Genetic Engineering may have Problems (not so long)

Neil Jones Neil at
Fri Feb 18 11:12:53 EST 2000

           cheheyr at MICRON.NET "Robert L. Chehey" writes:

> OK, This is a crock that needs answering!  Genetic engineering actally began
> about 14,000 years BP, Give or take a few thousand, when someone decided to
> cross two white dogs, or to inbreed a wheat strain that had larger heads,
> and it has always had problems.  Even if one grows only "heirloom"
> varieties, they are probably 99% as engineered as today's.

I have some problems with this. It deeply concerns me when I see
the general public loosing faith in science. One of the reasons I see for
this is that people see scientists making statements that they cannot
believe to be truthful.

Let us examine whether it is truthful to compare 'Artificial selection'
with 'Genetic engineering' with the conclision that they are identical.

I define 'Artificial Selection' as the age old system where strains of plants
or animals were improved by natural methods.
I define 'Genetic Engineering' as the modern system of transfering genes
from one organism to another.
I define 'truthful' as in the Oxford English Dictionary:
"Characterised by truth, corresponding with reality, true, accurate, exact."
It is the last words that are crucial here 'accurate' and 'exact'

I do not believe that it is accurate or exact to directly equate
artificial selection with Genetic engineering.
Take the dogs example. Canis familiaris the dog is remarkably moldable in
its appearance. If these were wild animals we would assume that the 
Dachshund and the Great Dane would have to be different species they are
so differentin appearance. The differences have been achieved over centuries
of breeding by man. However at no time has someone attempted to cross a dog
with a horse to make it bigger. It has not been possible. This is the difference.
Genetic engineering enables the production of any required character by simply
popping in a gene from something else.
The equation of Artificial Selection with Genetic Engineering *cannot*
be said to be truthful, accurate or exact.

  The only
> differences now are the tools and the speed, the most probable source of
> problems, with which it can now be done.

Indeed this is the key worry.

> As for farmers being close to Nature, that's true, but their motive for
> being there is immensely dark.  If you think about it, most of the
> destruction of habitat mentioned in this group is collateral to some other
> endeavor.  Farmers, including foresters, are the only sane people that
> purposely set out to destroy natural ecosystems, in order to create
> artificial ones.

This is exactly the problem with this technology. It facilitates the
further industrialisation of agriculture. Furthermore it is absolutely clear
that the industry behind this do not really care about the impact.
What worries me also is that there is a great deal being said  by the biotech
industry that is not truthful. For example it is not truthful for them
to describe Bacillus thurigiensis as a "soil bacterium'. It is a specific
Lepidoptera pathogen.

> Expecting many flames,
> ********************************************
> Robert L. Chehey
> MAILTO:cheheyr at
> Boise, ID, USA, USDA Zones 6a, 6b.
> Cool, Mediterranean Shrub-steppe
> and frondose riparian forest
> N43º38.67'  W116º13.68' Altitude: 816M
> ********************************************
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-leps-l at [mailto:owner-leps-l at]On
> Behalf Of Rcjohnsen
> Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2000 10:01 PM
> To: leps-l at
> Subject: Genetic Engineering may have Problems(long)

Neil Jones- Neil at
"At some point I had to stand up and be counted. Who speaks for the
butterflies?" Andrew Lees - The quotation on his memorial at Crymlyn Bog
National Nature Reserve

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