Some GM "science" for "open debate"

Genetic Engineering is a phrase which suggests that the process is controlled and that everything that can be known about the processes of life itself is known and fully understood. That understanding, it is suggested, is so great that man can now remove vital pieces of the code of life from one organism and insert it in another and know the full consequences of that action.

Is this a true snapshot of the state of science today?

An insight into the real knowledge of the biological processes essential for our existence is found by examining the current scientific opinion on the effects of a chemical compound upon the body.
Take organophosphates for example.
This chemical group is ideal for our purpose because it has been studied in detail by a myriad of scientists and has been in common use for most of the latter half of the last century.

Another good reason for picking this group is its action in all the biological processes of life which the GM promoters claim to understand. In fact DNA itself is regarded as an organophosphate and life depends on the continuous coupling and uncoupling of bonds involving atoms of phosphorus, oxygen and carbon in complex enzyme-mediated processes.

These enzymes are formed by the genes which the Genetic Engineers intend to alter. This has recently been confirmed by those who are attempting to engineer coffee plants which do not produce caffeine.
The enzymes which form caffeine are not produced when the genes responsible for their manufacture have been removed.

So with something as physically "basic" as OPs, comparatively speaking, and with so many scientists having examined the action of the chemical, it would be expected that there would be some agreement in respect to the effects that such chemical intervention would have on the human body.
This is however NOT the current situation.
Science is confused and lost in the debate on OP induced illnesses even though they have been known since the end of the 19th Century.

Commercial and political pressure on the scientists has resulted in this confusion which has reached the sorry position where proven science is now denied in favour of those who prefer to claim that there is no risk to human health. The evidence to the contrary is well known but this does not clarify the situation and calls are simply repeatedly made for more research.
This is with a simple "inert" chemical invasion of the human body and with the additional advantage that humans have the ability to communicate to the scientists any adverse reactions which they feel.
How much greater then is the complexity and the potential risk to human health when the living building blocks for life itself are inserted into plants and animals in order to form alien life forms?

It is true that there may be some who view this technology as a means to feed the growing world population but this is an ideal, a vision, and the reality is more concerned with profit and control than food.
It has often been said that the control of the food supply is the most powerful weapon both in war and peace. A Nation without food is a Nation at war with itself with a weakened population which fights for the right to live. It is certain that if feeding the world was a priority then the surplus food in the West would have been freely distributed to the starving masses of the Third World instead of supplying arms to fuel the fighting for control. If feeding the Third World was the real intention of the Genetic Engineers then their first priority would not have been to create plants which could sustain repeated applications of their herbicide.
Instead they would have attempted to create crops which can grow in difficult conditions, or to save wasted food by improving methods of growing, harvesting, storing and transporting conventional crops.
There is also the other often forgotten problem forced on farmers in the West which proves that increasing yields is not the real reason for the new "science".
Farmers are encouraged to produce non-food crops and we have "set-aside" schemes and movements intent on converting otherwise productive land to forests, golf courses and building sites.

The proclaimed "dire need" for new food crops is therefore a false argument designed with the intent to stir the collective conscience of those who oppose the new technology.

Current commercially grown crops are resistant to herbicide, produce their own insecticide or both.
The organophosphate herbicide used has been linked to serious human illness including poisoning and cancer causation.
The chemical also has rapid insecticidal action and like other OPs it has anticholinesterase properties. It has been admitted that the chemical can adversely effect the mitochondria which hold the genes for producing many essential proteins. Missing or badly formed proteins have been linked to the causation of many human diseases.

There are therefore serious environmental and human health concerns in relation to the chemical for which the GM crops have been designed before we even enter into the debate on the merits or otherwise of the crops themselves. Furthermore we are once again discussing at this point the controversial disagreements in regard to chemical safety and have not yet touched on the dangers of tampering with genes.

The genetic engineers would have us believe that this is simply a more efficient form of plant breeding of the sort practised by generations of seed, and animal, breeders. This is far from the truth.
Plant breeders have for centuries chosen plants which already exhibit the traits they wish to encourage and have then used them for breeding purposes. Such programmes may have taken generations to establish new varieties and breeds of plant or animal but each step was a natural one.

Breeding science moved on when hybridisation became possible and traits from one variety could be introduced into another by manual pollination techniques. Again these methods were only successful if the two varieties were compatible. A similar situation arose in animal breeding with the onset of artificial insemination which allowed one animal with favoured traits to be used to breed a whole host of offspring hopefully with similar attributes.

These techniques were not without their drawbacks. Some hybrids did not reproduce true to their own qualities, some were sterile and some passed on unwanted features in addition to those sought after by the breeder.
Genetic engineering hopes to be able to control such events by inserting only the traits which are desired. It all sounds very honourable.

The trait desired in Roundup Ready Soya beans for example is that the crop must withstand doses of the OP herbicide.
To enable this trait it is necessary to insert a modified piece of genetic code into the DNA of the plant but this is not the only item that is inserted because the technique requires a modified bacteria and marker genes to show that the insertion has been successful.

Already the science has had to involve unnecessary insertion of DNA triggers over which they have no control. Enzymes are powerful forces and they can act at extremely low concentrations and at great speeds. The use of bacteria and viruses in this process which then exposes them to OP chemicals which have been shown to mutate such organisms should be enough to cause serious concern about the safety of the techniques. Bacteria used include salmonella and E.coli and these organisms are already causing serious and increasing adverse effects in humans. These bacteria are also used in the Ames test to establish the potential of pesticides and other chemicals to cause mutation.
Antibiotic resistance genes have even been used by the genetic engineers and inserted into their new crops which will be fed to humans and animals alike.
There is already concern about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in both human and animal medicine and these untested techniques could dramatically increase such problems.

