Cites for "Need Safeguards for Gene-Tinkered Foods"

OPIRG wcsbeau at superior.carleton.ca
Mon Jun 28 18:38:20 EST 1993


In article <1993Jun28.092357 at IASTATE.EDU> danwell at IASTATE.EDU (Daniel A Ashlock) writes:
>In article <C97sr8.LHG at cunews.carleton.ca>, wcsbeau at superior.carleton.ca (OPIRG)
>writes:
>
>        [examples showing that gene engineers are careless too]
>[...]
>
>> For a more cool-headed popular discussion of this issue, Friday's
>> (June 25, 1993, OpEd) *Globe and Mail* had an article by Abby Lippman
>> (@ McGill's dept. of epidemiology, & chair of the human genetics
>> committee of the Council for Responsible Genetics) and Philip L.
>> Bereano (@ U of Washington's College of Engineering, & chair of CRG's
>> commercial biotechnilogical and environment committee). A short
>> excerpt: 
>
>>    "Despite the surrounding hype, genetic engineering is not
>>    only about alleviating pain and suffering. The image of the altruistic
>>    scientists expanding the frontiers of knowledge to cure disease has
>>    been compromised by the reality of the entrepreneurial scientists...
>>    more and more of whom are intimately linked to multinational
>>    corporations and venture capitalists." (NB: the *Globe* is a
>>    conservative business-oriented newspaper.)
>
>   This excerpt puzzles me.  Is the implication that one must 
>watch people who are making money more closely than those who 
>are doing pure science?  Isn't it the case that needed safety
>regulations should be in place no matter how the work is 
>funded?  Where did these images of altruistic scientists come
>from anyhow, the ad. campaign NASA put together for the Mecury 
>astronauts?

The point, I believe, is a variant on the importance of the search for
knowledge being a 'disinterested' search, unbiased by exterior concerns.
I would agree that there many possible sources of bias beyond
business concerns. However, given a choice between relying on
evaluations of the safety of, say, smoking (to pick a hopefully
uncontroversial example) done by a govt lab and a RJ Reynolds-funded
lab, I'll opt for the govt lab's evaluation. If the person doing the
study stands to gain by a positive result, and they just happen to get
a positive result, I'm going to at least want to hear an outside
opinion. Reasonable, no?

>   The whole excerpt seems a protest against the non-altruistic
>nature of capitalisim and essentially irrelevant to the issue of
>what safeguards are needed for genetically modified food.

Not a protest so much as a caveat: don't assume everyone will be
neutral observers.  Risk-assessment involves a lot of judgment-calls.


Reid Cooper



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