EF! Fined $1million in Idaho

Don Baccus donb at rational.com
Thu Nov 14 14:30:11 EST 1996

In article <01bbd24e$fc8865a0$89d0d6cc at masher>,
Mike Asher <masher at tusc.net> wrote:

>How about those people so terrified of genetically-improving foods give us
>some sort of evidence that they're dangerous?  The argument that adding or
>subtracting a gene under human control might create something dangerous is
>asinine; every time a plant produces seeds *naturally*, each one of those
>seeds contains a totally new combination of genes, never before seen on the
>face of the earth.  These new combinations are created randomly, and
>released into the environment with no testing of any kind.   That sounds a
>lot scarier than we might do in a lab somewhere.

Well, gosh, if it's all that simple then we don't really even need
genetic engineering technology, do we?  We can just control our breeding
programs and voila, we can insert say an animal gene into a bacterium
no sweat!

Hybridization occurs relatively frequently in the plant world, and fears
that modifications that, say, impart resistance to a wide variety of insect
pests might make become rooted in a noxious plant pest aren't entirely
unfounded.  Outright rejection of all such work is an extremist view
that I certainly don't share.  On the other hand, the original stand
taken by industry that there should be no control over the introduction
of genetically controlled organisms is an equally extremist view.

The problem of such potential problems is much like that we face
from accidental importation of pests.  Generally, the importer of
the product bearing the pest does not suffer financialy, but other
business interests do.  We're just seeing the front end of a potential
epidemic in the westside coniferous forests of my state (Oregon) which
is caused by an imported disease first brought into this country by
the nursery business (sounds a bit like dutch elm disease, no?).  The
costs of such outbreaks will be borne by the timber industry, not the
nursery industry.   Because of this pattern of the cost not being borne
by the importer in most cases, the importer has little financial incentive
to reduce the risk.  Thus the need for regulation.

Rational fears - I like the word "concerns" better - about the propogation
of genetically engineered plants mostly center around the fact that the
companies doing the propogating don't necessarily have any financial
incentive to take necessary precautions (I've not seen the industry
proclaim no precautions are necessary, BTW, only that we can trust them
to do so without regulation).


- Don Baccus, Portland OR <donb at rational.com>
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