... can I claim goodie?


				L R B Mann
					Aug 2001

  	Almost every significant public utterance from the 
gene-tampering trade has been massaged, morphed, varnished and warped 
by the depraved trade of mercenary deception  -  PR.  Last time I 
heard, Monsanto had a couple dozen PR operatives.
	The very term 'genetic modification', adopted by the Minister 
for the Environment for the name of the Royal Commission, is 
deceitful.  Some student should trace its origin (a decade ago).  The 
earlier term, 'genetic engineering', while tending to ingratiate 
gene-splicing by the implication that the processes amount to a 
technology planned for foreseeable effects (a lie), has the weakness 
- from the viewpoint of the PR twister - of subtly menacing 
overtones.  'Modification' mollifies the image; it resonates better 
with the principal lie that the artificial gene-splicings developed 
just this past couple of decades are no more than speeded-up natural 
processes.  Having established this newer, gentler term 
'modification', the PR liars then crooned soothingly "genetic 
modification has been going on for centuries, in the form of 
conventional breeding", which they had not tried on back in the 
mid-1970s when gene-splicing was invented and came under some ethical 
scrutiny in New Scientist  and a few other scientific magazines.
	But going back to 'engineering' will not go far enough. 
Uncontrolled insertions of spliced 'constructs' of synthetic DNA 
"copied" from various kingdoms of organisms and from virus genes can 
be called technology only at the risk of insulting proper 
technologies such as comprise actual engineering. 
	One step further back, let us reconsider the first word in 
the PR labels for these novel drastic gene-tamperings: 'genetic'. 
The organisms created are, in many cases, of unknown genetic 
propensities; it is not known how many, if any, generations they can 
breed, and there is good reason to believe they will not breed true. 
Furthermore, their genomes are likely to emanate infectious pathogens 
e.g.  novel virus with modified cauliflower mosaic virus promoter 
causing horizontal gene transfer to mammals including man.  Of 
course, the ultimate in anti-genetic engineering would be the fabled 
'Terminator' seed -  not yet real, but under development in the labs 
of Monsanto and other corporations  -  sterile if the parent crop's 
seed was treated with a specified chemical.  But even current 
gene-jiggered soya, maize, oilseed rape, and cotton (the main 
gene-tampered crop plants so far) have novel properties which can 
hardly be called genetic.  The lab-produced seed expresses the 
transgenes so as to biosynthesize an insecticide throughout the 
plant, or an enzyme which confers resistance to a particular 
herbicide (e.g.  one which is the main money-spinner of the 
corporation selling the herbicide-resistant line of gene-jiggered 
seed).  Sure, transgenes are expressed; but genetics as she is known 
is scarcely involved.  Nothing is intended to be inherited, in the 
commercial scenario protected by perverted patent law.  Genetic 
pollution is expected (as the Frankenseed purveyors refuse to admit), 
but no worthwhile genetics.  What is engineered is not genetics but 
-  for a few years  -  profits for the gene-tamperers. 
	It cannot be too often mentioned that benefits are not 
expected, nor are they emerging, for the farmers, or the consumers, 
or the distributors, of Frankenfood.  To foist on all these sectors 
ill-tested, possibly poisonous food must rank as one of the more 
vicious triumphs of the mercenary deceivers.

	The pollution of thought by PR has confused many who should 
know better.  For instance, the Royal Society of NZ has become a main 
propagandist for gene-tampering.  The RSNZ colluded with Monsanto, 
subsidised by government funds, in a 'private trust' called 
'GenepoolŪ' to maintain a thoroughly deceitful website and a series 
of 'seminars' around the country with admission fees high enought to 
keep out ordinary citizens.  The then PresRSNZ, a leading physician, 
wrote on behalf of the RSNZ about the Showa Denko GE-tryptophan 
disaster thus: "Rare cases of EMS were known before the introduction 
of the genetically engineered bacterium, which further supports the 
hypothesis that EMS is not due to the genetic engineering event." 
An exact analogue of that argument would run: "Rare cases of 
seal-limb were known before the introduction of thalidomide, which 
further supports the hypothesis that seal-limb is not due to 
thalidomide."  Misleading illogic abounds as never before in the 
'debate' around gene-tampering.
	Auckland university teacher of marketing Dr Judy Motion has 
carefully studied the role of PR in the King Salmon caper, a field 
trial of gene-jiggered salmon in tanks (near Blenheim) with 
inadequate exit filters.  The Royal Commission was told of this 
expert but failed to subpoena her; they didn't really want to know 
about the Liberian-registered company, owned by Koreans, which sued 
for 'defamation' the only member of Parliament who has been talking 
much sense on gene-tampering, Jeanette Fitzsimons  -  for giving the 
media leaked PR advice to King Salmon by a PR agent who also ran 
	The most neutral, informative, widely intelligible term for 
rDNA techniques is gene-splicing.  True, it has a certain unsolemn 
vernacular style to it; but it is far less misleading than either of 
the main PR terms 'genetic engineering' and 'genetic modification'. 
Of course, for polemical purposes one resorts to 'gene-tampering' or 
'gene-jiggering'; but I think the normal term, with minimal 
tendentiousness, should be 'gene-splicing'. 
	'Gene manipulation' may be one of the most widely suitable 
terms, somewhat less neutral than 'gene-splicing' but far less 
deceptive than either 'genetic engineering' or 'genetic modification'.

	Can we look fw to a counterattack by, say, 'gene gentling' or 
'gene caressing'?  And then perhaps 'heritage fondling' ?    :-}