Cites for "Need Safeguards for Gene-Tinkered Foods"

OPIRG wcsbeau at
Mon Jun 28 19:12:26 EST 1993

In article <1993Jun28.115711.11388 at> dc_ags at writes:
>In article <C97sr8.LHG at>, wcsbeau at (OPIRG) writes:
>>J.E. Cummins provided the following references for his article
>>_Tinkered_Genes_in_the_Supermarket_. He mentioned that he has had
>>trouble with popular press publishers stripping references out of
>>the texts of articles he has submitted.  He should be faxing us more
>>next week; he's doing work on an Oneida reserve this weekend.
>Tell Dr. Cummins `thank you' for the list of references. It's too bad
>he doesn't have net access so I could thank him more directly.
>>[NB (again, for those who missed it the first 2 times),
>>OPIRG-Carleton posts this to further informed debate on this important
>>subject, not to take sides.  As part of our mandate, we have often
>>sponsored speakers many (if not all) of us do NOT completely agree
>>with (eg., Paul Watson, Murray Bookchin, Naomi Wolf, David Cliche),
>>and who certainly wouldn't agree with each other. (Bookchin
>>had some choice words about Watson...)] 
>Here's a suggestion: Perhaps OPIRG-Carleton could sponsor Dr. Cummins
>to the extent that he has direct net access... that way, those of
>you who do not agree with his point of view would not be forced to
>publish his words for him. 

I believe he's actually thinking of getting it through Western, where
he's on staff. It would certain make things easier for me. 

>>In addition, Cummins sent along some other information including an
>>example of what he called a "typical trial approval from Agriculture
>>Canada". Condition #7 says "no alfalfa will be grown after the site
>>for 3 years after the harvest." Condition #8 says "all volunteer
>>plants will be destroyed before setting seed following the test",
>>and condition #9 is "no seed or harvested plant matter will enter
>>human or livestock food/feed chains". Cummins says that this points
>>out that AgCan realizes the risk of gene transfers.
>You say that the document you cite is a `typical trial approval'...
>couldn't it be that AgCan has a general set of guidelines vis-a-vis
>research projects and that these are some of them? I disagree
>with Dr. Cummins' conclusion. The fact that AgCan has a framework of
>established guidelines for researchers only points out the fact that
>AgCan recognizes that *no* research materials should be allowed to
>escape control... just common sense, I would think... and not
>necessarily a case for the dangers of biotechnology. 

This is certainly possible; I live not far from AgCan's Experimental
Farm (right in the middle of Ottawa), and they appear to follow those
conditions often, if not always. Someone from AgCan should answer this.

>>He also sent along a copy of a news report from the *Kitchener-
>>Waterloo Record*, dated Jan. 4th, 1993, about Agriculture Canada
>>"losing" a report on a monitored plot of genetically-engineered
>>corn. In the article Cummins is referred to as "an outspoken critic
>>of government regulation of research trials with transgenic plants".
>I take it we are expected to draw the conclusion that since the
>report was `lost' *and* since it criticized Dr. Cummins, that the
>`loss' was actually an act of censorship... perpetrated by the good
>Doctor's opponents?

A confusion - "the article" was the *KW Record* article, not the
report on the monitored plot. Cummins was not criticized in the news item.

>>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.)
>The `image' to which these respected authors refer does not, and in
>fact never has existed... call me cynical if you will, but it seems
>to me that researchers and scientists have to live in the same world
>as the rest of us.... and as such, are required to make a living and
>pay bills... many enter their professions with high ideals and dreams
>of `shaking the world' but eventually the realities of the work-a-day
>world catch up. 
>The decline in university-sponsored and government
>sponsored research funds has forced this group to look more and more
>to the corporate sector to fund projects. In view of this, it is
>hardly surprising that many projects would focus on topics which are
>of interest to those corporate sponsors. This is a far cry, however
>from the notion that corporate funding compromises the objectivity
>of the results. Most researchers publish their work in peer-reviewed
>journals... a forum in which `mercenary science' is quickly exposed.

For the most part, I agree. The danger is the fact that research which
has little commercial potential, but could reveal unsuspected risks,
will be underfunded. There is also the problem of ambiguous results:
whether or not they will be interpreted as suggesting a possible
danger can be affected by one's interest in the outcome. In some ways,
it's not unlike going to court - only the most hopeless case has no
arguments in its favor.

Reid Cooper

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