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December 27, 2005


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One of the things that frustrates me endlessly surrounding the GE debate (for example) is that many do not realise how much our current crops are horrible mutants already. They have been selectively altered and bred for thousands of wars into what they are today. Nobody ever did safety tests on these (at random) cross breeds and more. They have been introduced world wide and ironically, require so much care from humans such as pesticides because they are incapable of surviving by themselves.

This is why I find so many claims about GE such as what the article highlights so hypocritical. GE crops have been better tested, better regulated and better understood than any previous form of crossbreeding in history. Yet the technology is almost universally (and rather ignorantly) being demonised by its opponents and members of the press.

It's a real shame as well, because this demonisation has undoubtably held back the technology in many respects.

Thanks for the heads up, that was an interesting article.

An obvious complaint (with which I do not agree) made about GM is that the genes are from other animals or plants. "Ooh, we don't know what they'll do!"

Knowing that they used to just randomly mutate plants is a hell of a lot more worrying, although apparently it hasn't yet caused any health problems, or bred a world-conquering race of hyperintelligent Wheatoids.

At least with GM we know a lot more. One, if we put in a fish or nut gene, we can then test the resulting product to see if it causes an allergic reaction in people with seafood or nut allergies. Did anyone ever test x-ray dosed mutant wheat for allergens? Apparently not.

With random mutations, scientists were creating entirely new genes. Why are those better than known quantities?

Also, with the entire genome of rice now sequenced, there's a great opportunity to simply use GM to speed up the old, natural processes of breeding. Just take successful genes from many rice varieties and combine them as needed. But many people will simply oppose it because it's GM, even though it could be done over the longer term with standard breeding practices.

While I found the Economist article interesting and largely very reasonable, my skeptical hackles are raised by the statement "That will mean either better yields or less rainforest". Most of the hungry countries mentioned don't have rainforest in the first place, as far as I know. It seems to me a fake dilemma. Perhaps "better yields or better use of available arable land or [insert any of many possibilities here]" would be more appropriate.

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