The Spring issue of Pacific Ecologist is dedicated entirely to GE
- titled GENETIC ENGINEERING - attack on the tree of life. It is 72
pages with articles from many scientists & others presenting evidence on
the dangers, failings and ineptness of the science and the regulatory
charade on GE, as well as articles on the viable alternative, organic
Two articles are appended to give you a glimpse of the words; in the
actual mag plus you get cartoons and newsbrief sections on GE.
Goldsmith's article should appeal particularly to those who assess
gene-tampering 'technology' for its social & political origins & effects.
PIRM, PO Box 12125, Wellington for $10 - subscriptions $50 for 4 issues
of Pacific Ecologist - email <mailto:[log in to unmask]> - phone
* Open transgenic experimentation IS bioterrorism
* Defective genes - shifting the blame - EDWARD GOLDSMITH PACIFIC NEWS
HIGHLIGHTS THE CASE FOR A GE-FREE WORLD
* Hazards of GM crops & food - RONNIE CUMMINS
*Beware Monsanto’s soybeans - MASAHARU KAWATA
* Allergenic Papaya Scandal - JOE CUMMINS
* GE agriculture will not solve world hunger - ActionAid Report
*Some Threats from GM - ROBERT MANN
* Death by DNA Shuffling - MAE WAN HO PACIFIC & GENETIC ENGINEERING
* Australia at Risk - BOB PHELPS
* NZ govt gives in to U.S. biotech pressure - CHRIS WHEELER
* Horizontal Gene Transfer in the New Zealand environment -
STEPHANIE WATSON FEATURES
* Human genes in other organisms: broken tree of life - PETER WILLS
* Anyone for Gene Therapy in your salad? JOE CUMMINS
WORLD NEWS HIGHLIGHTS NEW EUGENIC DANGERS
* Genism, racism & the prospect of genetic genocide - GEORGE J. ANNAS
* Will New Zealand be the Liberia of human modification? - DENYS TRUSSELL
GE AND THIRD WORLD
* GE Crops Fail in India - VANDANA SHIVA & AFSAR JAFRI
* Africa, Agriculture & GE Food Aid - TEWOLDE EGZHIABHER ORGANIC
* Sustainable Agriculture, best way to feed the world - LIM LI CHING
* Can Agriculture & Biodiversity Coexist? - CATHERINE BADGLEY BOOK REVIEWS
* Seeds of Deception - By JEFFREY M. SMITH
* Gene Wars: The Politics of Biotechnology - By KRISTIN DAWKINS
* Tomorrow’s Biodiversity - By VANDANA SHIVA
* Biotech Time-Bomb by SCOTT EASTHAM
* The Myths We Live By by MARY MIDGLEY
* War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master
Race - by EDWIN BLACK.
* Living with the Fluid Genome by MAE-WAN HO
* FROM THE GROUND UP - Rethinking Industrial Agriculture - By HELENA
NORBERG-HODGE/PETER GOERING/JOHN PAGE
* Made Not Born: The Troubling World of Biotechnology - Edited by CASEY
Some Threats from GM
Pacific Ecologist Spring (Nov) 2003 pp.18-19
ROBERT MANN summarises some of the major problems of genetic engineering.
GE seed brings court actions
Many patented gene-manipulated organisms (GMOs), if permitted, will lay
farmers open to severe court actions, if seed is saved or accidentally
spread around. I am afraid the scene is more menacing than most farmers
have yet perceived.
The important lawsuits by GM-organism procreators Monsanto against the
former mayor of Bruno, Sask. - oilseed rape breeder and producer Percy
Schmeiser - and against the Nelson family who grow soybeans, wheat and
sugar beets in North Dakota, and against a dozen or so other farmers,
reveal major difficulties about what genes end up on whose land. The
pressure to buy the proprietary seed for each planting is greatly increased
by these new threats.
By the way, let us not forget that proprietary hybrid seed has been a huge
trade for half a century in the over-developed world. Typical F1 hybrids
are not sterile, but their progeny seeds vary so much that there's very
little point in trying to grow a crop from them. What few farmers have
realised is that the properties of GM-progeny are unpredictable and may be
not only uneconomic but also downright dangerous.
