GENTECH archive


Re: GE domestic plantsa nyone/


That's all very well, but lets start off by first chucking out all
this God crap, without which I think you are likely to put up the
backs of a lot of scientists and engineers. Lets get real.

OK. I agree that there could be better ways to help world farming than
to introduce GE crops. We can't deny however that millions of people
are starving and things will only get worse. 

We can (1) tell them to stop breeding, (2) use land more productively
(meat production is a very inefficient use of land), and (3) grow more
productive crops. The first won't work.

I think your arguments about monocultures need qualifying. At the
moment most people in the developed world surviving off "mainstream"
agriculture live off an amazingly small number of different crop
varieties already. OK, areas in the less developed world are
harbouring thousands of less productive, vitally important and unusual
strains. We must guard against loosing these whilst working out how to
also feed people. 

A new strain of plant virus could wipe out a huge part of the current
(non GE) world harvest in one go. Bio-engineering isn't necessarily
evil capitalism, it's also teaching thousands of scientists tools
which could have universal use in tackling such disasters should they

OK, so you say a succesful GE crop could create even more of a
monoculture. Well that's one to guard against, but possibly because
each crop type will be deliberately suited to an environmental niche,
we could need as much GE variety to suit varied environments as we
already have in mainstream agriculture.

Your argument about India and Ethiopia and seed-swapping etc is valid.
For these people to need to buy their seed from large multinationals
is foolish and dangerous. However if their current system worked
perfectly we wouldn't be looking at these areas of the world when we
ask where the starving people are. Their crops fail because of pests
and climate. We have a more benign environment in the developed world
so crops fail less often. That's great, but we need to ask what can be
done to fix their problems. We can't alter climate much (OK we'll stop
driving our cars etc.. but that's a different subject), so we possibly
consider fixing the plants to suit the climate. Man has been doing
this for thousands of years. I "tamper with nature" myself every time
I eat a slice of yummy organic bread for breakfast, the seed of which
has been altered dramatically since it was wild grass.

I agree that the current application of GE is going in the wrong
direction to fix the problem for these people, but we musn't damn the
techniques because it's initial application might not be in best the
intersts of these people. - Of course it isn't, it's in the intersts
of the GE companies. 

I wholehartedly support bio-preservation. I for one am keen to grow
old and unusual varieties organically in my garden. That doesn't
prevent me from also supporting controlled use of GE techniques. 

In fact by carefully applying GE techiques we could actually be
increasing bio diversity in mainstream commercial crop plants, not
reducing it. 

And of course GE is seen by large multinationals as a good way to make
lots of money. It is. Remember though that money makes the world go
round. Man is by nature a competitive and self centered animal. (Or we
wouldn't be here to say so). If something makes money, someone is
going to do it and we can't change that.

What we can do is try to influence the way it is done and the aims of
the techniques. This can only happen if we are rational and scientific
and look at all the facts rather than jumping on the current
bandwaggon of hysteria which currently exists. Man has been poisoning
and polluting his environment for thousands of years. Used
appropriately, GE techniques could actually go someway towards
improving this.  Every technological innovation in history has been
hounded with critics when it first was invented. Then over the years
even the critics mostly agree that it has something good to offer even
though the initial applications may be misguided.

GE should be used to create food plants more suited to their
environment, and to reduce the current saturation of our environment
with toxic herbicides and pesticides, many of which are already
causing desease and will be influencing our quality of life for
generations. Some headline GE techniques are aimed at enhancing the
effect or acting with certain herbicides and pesticides. Because of
the press these activities receive, people obviously react against
them in a way they cannot against the current widespread unseen and
less controlled applications of all manner of deadly substances. 

Of course I disagree with this, but we have to see it in context of
what is already ocurring. Personally I prefer to eat organic, but we
can't feed the world that way with people's current lifestyle
aspirations. I'm privileged to be able to make that choice.

So, lastly, 

My enquiry regarding house plants stems from my notion that large
companies spend millions of pounds on a research effort because of the
enormous implications of getting it wrong. To my way of thinking, for
small laboratories on the sidelines, there would be far fewer
implications in getting things wrong with a houseplant than with a new
rice strain.

- Justin