The article on the insertion of cancer-causing genes into other
organisms may have appeared on the Common Dreams website, but it came
from The Observer, one of Britain's mainstream Sunday newspapers.
Jose Morales says it is just scare-mongering "technophobia" because
it doesn't give specifics on the dangers of this technique. Yet the
unnamed British researcher who passed the details on to the newspaper
because of his concerns is described as "a keen supporter of GM
technology". Is The Observer simply lying?
I am neither a keen supporter of GM technology nor a "technophobe"
(what a tendentious term that is), but I am a supporter of the
precautionary principle which says that the burden of proof should be
on the researchers to show that the technique is safe. As Sheldon
Rampton and John Stauber have pointed out "Today's regulatory system
essentially allows anything to be released into nature unless it is
proven unsafe by scientific data, which is defined to mean measurable
harm. In practice, this means that preventive action is not taken
until damage has already been done."
In addition to the anonymous British researcher, The Observer article
cites three other named sources (two environmentalists and a
geneticist) who are concerned about this line of research. On the
other side we have Nicholas Nicolaides, chief executive of Morphotek
(where do they get these names?). Perhaps Jose is right and the
technique is perfectly benign. And perhaps the executives at
Morphotek are wonderful humanitarians who would never do anything
controversial or risky in order to make a profit. But for the time
being I think a little skepticism may be in order.