We are told that science has decoded the entire Human Genome as if we should trust them to understand the complete structure of the human body and how each minute piece of DNA reacts with the others.
This is not a true picture. there are gaps in the knowledge filled by assumption but the work has triggered an acceleration into the study of genes and proteins and the way they interact.

The true current position is similar to having the names of everyone in a telephone directory but having little knowledge of how they relate to each other or who depends on others for their existence.

The same is true of plant genetic engineering which inserts genes for traits which are wanted but the full interactions with other processes are not known. Nor is it fully understood what the enzymes in the human and animal digestive systems will do with the genetic materials they find. This may in part explain the apparent surprise when genes from nuts were incorporated into other plants which then induced the same deadly allergic reactions when eaten by individuals with nut allergies.

Additional risk comes from the residues of the chemical for which the accepted residue levels are reported to have been raised some 200 times the originally accepted "safe" limits so as to allow the inclusion of the crop into the food chain.

Strangely the pro-GM lobby insists that there is essentially "no difference" between genetically engineered soya and conventional soya but it is interesting to note that science claims to be able to detect contamination of conventional soya at levels of less than 1%.
If there was no essential difference the GM soya would be undetectable at any level of contamination.

If inserting genes from one plant into another was the entire story there would still be cause for concern but the geneticists do not respect the species barriers and will implant genes from animals, insects and even humans into plants.
Those genes can then be transferred to other parts of the plants by enzyme processes which are not fully understood.

There have been potentially serious adverse human effects caused by such unforeseen actions. Genes from brazil nuts inserted into other crops are reported to have induced the potentially fatal nut allergy when susceptible individuals ate the modified crop.
Scientists reported concerns that genes taken from snowdrops could harm human blood cells when inserted into crops used for human food.
Controversy surrounded warnings given by one scientist that GM potatoes could inflict damage on the linings of the gut and stomach.
In fish scientists experimenting with the "Trojan" gene found that the fish grew too large too quickly and that they presented a serious risk to normal fish stocks if a single GM fish escaped captivity.
Genetically modified corn was found to leak toxins into the soil surrounding its roots Genetically modified potato crops designed to release insecticide were shown to kill beneficial insects.
Scorpion venom intended for use in a modified virus as an insecticide had similar adverse effects.
Bees have produced honey contaminated with GM material at great distances from GM crop trial sites. They are likely to have also transferred the genes from the crop as pollen at the same time.
The recent EU oilseed rape contamination story proved that cross pollination from GM to conventional varieties is now out of control.

GM crops are said to be able to produce coffee and tea plants which contain low levels of caffeine but many people actually prefer these drinks to contain the chemical. The claim is that it is expensive to remove caffeine for those who wish their drinks to be free of the substance but the caffeine so removed is often used in soft drinks and in the drugs industry.
Producers of GM rice claim that their product will produce a crop rich in vitamin A and that this will prevent blindness caused by lack of the vitamin. Such deficiencies would be better and more effectively treated by changes in the diet but it gives the scientists opportunity.

The chemical companies claim that these crops can increase yields, reduce pesticide use and provide healthier diets but the evidence so far does not appear to support these claims.

Not content with altering the genes of vegetation the scientists have moved on to more complex organisms. They have tried genetically modifying drugs such as Insulin for diabetics and Bovine Somatotrophin (rBST) used to induce increased milk yield in cattle and which has been reported to cause adverse health effects in the treated cows.

The scientists grow more daring with every step they take and have inserted human genes into animals with a view to making more drugs, foods with medical treatment possibilities and replacement organs for human transplant surgery. Recently it was reported that the London Hospital which runs the National Poisons Unit has involved itself in trials of genetically modified crops, such as tobacco and apples, with a view to producing food which will distribute vaccines to all who eat it whether they wish to be treated or not. Science is playing dangerous games with the lives of the people on a "let's try this and see what happens" trial and error basis.
Our rights are dismissed as unimportant in the race to further scientific knowledge.

The traditional boundaries between what food is of human, animal and vegetable origins are being rapidly eroded by science which no longer has self imposed moral limits.

So much have these standards been lowered that the clamour now is for the scientists to be given permission to experiment on human embryos.
Science does not know when the human's ability to feel pain begins or when it ends. The eggs found in a foetus in the womb are viable and we recently had reports suggesting that those from whom donated organs are taken can feel pain. Human life is no longer sacred to science.

Life is now being created in the laboratory in order to fulfil the dreams of scientists. These life forms do not always behave as they think they will. The cells of Dolly the sheep were said to age faster than science expected while similarly created cattle appeared younger.

Now fears have been raised that hidden viruses can be transmitted from animal to man with transplanted organs.

Science does not know all the answers.

Any sensible person examining the claims made for the science which we know as Genetic Engineering will see that it is long on promises for what might be possible, but short on real benefits.
Yields of GM crops have reportedly been lower, insect infestations have on some occasions been higher with some formerly easily controlled species reaching economically damaging levels, the herbicides used and pesticides released have detrimental environmental effects and the promised salvation for the Third World is unlikely to become reality. The sword of the Terminator gene still hangs over the world with its threat of famine and medical treatments have reportedly resulted in deaths. There may be benefits from this technology in the future when science understands more but the risks are great.

At present we are all the unwilling subjects of an uncontrolled experiment from which none of us have a means to escape.
This is an affront to our Human Rights since we should be able to opt out of such experimentation and there should be a way to halt any experiment if it was found to be causing dangerous problems.
The science is all too easily abused and there is no way to put the GM Genie back into the bottle.

What we need is accuracy and honesty in science and a truly open debate.

Failure to ensure this will bring certain disaster.

Dated 16/9/2000

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