Need Safeguards for Gene-Tinkered Foods

Don Christie dc_ags at
Tue Jun 22 11:38:57 EST 1993

>>Xref: bionet.general:4750 
>>      alt.sustainable.agriculture:936 sci.environment:24268
>>      sci.environment
>>From: wcsbeau at (OPIRG)
>>Subject: Need Safeguards for Gene-Tinkered Foods
>>Message-ID: <C8zq2I.6M8 at>
>>Summary: Computer model testing insufficient to guarantee safety of
>>Keywords: transgenic safety, food testing, agricultural legislation
>>Sender: OPIRG-Carleton (R. Cooper/D. Murray)
>>Organization: Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
>>Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1993 21:23:06 GMT
>>Lines: 172

>>Posting this on behalf of Dr. Cummings. Hoping to start some serious
>>discussion about the implications of allowing, for example, untested
>>gene-tinkered canola onto the market, plus discussion on the ethics
>>(or lack-there-of) of failing to label foodstuffs that have been
>>"tinkered", or that contain tinkered (ie transgenic) ingredients.

You state that you'd like to initiate a `serious discussion' ... it's 
too bad you couldn't be serious about the subject yourself.. your 
lack of objectivity is apparent starting with the subject line of
your post. 

Your choice of the term `gene-tinkering' to describe genetic manipulation
in crop species leaves the reader with the impression that scientists
involved in this discipline do so in a manner reminiscent of how a
backyard mechanic `tinkers' with a car... haphazardly. Suffice it to
say that you've compromised your objectivity (and therefore credibility)..
and you've reduced the quality of the post from the level of `serious
discussion' to `assinine drivel'.

In my estimation the `implications of allowing, for example, untested
gene-tinkered canola onto the market' are no more dangerous than the
implications of allowing biased, pseudo-scientific sensationalist
misinformation in a world-wide newsgroup such as alt.sustainable.agriculture.

Furthermore, `the ethics (or lack-there-of) of failing to label 
foodstuffs that have been "tinkered", or that contain tinkered 
(ie transgenic) ingredients' are no worse than the ethics involved in
presenting the clap-trap in your post as established fact... when in
fact most of it is just your opinion.

>>***************************article begins here*********************************
>>                        TINKERED GENES IN THE SUPERMARKET
>>      The biotechnology industry hopes to market such crops without labelling
>>them or testing them on animals, obliging the people of North America to be
>>white mice for their experiments.  

It is possible that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (or its Canadian
counterpart) could know more about the requirements and/or standards for 
testing foodstuffs than you do... and I seriously doubt that they make it 
a practise to use people as `white mice' (as you put it)... 
unless there is compelling scientific evidence to conclude that the risks 
were minimal. 

This statement is a fine example of sensationalist propaganda... 
it would seem to me that its sole purpose would be to deliberately 
undermine the credibility of those whose mandate is to ensure the 
safety of foodstuffs being sold in the marketplace.

>>      These were the first acknowledged victims of biotechnology - but not the

Pray tell what technology has Man invented that hasn't had at least
a few `victims'? Did you *drive* to work this morning?

>>      The main problem with biotechnology is scientific imperialism. 

... and the main problem with this statement is that it reeks of political
posturing... my question is: What distinguishes this discipline among all
those employed by the agri-food industry as scientific imperialism? 

Furthermore, even if you *can* legitimately label biotechnology in 
this fashion, what is wrong with that?

>>are a a pampered minority, who frequently have little or no contact with
>>average people. 

Now *that* is an astute observation! .... but what's your point? Are you
trying to say that because they have `little or no contact with average
people' that their efforts aren't credible or productive? Perhaps you're
trying to imply that their lack of contact with the `real world' (or at
least what *you* consider to be the real world) renders their efforts

>>Jim Watson, a co-discoverer of the DNA structure, states about
>>biotechnology in his book *The DNA Story* (1981), "It was never the intention
>>of those who might be called the "molecularbiology establishment"  to take the
>>issue to the general public to decide."

That's because the majority the general public wouldn't even be able to
*spell* deoxyribonucleic acid let alone make meaningful decisions regarding
its manipulation. 

>>      My direct experience was in a Canadian legal public hearing about
>>biotechnology regulation (1990).  The chairman on the session on human health
>>impacts was an industrial consultant hired by the government.  That chairman
>>refused to hear my witness statement even though I am more than qualified as a
>>professional geneticist. "Disagreeable" evidence was deleted.

If the content of your post is any indication, there might be another
explanation... it is possible that the chairman in question considered
your `evidence' to be biased, unscientific and unworthy of consideration...
If your demeanor at the hearing were on the same level as you've presented
in this post, then I can certainly understand how you could have been 
summarily dismissed.

>>      Scientific imperialists hold key positions in academic publishing and
>>government bureaucracy.  They are ruthless.

Is it your contention that a conspiracy is afoot? 

Perhaps there's another way to interpret the ruthlessness you describe...
could it be that the fact these `scientific imperialists' require there be
some *scientific* content to their respective publications is the root
of the matter? 

>>There is every reason to believe that the wipespread
>>dissemination of anti-biotic genes to crops will be followed by the transfer
>>of these genes to pathogenic organisms.  

What mechanism would you suggest is responsible for this cross-species
genetic transfer? 

>>      Medical authorities predict that Draconian isolation priocedures and
>>closed wards for sick people will appear as antibiotic resistence amplifies. 

antibiotic resistance is a well-known phenomenon... but its relation to
crop species that have undergone genetic manipulation is the point I
question. That antibiotic resistance is conferred upon pathogenic species
by feeding on crops modified in this fashion is not, to my knowledge, 
an established fact... it's just your opinion. I sincerely doubt that
the medical authorities in question were making these predictions in
the context of the genetic manipulation of foodstuffs.

>>      Allergens are substances causing allergy in sensitive people.  Among
>>these substances are enzymes, food additivesand foriegn materials in food. 
>>You may recollect the powerful allergic response of many people when enzymes
>>were added to laundry detergent.

Again, what's your point? The fact that some people *might* be allergic
to some of the many and various products produced by biotechnology doesn't
seem to me to be reasonable grounds to stifle the science.

>>      Hundreds of thousands of sensitive North Americans will die and millions
>>will suffer, from gene-tampered crops.  

This is the sentence in your post which causes me the most grief... it is
preposterous to make such a statement! It's unprofessional, unfounded and
unscientific. It is reprehensible for a scientist to make such a statement
without offering even the most flimsy of evidence... 

>>The biotechnology industry has evaded
>>financial responsibility in the disaster by a "sweet scam" in which they
>>received prior government approval without testing. 

back to the `conspiracy' again.... if indeed a government gave approval
without testing, there would be evidence of that fact. Seems to me that
no agency would give such approval without there being some incentive...
perhaps if you find it difficult to provide us with evidence to substantiate
the claim that the government gave ap

More information about the Bioforum mailing list