that it would probably be
 >better if you simply stayed away.
 >AGRICULTURE-BANGLADESH: Hybrids Hit By Farmer Resistance
 >By Dev Raj

I apologize to other list members for reposting the article referred
to above. My intention was to post it on another list.

Anyway, quite a number seemed to like a real engineer's observations
about genetic engineering, I thought I'd share another insight:

To design systems of high reliability, we engineers almost always use
the modular approach, ie, we design a complex system by breaking it up
into smaller, relatively autonomous subsystems (or modules), which
interact only through well-defined interfaces. Then we create barriers
between modules -- firewalls, if you will -- to prevent unnecessary
interactions among components in different modules, and to ensure that
the interactions go through the modules' interfaces. This approach
results in very reliable engineered systems. The opposite approach of
allowing any component in one module to interact with any other
component of another, forming one large humongous system, has led to
buggy, unreliable and crash-prone systems.

Modularization actually provides a theoretical basis (from systems
theory, not economic theory) for arguments against economic

Biology has its equivalent of the modular approach: living systems do
not exist as one humongous community, but in the form of separate
species, which "interact only through well-defined interfaces". If
species barriers are broken down, unrestricted DNA exchange can result
in a dramatic increase in the number of potential biochemical
interactions which is presumably undesirable. Indeed, from my vantage
point, the geometric increase in the number of unforeseen interactions
is bound to result in the engineering equivalent of a buggy,
problem-ridden and crash-prone system.

To an engineer like me, today's cocky genetic "engineers" are
incredibly (and dangerously) naive if they think that the changes they
are introducing into a perfectly-working system will not cause some
undesirable side-effects, which may someday show up as genetic "bugs".
How can they be so blind to risk factors that stare at them in the
face (like using virus and bacterial genes or antibiotic resistance

Roberto Verzola