Risk analysis of genetically altered foods.

Jim - 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  

You said: <<I believe
that the pressure to create and introduce these
technologies is so great that it won't be stopped 
unless there is a wreck. New alterations are 
being released regularly, everywhere. The "cat"
is out of the bag, and it isn't likely to go 
back in. I think we'll have to deal with it
as a reality and not pretend we can make it go
away. >>

I think you give up too easily.  Now is the time - right now - when the cat
is coming out of the bag (or the genie out of the bottle...) - when
large-scale uses of these GE products are first being done and allowed into
our shared food supply.  It's always easier to stop something when it's
first starting than after it becomes established - in our mind sets, in our
economic system, etc.  Now is the time when we are conscious enough to be
horrified.  Like the boiled frog, we will get more and more indoctrinated
to the GE ideas until we can't even remember what it was like to trust G-d
and have caution about tinkering with such things.  I think we should use
our horror well, and NOW.  This issue gets much harder if we wait til it's
established, if we accept their framing that it's a "fait accompli - and
you better get used to it".  That disempowers the very principle of
democracy better than any foreign country ever has, and leaves us to be
victims nibbling at the edges of corporate policy, instead of sovereign
citizens declaring our vision of the world we want our shared future to be.

<<So I would like to have a way to systematically 
understand and evaluate the risks of the various 
gene manipulations that affect food and crops. 
    For example, from my uninformed point of 
view, making a vegetable that kills insects
seems to rate highly in the risk category.  Making
a crop that tolerates herbicide might be moderate.
Making a crop with a thicker root covering that
resists root maggots might be a lesser risk.
Of course, there are a host of unknown things
happening in the background that we don't know
about that may make a relatively benign alteration
dangerous.  >>

I respectfully disagree.  I understand your point, but I think the
_unforeseen_ consequences warrant much more respect.  Some see GE as just
more tinkering, but we are crossing species barriers for the first time,
and we really don't know what that looks like, even if we _think_ the risk
is small.  Just the GE process itself brings risk, no matter the potential
benefit or desired outcome. For instance I know that some GE crops (one
person told me all, as a marker) include an antibiotic resistant gene. 
Does one need a science degree to recognize that this is not an intelligent
thing to introduce into our population?? Already, doctors struggle with the
increasing antibiotic resistance that is making deadly again bacteria that
were once killed by antibiotics.  Do we want to assist this?  Same thing
with putting toxics in plants - the recent Bollgard debacle shows that
industry assurances about not increasing pest resistance are not
necessarily so.  

And there _is_ a cost to making plants more herbicide tolerant - increased
use of herbicides, and thus increase harm to health and the environment -
and increased resistance (ex. Roundup in Australia).  Plus the economic,
social, and sociological cost of having to return the seeds to the
corporation, cutting us off from our own birthright of saving seeds, of
having a direct relationship to the natural process, and instead having
that replaced by corporate products and corporate objectives, and much more
money, money, money spent along the way.

If you think these corporations can be trusted with our genetic heritage,
our economic system, our farming social structures, and our food supply,
and they will think only of the community's best interest, I think you are
at best naive.  We must recognize their interests are not always what is
best for the community.  They want to charge for products, and a high
market share.  This is quite different than nature's "give it away free"
distributed power philosophy.

I feel there are fundamental flaws with the GE approach, and am highly
skeptical of those who would be driving its direction.  Their past
behavior, from DDT to tobacco etc., does not cause me to trust them with
the basis of life on this planet.  I affirm our rights as individuals and
as a community to make a choice about the direction we take, for if we
don't have that, then why put up with all the messy aspects of having free
will...? May as well roll over to the corporate-run oligarchy and be done
with the facade of our democratic rhetoric at all...

Just my thoughts...

Patricia Dines