bGH/bST, bioengineering, and the media

Angeline Kantola kantola at
Tue Mar 1 22:26:39 EST 1994

Lately I've been reading a LOT of stories about bovine growth hormone and
other food-related bioengineering, like the 'Flavr Savr' or nonrotting
tomato. The press has been overwhelmingly negative. Since the recent
discussion about the appropriateness of a government agency's 
apology/reprimand was initially sparked (long ago, at least before I ever 
read this newsgroup) by a post about rbGH/rbST, and a couple of posters 
voiced their opinions about this topic as an aside to the original, I was 
hoping to get a discussion rolling among the bioscientists on this net about 
food bioengineering. 

It's clear that the many people in the general population are not exactly
informed about basic genetics and molecular biology. Last week I saw an AP
news article about a phone poll about people's knowledge about the
subject; fewer than twenty percent could even define what DNA's role is. 
Skepticism about new technologies is understandable (DDT, DES, nuclear
power), especially when that technology relates to the food people eat. 
However, the articles I read are not particularly educational--more often 
inflammatory. The term 'Frankenfoods' seems to be a new catchphrase. 

Of course this is a complex issue, and a lot of the negative aspects that
I read focus on nontechnological issues, such as the likelihood that
family dairy farms will be put out of business. Some of the positive
aspects I can think of are similarly nontechnological, for instance: as I
recall, anti-beef activists denounce the environmental problems livestock
cause; more milk from fewer cows presumably then means fewer cows will
tear up the land. What I'm particularly interested in hearing about are
professionals' opinions on issues directly related to the bioengineering
science aspects, not only on bST but the 'Flavr Savr' and any other 

Angie Kantola

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