Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Frankenfoods normalized? A quick response

I was surprised to read over at Eschaton that

                   …there's nothing inherently dangerous about genetic modification.  
                   Several people pointed out, correctly, that it's just a faster way to 
                   practice husbandry than traditional methods.    

This, in the famous words of physicist and Nobel Laureate Wolfgang Pauli, is not even wrong.  Normal  husbandry is confined to mixing characteristics among organisms which can naturally crossbreed.  That is, you can cross one apple with another, one weed with another, one grain with another, and so on.

You cannot, in nature, cross a fish and a tomato.  Old Farmer Jones can throw as many tomatoes as he likes into the pond with his carp, but the two will never exchange genetic information.

But you can do this, by gene modification, and it has been done. 

On the other hand, grains and weeds, (both, in my non-botanical mind, being grasses) should readily cross-pollinate, and have in fact been shown to do so naturally.  (This fact has implications for the development of drug-resistant super weeds, but that's a story for another day.)

So, with apologies to the ghost of the military theorist Clausewitz (certainly one of the most quoted individuals on the internet) gene modification is assuredly not a continuation of  husbandry by other means; it is, rather, a radical reshuffling of a biological order was has developed over hundreds of millions of years.  As the holder of a Ph. D. in Biochemistry, I do not consider myself smart enough to undertake such work.   Those who support it should at least recognize it for what it is. 

1 comment:

  1. Like everything else, genetic modification started out as an idea to do some good, but now it has become a tool for big corporations to control and rip unconscionable profit from something all of need, food.