ethics and politics [was: plant phys use in breeding]

Tony Travis ajt at
Fri Sep 25 13:23:33 EST 1992

In article <92825152239.MIN-LZBAa00156.bionet-news at> you wrote:
: I originally posted an inquiry concerning the use of the tools of
: plant physiology in plant breeding.  The discussion was clearly dwarfed
: by the discourse on research funding and philosophy.  Although those
: discussions were not directly related to my topic (I'd still like to 
: hear from those who *are* interested in the original plant fizz topic ;-) ), 
: one cannot deny the strong impact attitudes and policies have on the 
: direction of research.  

Yes, Dan *I* am interested in your original topic.  The last message I
posted on this thread was about plant physiology in breeding wasn't it?

:   It there any interest in a research philosophies and policies newsgroup
: or should we just continue to entertain the discussions here?

I say continue, but change the subject of the thread - you can't escape
politics in any area of human activity, not even plant biology!

But, please remember that this is primarily a scientific forum and
everyone will unsubscribe if it becomes polarised into a political

Just to put my cards on the table, I think that excessive use of
chemicals in agriculture is BAD and that we, as plant biologists, have
a responsibility to help harmonise agricultural needs with ecologically
sound principles of management to achieve a sustainable balance between
what we take out of the system and what we put back in.

I also think that politicians (not scientists) in the developed
countries are ARROGANT in their attitude to agriculture in the less
developed world.  In my view, we have as much to gain from *listening*
to people who are using sustainable crop husbandry in marginal areas as
they have to gain from 'exploiting' (sorry - there is that emotive word
again) the technology available in the developed countries.

There is a strategy of using 'appropriate' technology and I disagree
with the idea that all technology is BAD and none of it is useful to
people who are living in very poor, less developed countries.  Take,
for example, the global investment in hi-tech equipment needed for
weather forcasting.  All that is needed to plan according to the
predicted weather on the ground is an inexpensive transistor radio.

I'm quite sure that Ricardo can demolish this example if he tries, but
my point is a general one.  One of the fundamental principles of
science is the sharing of knowledge and I am sure that, on balance, the
existence of global telecommunications is beneficial to everyone
because it promotes the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.

Dr. A.J.Travis,                       |  Tony Travis
Rowett Research Institute,            |  JANET: <ajt at>
Greenburn Road, Bucksburn,            |  other: <ajt at>
Aberdeen, AB2 9SB. UK.                |  phone: 0224-712751

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