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Monday, April 25, 2005

Comments

Tex

Hmmm, I don't pretend to be an expert in GM crops, but I'm inclined to treat it as a scientific issue. There's always a risk that, with any technological advance, that there will be unforseen, dramatic consequences. As long as a reasonable effort to address the predictable risks is made, I can live with that. But if you paralyze technological advancement, whether because of morals (in the case of stem cell research) or of fear (like in this case, reasonable or not), you also run risks. And if this is an easy solution, that's a good thing! Penicillin was an easy solution (once accidentally discovered) for bacterial infection, even though a long term consequence has been the evolution of resistant strains. But would it have been better never to have discovered penicillin at all?

Long story short, until giant mutant ears of corn take over the world, I say bring on the human-corn frankenfood hybrids! Mmmm, pestlicious...

amy

Haha, pestilicous.

It isn't the unforseen risks (which I'm sure there will be aplenty), it's the clearly seen but ignored risks that I'm worried about. Well, maybe that's not true, I'm worried about both. And I just don't like the idea of eating genetically engineered food. It isn't necessary and it isn't healthy. But I'm just one person so bring on the giant mutant corn ears.

Alison

With all due respect, Tex, I don't know that comparing penicillin to GM crops is such an apt analogy. ;) I think we can all agree that the millions of lived saved by penicillin is worth the risk of resistant strains (which happens no matter how we fight disease). But, with GM crops, it seems to me we're putting a band-aid on a much larger underlying problem (e.g., hazardous farming techniques) and potentially creating bigger problems with the "fix". Science is one thing - stupid humans doing stupid things with science is something else.

Alison

Tex

Well, I've been told time and time again that my mold based analogies are inexact, you think I'd learn...
Usually when science goes awry, it's because someone's using others' technology poorly (nuclear power at Chernobyl, synthesizers in disco, etc.) not because the scientists are themselves making mistakes in their fields of expertise. My point is just, regardless of what the best decision in this case is, I'm inclined, as someone who doesn't have any expertise in GM, to leave the analysis to the biologists and environmental scientists. If the risks are too high relative to the yield benefits for these particular GM crops, okay. But I don't think concerns about the morality of using a human gene in GM crops, or of the whole 'playing god' thing, are relevant, and that's what most of the article Amy links to talks about. The real questions to me are, are there promising alternative lines of research that could lead to an abandonment of pesticide use, or are they going to be something we need to deal with for the forseeable future? What environmental problems have been caused by GM crops before, and have they been 'worth it'?
Of course, eventually population growth will have to slow or we'll all be screwed, and that's a different problem that should be addressed by different scientists and different organizations. But if parallel research can improve yield in the meantime with GM techniques, in principle I'm for it.

Alison

Yea, I agree, it's not a moral issue for me, either. It would have been nice if that article had gone beyond the "ick" factor. I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to corporations' claims of "improvement" - they don't seem to be the most concerned about long-term health consequences. Of course, I'm also reading "Collapse" right now so I'm pretty much convinced the human race is doomed anyhow. Maybe with GM crops, we'll beat the odds!! ;)

amy

Sadly, I don't think the GM folks care if there are promising alternative lines of research. They're busy trying to make a killing off their technology. They don't care about the public's health (incl. environmental health). It's all about the bottom line.

I didn't pick a great article, I agree. I don't care about the moral side of this particular argument. If you guys find articles on this or any other subject you think I'd be interested in, feel free to send them my way and I'll link to 'em...

amy

Damn, I forgot to start with "with all due respect"! Or is that only allowed for lawyers or people who play them on tv??

Alison

No, they're for people who are being sarcastic in a gentle, teasing sort of way. ;) And reserved for folks who dare to use mold-based analogies!!

Tex

'With all due respect' is a funny phrase, it seems more polite to say 'With great respect' or something. I mean, how much respect is due? Who decides? If I didn't think someone was due much respect, I could still start off with 'With all due respect', couldn't I? Of course, the coarsening of our language in an increasingly illiterate society is not unlike the slow spread of mold across an unscrubbed bathtub...

The important thing to remember is that, regardless of what we humans do to the environment, a massive comet or asteroid will likely hit Earth in the next few decades and wipe out all life more complex than bacteria, cockroaches, and Wheel of Fortune contestants. Unless we heed the prophetic warnings of the visionary film "Armageddon" and give Bruce Willis his own space shuttle and nuclear warhead.

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