Way back in the 80's I took my first course in genetic engineering. The subject was taught by an extremely competent woman on a Federal advisory board (Recombinant Advisory Committee). Walking away from that course, I had the overall feeling that, taking conservative precautions, genetic engineering is safe and will benefit humanity. Perhaps it may still. I was excited at the prospect of the wonder drug, "interferon," that was being taunted as the next cancer treatment; no more chemo! I also felt that non-swine insulin was tremendous help to diabetics. During my course, we learnt about the infamous "strawberries" experiment. For those who don't know the story, I will tell it to the best of my memory.
Strawberries are known to freeze at certain temperatures; this can ruin the crop. Researchers in SF decided to try to alter the plant so that it would not freeze at 32 F. This all took place on the roof of a building on the West Coast. It worked, and "ice minus" was created. It also created tremendous opposition because of the science of the technique. Since researchers had taken few environmental precautions, the operation was, sensibly, shut down.
Currently scientists (or are they farmers?) are allowed to
grow food whose genetic make-up has been altered in some way.
Last year in SF, I ate a G-Eng tomato. At the time, I thought
that it compared to an average hothouse tomato. Today, just about
everyone who drinks milk or eats milk-based products, enjoy it
from cows who have been injected with BGH. This causes an
increase in the production of milk. It also has negative
ramifications for cows and humans. BGH causes cows to be more
prone to infections (it would stand to reason if the cow is
overproducing) and these infections lead to an increased use of
antibiotics. Farmers need to use antibiotics to cure the cows
infection. Ultimately the antibiotics are excreted in the milk.
Get the picture?
Some of this stuff is quite harmless. Many researchers have taken impeccable precautions and true care about our environment and humanity. For example, in the days of the "strawberry" incident, researchers altered a gene in the plant in response to the natural environment. Heavy research in G-Eng lead to the current treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (interferon).
Now researchers have taken this a step further by altering
their genetic make up of crops so they have an increased
tolerance to pesticides. What this means to the average consumer
is that, once these new crops are grown, harsher and more severe
pesticides can be used on the crops, because they have been
developed to withstand these chemicals. We are already in the
days where every apple we eat can have up to 9 pesticides that do
not all wash or peel off. Other researchers answer to their pay
check first and provide big business with new breeds of fruits
and vegetables that can survive harsher and harsher pesticides.
One company in particular, Monsanto, has been cited by the Pure
Pure Food Campaign - Provides a quickie lesson in some of the harmful effects of genetically engineered food products. Although they are a bit neurotic one should be familiar with the issues.
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