Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mutant Fish in the Frying Pan

The New York Times reports on biotech food developments, such as the Atlantic Salmon pictured above. These two fish are the same age; the smaller one is a "regular," while the larger one has been genetically engineereed with a growth hormone gene from another type of salmon, plus DNA from the tiny ocean pout fish which helps keep the growth hormone active. >> To read more (registration required)

  • As my notes in the comments section suggestion, I am not entirely opposed to genetic modification of plants and animals, but I am cautious, recognizing that we are now capable of certain kinds of modifications that are indeed a Pandora's Box. For those interested in reading about the good to wildlife and wild places that can come from "messing with genes," see Norman Borlaug, I Presume? For those who want to imagine the bad, see The End of the Game

1 comment:

PBurns said...

Actually, most of our food is genetically engineered now (i.e., it is "Round Up Ready").

More than 70 percent of the corn is genetically modified, and about the same percentage of soy beans; an even higher percentage of cotton is genetically modified.

I think it's safe to say that right you cannot have a meal in this country without eating genetically modified food, and you cannot get dressed without putting on at least a little genetically modified fiber. That has been true for well over a decade and the world has not come apart at the seams.

If we start looking at simple hybridization, which is a form of genetic engineering, we see that most of what we eat is not to be found in the natural world -- not our chicken or our cows, not our apples or pears. Creating new species has made the world's agricultural lands more productive and has save a lot of wild places and wildlife as a result.

So yes, it's a little too easy to hyperventilate about genetic engineering. I am not too alarmed by most of it, and count most of it as probably a good thing.

That said, I am a little less enthusiastic about the engineering of wild species, especially if they can procreate. And while we have rushed in to create plants that fix their own insecticides, we have not done the research to show what happens when we eat all those insecticides. I will bet real cash that before 5 years goes past, we find that all of this "restless leg syndrome" that is going on all around us is traced back to insectides that are now being fixed in bio-engineered plants that we are eating. When food is a dosing mechanism for toxins, overdose is not hard to achieve. I am pretty sure it is happening right now.

Another point ... As Matt M. points out over at the Querenicia blog, all of the genetic manipulation that is going on right now is being done to create branded plants and animals. Profit is the motive. I am not against profit -- it is what makes the world go around -- but real issues are raised when the means of production -- the seed corn -- are entirely controlled by nameless faceless people in corporations eight time zones away.

What is being set in motion today are some very big wheels that are moving very fast, and I am all for asking a lot of questions. Let us not be stupid or afraid, but smart and careful. Pandora's box, once open, let out a great deal that could not be put back in again.

A final thought: We have gone 2 million years without genetically modified things; perhaps 5 years of study and a system of regulation that is not owned and operated by the industry itself (as the case with the FDA) is not a bad idea.

Or, as we say in carpentry: "Measure twice, cut once."