Re: SOC/BIO: Reaction to New Zealand Pharmaceutical Ranching Project

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 21:36:25 MST

Hmm. That ole debbil Frankenfood. Here's a cute little bit of scientific
wisdom I belatedly stumbled over at

an interview with Dr Alan Kerr by Oz science broadcaster Robyn Williams.


      Australia, Bt cotton is by far the most
      widely grown genetically engineered
      crop. Where grown, it has reduced
      the use of insecticide by half. In
      America, it has reduced insecticide
      use on cotton by about 90%.

      This surely is a significant benefit to
      the environment. So why is the green
      movement, particularly Greenpeace
      and the Australian Conservation
      Foundation, so adamantly opposed to
      this new technology? I wish I knew. I
      can understand them having
      reservations about some specific cases
      of genetically engineered crops but to
      reject everything holus bolus is
      beyond my comprehension. As more
      and more genetically engineered
      crops are released, the use of
      insecticides and fungicides in
      Australia and elsewhere will be
      dramatically reduced. Herbicide use
      will probably rise but soil erosion will
      be controlled. Surely this is a net
      benefit to the environment. The final
      last gasp argument by the greenies is
      that there should be a moratorium for
      at least five years until it can be
      proved beyond doubt that genetically
      engineered crops cause no damage to
      humans or to the environment. This
      is mere humbug. Everyone knows, or
      should know, that scientifically, you
      cannot prove a negative. You can
      show that the probability is very low
      but that will not satisfy the critics. I
      sense that it is more than opposition
      to genetic engineering. It is an
      anti-science movement. It is
      interesting to listen to discussions on
      genetically engineered crops. Almost
      inevitably, three points will be raised:
      1) mad cow disease in Britain, 2) the
      Chernobyl disaster, and 3), more
      recently, the dioxin contamination of
      chicken feed in Belgium. None of
      these has anything to do with genetic

      There are some aspects of science
      that concern me. A recent book by
      Damien Broderick called 'The Last
      Mortal Generation' scared me witless.
      His thesis is that within a generation
      or two, science will have conquered
      death and that humans will become
      immortal. Have you ever thought of
      the consequences to society and the
      environment of such an achievement?
      If you're anything like me, there
      might be a few sleepless nights ahead
      of you. Why don't the greenies get
      stuck into this potentially horrifying
      area of science, instead of attacking
      genetic engineering with all its
      promise for agriculture and the

      Robyn Williams: A challenge from Dr
      Alan Kerr, Professor Emeritus of Plant
      Pathology at the University of
      Adelaide, and winner of the first ever
      Australia Prize, back in 1990.


Damien Broderick

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