Message Number: YG4465 | New FHL Archives Search
From: RRC
Date: 2001-06-10 05:55:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Bob C: A MAD Look At Genetically Altered Foods

>Bob, on the length of your post.. don't sweat it. I enjoy
>your posts even when I disagree with you and if I feel you
>are getting verbose I'll shorten the disclaimers that get
>stuck on the digest.

I always worry about the length of my posts, but I appreciate your
comments. I have never liked the idea of "telling without explanation"
because I think it leads to dogma and closed thinking. I have yet to
figure out a way to explain something that can be understood at multiple
educational levels with just a few words. That is not meant to be
condescending; it's just that we all learn things no one else knows and
trying to bridge to chasms of understanding can be difficult. At least
it is for me.

>The movie themes you bring up really should have included
>Frankenstein's monster and it's message about tampering
>with the forces of nature LOL.

One of my favorites is "Hardware Wars," of which I own a cherished VHS
copy. It is true that the second creation of Adam was the first to bring
up the issue of humans acting like God, using science and technology to
achieve the ends. Coming as it did during the waves of Victorian
science, it set the tone for questioning scientific and advancements in
technology. However, if you read Frankenstein's Monster and compared it
to many earlier stories, while the details are decidedly different, the
plot is essentially the same as hundred of stories which question humans
playing God.

>I have to agree. In a society that was profit based
>where some unscrupulous company might try to skimp
>on testing to get something on the market ahead of the
>competition. Or where major corporations were more
>concerned with the almighty dollar than they are with
>the welfare of the public.. I might see some cause for
>fear.. One also has to consider that we have the FDA
>to protect the public. Just look at the job they've
>done with pharmacuticles.. Not sure if anyone actually
>died before they pulled PPA off the shelves, or actually
>how many people under 50 had strokes from taking PPA, but
>those sacrifices were small when you consider the public
>really needs a good decongestant.
>OK, so I'm being facetious .. but that is my major
>concern.. who's going to provide the supervision and
>review??? who's qualified? we have no way of knowing
>the long range effects.

I hate to be blunt, but economics is ALWAYS the key to public
protection. As Ford found out with the Pinto, the threat of catastrophic
financial fines can be a major incentive to make sure your product is
safe. They may be after the fact, but law suits are very effective at
insuring public safety. But to be honest, I don't think they are the answer.

I have always thought the best answer is strictly monitored
self-regulation. Scientific knowledge grows at an exponential rate, so
much so that governmental agencies cannot keep up. The only people who
really understand the science are those who are trained in it, but they
tend to be self serving (as ALL people are) in an era when funding is so
terribly hard to come by. Rewarding those who follow strict protocol by
shifting funding to those types of studies is better than new
regulations or laws. But it is a problem, has been a problem, and will
continue to be a problem. It is a problem of the public's views of science.

Personally, I see many if the current problems with medical products
having unforeseen side effects is a result of the decrease in animal and
human testing. Using tissue cultures and computer simulations may seem
like the solution to PETA and other organizations, but they can fail to
anticipate problems caused by biological complexity. I think they are
marvelous screening tools, but nothing is as good as tracking the drug
in living biological organisms. True, and I am the first to admit this,
some animals are NOT good models, so intelligence and insight must be
exercised. This aspect is somewhat addressed if you apply for funding,
because you have to summit a research plan which is reviewed by
scientists in your field. Note that I do not advocate unlimited or
unnecessary animal testing, nor do I think it has to be done in a manner
which causes undo harm or pain to the subject. Some day in the future,
computers will be programed with human physiological responses, and the
need for animal testing will no longer exist. Until then, there is no alternative.

Even if you study the problem as intensively as you can, create a
research design which has no flaws, and are reviewed by the most
brilliant minds in the field, mistakes will happen. All knowledge is the
ultimately the result of making mistakes, so while I abhor the idea of
people or ferrets being injured by them, they are an aspect of life
which cannot be prevented. All we can do is to the best we can to create
protocols which lessen the impact, and create protocols which actively
respond to problems as soon as possible. The genie is already out of the bottle.

>In my head I keep juxtaposing them.. but with proper
>supervision and review, those risks are minimal.
>The sad thing was by the time it was realized a
problem existed, it was too late but with proper
>supervision and review, those risks are minimal.
>The sad thing was by the time it was realized a....
>I've combined two unconnected comments. altered food for thought?

Altered food for thought...ho, ho, ho. A new, transgenic brain food? ;-)

Relate the question to the use of atomic bombs during WWII. Historic
revisionists may point bony fingers of blame at the USA for dropping the
bomb, but if history was altered and Japan had the device, do you think
for an instant it would not have been used to level Seattle, San
Francisco or Los Angeles? Come on, this is a military power who
routinely worked and starved humans to death, illegally tested surgical
procedures and drugs on children and prisoners, and murdered, maimed,
enslaved and terrorized millions of people. Do you think if they won the
war that they would have been so generous to Americans as the Americans
were to them? People tend to forget that the Germans had much of the
bomb worked out, had invented missiles, and they openly shared those
secrets with Japan. The Americans at the time had NO idea that Japan
wasn't about to nuke Australia or blast the American fleet; they saw
creating the device as a race and the first to make it would win.
Considering the power of nuclear bombs, they weren't wrong. Having
experienced horrific military and civilian casualties, and having seen
the remains of German concentration camps and their counterparts in the
East, no one was in the mood to allow the war to extend another year.
Testing wasn't considered an option at the time, and many, many mistakes
have been made as a result (which extended another 40 years as the
result of the cold war).

That is decidedly NOT the case with genetic engineering. There is a lot
of open, serious debate on the issue, and scientists within the field
(as shown by comments on this list) are just as concerned as the rest of
us. Are the protocols adequate? Should they be tightened? Is there
sufficient debate? These are all questions we need to answer. My
instincts suggest regardless of our best intentions, genetic engineering
will be mostly beneficial, there will be some bad mistakes probably made
for profit (or terrorism), and ultimately, we will control the genie. I
cannot imagine shutting down the program, because even if we do it,
there is no guarantee that programs will be terminated in other
countries. If you think the threat of ecosystem disaster is bad, imagine
the consequences of a transgenic bacterial disease which only kills
people with specific genetic sequences. Now, THAT is scary AND entirely
possible. Allowing my ferrets to eat transgenic meat is hardly a risk.

Bob C