At a recent large international meeting (the "world dairy summit"), I spoke
during a buffet luncheon to a high-flyer biochemist who had just delivered
a very impressive talk. When I mentioned "biolistics", the gene-jockeys'
name for one radically novel method of inserting genes into plant cells by
blasting in tiny metal pellets coated with synthetic DNA "cassettes", this
prominent professor vigorously made like a tommy-gunner spraying bullets
around the room, yelling "weapons grade". I look forward to a more formal
public statement by this influential scientist; meanwhile I note that
scores of other scientists were standing around that luncheon room and had
just heard him demonstrating high expertise in biochemistry, so I take it
he wouldn't mind my recounting this memorable expression of scorn for this
principal method of gene-tampering.
GE techniques cause mutations
That "gene gun" is favoured for making monocot mutants (e.g. maize). The
main current method for dicots (main GM crops - soya, oilseed rape, cotton,
& potato) uses a less drastic method which is nevertheless bound to cause
mutations of unprecedented, unforeseeable kinds: synthetic DNA in
"constructs" assembled from a modified plasmid from Agrobacterium which
causes the only known tumour of the plant kingdom, typically spliced
together with modified copies of viral DNA genes e.g "promoters" which not
only force the desired property (e.g. Roundup resistance) to be expressed
"irregardless" but also provoke dozens of "cassette" copies to be
synthesised and inserted at almost any part of the target plant cell's
genome. These blocks of foreign genes randomly inserted cannot provide
Both of these "technologies" are practically certain to cause a wide range
of unforeseeable mutations. Some novel traits will appear promptly, others
later. Most of the minority of target cells that survive the
genes-inserting violence, are obvious monsters. More subtle defects emerge
among those few cells that can be grown into a whole plant, e.g. the 6%
lower yield of some resulting genetically engineered RoundupReady®
soybeans, 30% lower in drought districts. But the mutations will continue
to cause misbehaviour over many generations (if viable seed are set).
Generally, GE plants should be assumed less capable of producing good seed
than the typical F1 hybrids from which nobody would bother to propagate
The bizarre "constructs" inserted can be safely assumed to cause a huge
variety of mutants. Novel pathogens of various hosts could emerge from
these genetically unstable GMOs.
Perversion of justice
If any identifiable fragments of rogue DNA appear on a farmer's land you
might think he'd be entitled to sue for damages; you might even think his
government would have protected him from, rather than promoting, such
pollution. Instead, the genetic polluters have the nerve to sue him, using
a patents system that should never have been created and must be
dismantled. Go back to 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' for a precedent
to this inversion of justice.
I therefore add to many experts' warnings my opinion that current GM-crops
are unfit for open planting. I implore farmers to read the declaration of
a card-carrying gene-jockey, Professor Patrick Brown of the University of
California's main agricultural campus, who hopes for good GM plants in
future but judges current methods too dangerous:
Gene-tampering in animals is even more preliminary, less understood, and
less ethical, offering no foreseeable benefit to farmers (and a variety of
The NZ Law Commission examined liability for damage from GM -
www.lawcom.govt.nz/Documents/Publications/NZLC_GMO___.pdf - and concluded:
* GM organisms have the potential to create catastrophic and
* Some of the potential damage will be long-term and wide-ranging
* Establishing cause and proof may be difficult and expensive for
Other links to scientific criticisms of gene-jiggering:
Comparing this dangerous technology with nuclear power reveals many
similarities, but also differences - see my article
http://www.psrast.org/selfshgen.htm Very few New Zealanders got paid to
promote nuclear power, whereas over the past decade, hundreds of NZ
residents have been paid by venture capital to attempt GM experiments.
Nearly all GM corporations have yet to win a dollar of revenue, let alone
net a profit - which is one reason why they keep procuring large subsidies
(scores of millions annually in NZ); yet many careers have been diverted
into this blind alley. Farmers' organisations should be very conservative
toward gene-spliced organisms.
Dr Mann, a biochemist, was the University of Auckland's first (& last)
Senior Lecturer in Environmental Studies. He served for its first dozen
years on the Toxic Substances Board advising successive New Zealand
ministers of health on poisons. He contributed a general article on GM in
Pacific World (predecessor of Pacific Ecologist). His similar general
article on GM, suppressed from the book 'Designer Genes' through
interference by the Royal Society of NZ, is at
Defective genes - shifting the blame
Pacific Ecologist Spring (Nov) 2003 pp.3-4
EDWARD GOLDSMITH looks at the current fad for finding a gene for
everything and behind every "disorder."
