Re: Genetically Altered Foods Classified as Toxins by EPA

I sent an email with the above title to the group (see copy below).

In reply, Jim wrote:
<< In my humble opinion genetically altered plants
and animals are not *always* bad or dangerous, but 
the element of risk can vary substantially between
the various alterations.  Has anyone tried to 
systematically classify the various alterations in 
terms of the type and degree or risk? 

Hi Jim -

1) I think the information in this email was being specific in the way you
requested.  It was not saying that all genetically-engineered (GE) plants
should be classified as toxics - just those "engineered to produce toxins
that kill insects".  Calling them a pesticide will likely cause them to go
through the Risk Assessment process that would assess the level of
potential risk, as with any other pesticide.  I would guess that the point
they're making is that if you engineer a plant to carry a pesticide, it's
still a pesticide, just with a different delivery mechanism, and should be
subject to the same regulatory structure that other pesticides are subject

2) I'm trying to get more info on this, but I speculate that this news item
is about putting Bt in corn, etc.

3) In terms of the larger question of GE and levels of risk - I think the
main point is _what we don't know_ and our hubris/arrogance rather than
humility about that.  That there is so much we don't know, and that there
is so much potential risk for harm (to our food supply, our people, to the
very genetic basis of life), and that we are moving ahead with such speed
anyway (you should see Monsanto's GE rollout plans!), is a main reason for
my concern, and I'm sure many others.  

Do we really want to have a large-scale global experiment with our entire
food supply and the genetic makeup of the planet - and then only later go
"oops!" when the level of potential disaster (or disasters) could make
Chernobyl and Bhopal seem trivial...!  I don't feel this is exaggeration,
when we are tinkering with the very basis of life, not to mention our food
supply.  Look at the Irish potato famine for a glimpse of the social,
political, economic, and human costs of food supply disasters.  And we
could easily get the information about our error when it is just too late
to correct it!!  This is serious stuff!!  Just because Juraissic Park had a
happy ending doesn't mean we will.  As the Goldblum character said in that
movie, Just because we _can_ do something, doesn't mean that we _should_!

Prudence would dictate greater caution when there is so much unknown - and
when there are so many much lower-risk options that could do clear and
significant good for our food supply (ex. support organic farming and
research).  Unfortunately, chemical companies and their interests seem to
be setting the agenda based on their desires for products to sell and
market share to control, not (despite their rhetoric) on the well-being of
mankind (sorry, but I don't think making the world safe for Roundup ranks
up there with the work of Mother Theresa!).  

I feel that we citizens should stop accepting as a fait accompli their
self-interested framing and recommendations for solving the world's
problems, or just nibbling around the edges (ex. "cloning is ok, just not
human cloning"), and instead reclaim the reins and ask what we want our
nation's resources to be directed toward, what our priorities and goals
are, and whether we want to risk the basis of life and our food supply -
because, have no doubt, we will bear the consequences, so we have a right
to be involved in the choice of that risk.  
I personally don't think that risk is worth it or necessary, and that there
are a lot better things we could be doing with our efforts.  But in any
case, I don't appreciate the corporations rushing headlong into this risk
without any decent control or choice by the citizens, and the governments
that are supposed to acting in our best interest and instead have become
corporate mouthpieces on this issue....  You're right assessments should be
made, and then choices based on those assessments - but _before_ mass
release of this stuff, not _after_!!

Best regards -

Patricia Dines

>--- FORWARD --
>Date:    Tue, 25 Mar 1997 14:40:11 -0600
>From:    "Noel A. Taylor" <nataylor@HSONLINE.NET>
>Subject: Genetically Altered Foods Classified as Toxins by EPA
>>From _The Celestine Journal_ Vol. 4 #3 p. 3:
>"New Toxins in Food:
>"Corn and potatoes engineered to produce toxins that kill insects are now
>classified as pesticides instead of vegetables by the Environmental
>Protection Agency."
>                                                                --Noel