FW: Genetic Engineering does indeed have problems

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at gems3.gov.bc.ca
Thu Feb 17 16:29:00 EST 2000

Re. 'erasing the native biota'; people and weeds ARE native to this planet
and hence are natural. Also change is the only constant on this planet and
extinction is a natural process and has happened and will continue to happen
for reasons unrelated to people.  (of course I like to see and use
ecosystems that are little or not modified by human activity - but no amount
of worry will change the inevitable consequences of increasing human
-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Thorn [mailto:Thorn at cc.denison.edu] 
Sent: Thursday, February 17, 2000 1:17 PM
To: Bruce Walsh; Leps-L at lists.yale.edu
Subject: Re: Genetic Engineering does indeed have problems


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

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 toilet. 

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 

More information about the Leps-l mailing list