To someone who only has a hammer, the world is one big nail. To the biotech
industry (that will soon patent almost every modified gene with even a
remotely conceivable therapeutic application) the world is one big
defective gene. Not surprisingly, the near completion in June 2000 of a
draft map of the human genome was hailed by the industry not only as a
unique scientific, but even as a unique religious breakthrough. Former
U.S. President, Bill Clinton, a fundamentalist proponent of genetic
engineering, said it was "more than just a triumph of science and reason."
"The code that we are learning," he piously declared, "is the language in
which God created life." The map is even referred to by some as "the book
of life," the genes themselves, as Genewatch notes, "acquiring a godlike
status in determining our future."
In the meantime, scientists are claiming to "discover" the genes
responsible for ever more and ever less likely afflictions. Thus Professor
Robert Plomin, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, has discovered the
gene for intelligence. Scientists of the Human Genome Project announced in
July 1993 that they have identified the gene for homosexuality. Professor
Grimley Evans of Oxford University tells us that he has found the gene for
longevity, while Dr Robert Freedman of the University of Colorado has
discovered the gene for baldness. Also discovered by our eminent scientists
is the gene for alcoholism, the gene for adultery, the gene for shyness,
and, you would not believe it, the gene for not being able to get out of
bed in the morning.
All this is great fun - but it is less so when serious diseases are
interpreted in this infantile manner. Thus, some doctors are now telling us
that breast and ovarian cancers are of genetic origin - caused by a defect
in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Young women who are endowed with these genes
are actually being advised by cynical doctors to have their perfectly
healthy breasts removed on the grounds that they would otherwise develop
breast cancer. However, a defect in these two genes can only possibly be
linked with a rare form of cancer that accounts for no more than between
five and ten percent of breast and ovarian cancers. Nor does carrying such
genes mean that a woman will actually get these diseases. Other factors are
involved, including environmental factors. As it happens, only a very small
proportion of diseases can be attributed to single gene disorders
(Huntington's disease or B-thalassaemia for instance).
What is more, gene therapy, in spite of all the hype, has achieved very
little if anything. Human trials have been going on since 1990 and there
have been over four hundred research studies worldwide with only one clear
"life-saving" success, in France. In addition, gene therapy has actually
killed a number of patients - something that has been given very little
notice in the world press. However, gene testing, i.e. the mapping of
peoples' genes so as to identify the defective ones, is now big business.
Still more so is the production of the growing array of "preventative
medicines" that will help prevent someone carrying a supposedly defective
gene from developing the disease that is, usually unjustifiably, associated
But worse still, the pretensions of the biotech industry are shifting
political attention "further and further away from tackling the serious
problems, such as poverty and environmental pollution," which as Genewatch
notes are "more important in illness prevention." This is particularly the
case with cancer, which is partly caused by smoking even more so by
exposure to the ever-increasing number of carcinogenic chemicals we are
exposed to in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.
This has been documented in great detail by Professor Samuel Epstein of the
University of Illinois, though it is hotly denied by the cancer
establishment - closely allied as it is with the chemical industry.
This is also true of psychological disorders. Thus, an international team
of scientists announced on 2nd November 1994, that it had found the gene
for manic depression, while in December 1996 we were informed that the
genetic mutation that makes people more susceptible to anxiety and
depression has also been discovered.
Perhaps, even more irresponsible, is the identification by scientists at
Trinity College Dublin in August 1997 of the gene responsible for
"Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" or ADHD, a term coined ten years
earlier by the American Psychiatric Association. Symptoms include
"inattention, inability to make mental efforts, hyperactivity, fidgeting,
talking excessively, and obstinate behaviour." Interestingly enough, these
are also the recognized symptoms of what has usually been referred to as
"emotional instability" - which is prevalent among slum children who have
been seriously deprived of the requisite discipline and love that only a
sound family upbringing can provide. Such children are almost impossible to
educate - hence the chaos in many inner city schools.
Of course, if this aberrant psychological state is made out to be of
genetic origin, then it no longer matters in what atrocious social,
economic, and environmental conditions our children are brought up in, so
long as enough money is available to pay for the requisite "gene testing"
and gene therapy. Unfortunately it is much the same with just about all the
major problems that afflict us today. They are almost always wrongs
attributed to a problem to which some powerful industrial group can
supposedly provide the solution. This means that the real causes are never
addressed - a process that is hardly "sustainable."
Edward Goldsmith, director of Pacific Ecologist, founding editor of The
Ecologist, UK and author of many books, including Blueprint for Survival,
The Way: an Ecological Worldview, and The Case Against the Global Economy.
This article is from The Doomsday Funbook.