cummins debate

suter at suter at
Wed Jun 23 11:01:48 EST 1993

S=hauriex;OU=divsun;O=unige;P=SWITCH;A=ARCOM;C=CH  wrote:

+As a matter of principle, I wish to show some support to OPIRG's warning against 
+the dangers linked to genetic tinkering. First, Larry R. Erickson questionned
+OPIRG's "unbiasedness" on the wrong grounds, I believe. Let me cite him and
+then explain:

+>    It's not that there aren't serious social, economic and ethical
+> issues associated with the genetic engineering of plants and animals,
+> but it's obvious why Joe Cummins is excluded from many of these
+> debates or hearings on these issues in Canada. By posting this kind
+> of science fiction from Dr. Cummins and inviting "...people NOT
+> trained in these areas..." to enter the debate, OPIRG is showing
+> incredible bias, which prompts me to ask how they define "research"
+> and in whose "interest" they are doing research.
+Dr. Cummings is RIGHT, in my view, to invite people NOT trained in the area
+of genetic "tinkering" to join the debate. These people are the consumers of
+the tinkerd products, for one thing, and they will be the ones affected by 
+any side effects of tinkering. But moreover, Dr. Cummings pretends there is
+a threat to the ecological environment, and this should make EVERYONE concerned.
+We are all consumers of the environment! Now Dr. Cummings may be wrong, and that
+is what exactly Mr. Erickson should be focusing on, trying to disprove Dr. Cummings
+claims. THAT is, I believe, the proper attitude. After having read Dr. Cummings
+detailed explanations and Mr. Erickson groundless attacks, I am more enclined to
+believe Dr. Cummings. Now OPIRG may have strong biases against anything that has
+to de with industry (and I don't believe that either), but still their interest
+is PUBLIC interest isofar as they seek to solve problems that THEY think may 
+affect the public at large.

i agree that people not trained in genetechnology should join the debate. this
topic concerns us all, also those that do not understand all its implications.
but in my opinion, the cummins' strategy is quite clear: he knows that a lot
of people have fear of this technology, and i have the strong impression that
he is using these fears for his own purposes (whatever they may be).
for that reason, rather than saying that everybody 
has the responsibility to inform themselves objectively, he starts stuffing 
their heads with a lot of unproven facts and halftruths. that is NOT a debate !
in that sense i find erickson's attack valid, and certainly not groundless (as
a matter of fact, he gives quite detailed criticism). 

+Now, to Paul Schlosser blind belief in the market.
+Here he goes:
+> Just as organic growers proudly label their produce that way, I'm
+> sure that 'non-tinkered' growers will do the same, so that even if
+> it is not required that 'tinkered' produce be labeled, it will 
+> become quickly the case that anything not labelled 'non-tinkered'
+> will be assumed to be 'tinkered' - giving the consumers an informed
+> choice without the necessity of govnmt. regulation.  Market
+> competition will then determine what consumers want & will accept.
+Mr. Schlosser, I am sorry to inform you that theories of the Market 
+suppose that information on that market is perfect. If the consumers
+are to decide, through a market mechanisms, which products are "good"
+or "bad" for their health and for the environement, then they must be 
+informed about WHAT exactly they consume. So far Dr. Cummings has 
+been the only person to contribute to informing the public about
+tinkered food. 

Simply untrue ! you suggest that science is trying to keep the masses stupid,
on purpose or whatever. in my opinion, scientist do try to inform the
public, to the same extend as busdrivers, ministers or the pope. it is
also a question if people are willing to listen, are willing to inform them-
selves. the story about the scientist in his ivory tower relates something
about the scientist BUT ALSO ABOUT THE LAYMAN !
there is (at least here in europe) quite a lot of info on what products
people are working, and when they may appear on the market. i would say
that most of these newspaper articles are critical or even very critical.
so cummins isn't the first to do this. 
and i will always repeat this, and i say this to all my friends and 
relatives who do not work in genetechnology:
NOBODY prohibits you to go to the library to read up on genetech ! NOBODY
prohibits you to have a discussion with a scientist ! i am more than
willing to give books or newspaper clippings (which i have been collecting
for the last few years). interestingly however, most people can critisize
genetech in a sketchy half-truth "cummins' manner", but they do not read
up on the basic stuff, even when you put the books on their bedside table.
i would be damned pleased if people would do this ! because that would
probably also make clear to them why cummins' criticism is so 

+Now if you believe that Dr. Cummings' analysis of the problem is biased,
+you must tell the public WHY. Then the consumers will have a less biased
+information of the problem and will be able to decide.

erickson has given some very relevant and detailed info why he thinks cummins
is biased. 
Clemens Suter-Crazzolara, PhD
Max-Planck-Institut fuer Zuechtungsforschung
Abteilung Genetische Grundlagen der Zuechtungsforschung
Carl-von-Linne Weg 10
5000 Koeln 30, Germany
Tel. xx49-221-5062.221       Fax. xx49-221-5062.213
e-mail: suter at

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