Genetic Engineering does indeed have problems

Robert Thorn Thorn at
Thu Feb 17 16:16:47 EST 2000

Bruce Walsh wrote:

> Thus Nature itself likes genetic engineering. Another example: most
> genomes of present-day bacteria contain large chunks for very
> different species. It has been estimated that the present genome of E.
> coli (our common gut bacteria) has had its genome turned over (via
> transfer from other bacteria, generally VERY unrelated) at least five
> times. Nature thus has a long (and quite glorious) history of swapping
> parts of genomes between very unrelated species.

I think that 'long and random' are a much better descriptor, and you are
well aware of this.  The rate of this swapping is quite low, otherwise
we'd be seeing genetic revolutions continually.  How long do you really
think it took E.coli to turn over its genome?  And the process is
stochastic; no telling whether the piece of genome being swapped is a
magic bullet or a hunk of junk.  So, while the process may have helped
evolution along, you'll have to convince me that it's responsible for
the riot of biodiversity we're presently in danger of flushing down the

More to the point, I'm discouraged by your cavalier treatment of a
fairly significant issue.  The changes that were formerly random and
slow will now be rapid and driven by short-term human economics.  To
splice in disease and pesticide-resistance genes into crops (which is an
accomplished fact) without adequately testing to see if those genes can
be swapped out to surrounding weeds (which has hardly been done at all)
risks a huge bio-calamity.  If gene-swapping is so common in nature,
then these genes will quickly accumulate in all sorts of weedy species.
Weedy species already get a huge assist from our severe habitat
modification.  These 'superweeds', presumably animal and plant, will
then erase the native biota that much quicker. To blandly suggest that
nature does this all the time is pure BS, but to imply that we should
not worry and let human economic short-sightedness assist it is
dangerous BS.

Peace and _Understanding_

Rob Thorn

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