Re: Glowing Grass

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Sun Jul 09 2000 - 14:11:39 MDT

On Sun, 9 Jul 2000 wrote:

> We are consistently losing the battle for public opinion.

I'll cite an interesting example. I was in London last week and
went out to diner with friends. On the menu were several "organic"
selections, e.g. "organic salmon". After some comments on my part
("Oh, a restaurant that supplies more expensive food for no rational
reason...") a discussion ensued as to exactly *what* "organic salmon"
could be. This turns out to be salmon grown on farms using "organic"
methods (organic food???). I can't imagine anything less "natural"
given the fact that wild salmon presumably mature on a diet of "raw" meat.
Now, one could argue that given the chemical residues in (wild) fatty fish
that the "organic" salmon were healthier than the wild form. (Of
course the carcinogenic potential of even highly chemically polluted
wild salmon is significantly less than that of the wine we were
consuming with diner but that is another discussion...)

The interesting thing was the assumption by several college educated,
moderately techno-literate (American) people at diner that the "organic"
kind, "had" to be healthier for you. So Greg is correct in that the
horse is out of the barn and is slowly eating the grass in our yards.

> Genetic engineering technologies are advancing WAY faster than its
> proponents are realizing, in an important sense -- and that sense is the
> public at large's acceptance of the technology.

Huh? This seems like a contradiction. Do you mean "lack of acceptance"?

At any rate, the technologies are advancing and it looks like in
western societies there will be an interesting quandry developing.
As I've pointed out before it looks like there may be a lack of
acceptance for AgBio since it has little impact on our actual health
or pocketbooks. In contrast progress on the MedBio front is continuing
at a blistering pace. I simply cannot see the most green Green saying
"No, you can't use that angiogenesis inhibitor anti-cancer drug on
my mother because its produced using biotech...". So sooner or later
the greens are going to have to confront the good biotech/bad biotech

If the animal rights activists (a separate group from the greens, but
at times similarly irrational), had their act together, they would
be demonstrating loudly against all of the transgenic mice activities,
particularly any plans to knock-out all of the genes in mice or zebrafish
(some small fraction of those knockouts are presumably not going to live
pleasant lives). They don't seem to be doing much of that yet, so I
consider most of their efforts noise.

> The luddites are well organized, have a simple, consistent theme and are
> getting better and better at getting themselves insserted into every single
> news item announcing any progress. I'm sorry to say it, but as someone who
> works in the arena of public persuasion, I have to say we're losing -- and
> badly.

You make the case that they are inserting bad memes into public minds.
Can you make the case that the attention or actions they are taking is
significantly slowing down progress?

If annually there is $70 Billion in VC, some fraction of which (1-5%) has
to flow into healthcare/biotech, and more than $15 billion each in both NIH
and Pharma research -- how can the greens & warm-n-fuzzy animal people
hope to compete with that?

I kind of liked the article re: "low mow" and/or glowing grass.
Its an example of what the average person can see as being useful
for themselves that no amount of green politicing will offset.
The glowing grass is particularly "green" as it would allow the
grass to store solar energy and release it at night allowing
people to reduce outdoor lighting leading to reductions in
power plant CO2 emissions. Of course the astronomers may not
be happy due to the light pollution.

Regarding going off to Minnesota and standing in front of the
activists, I'm not sure I can see myself doing it. What would
I do -- hold up a big sign that says "Go Biotech"???

It seems what ExI should do is write a position statement on the
advantages of Biotech and GeneEng to offset the Green/AnimalRights
position and publish it on the web site. Then we should make sure that
reporters at the major papers know how to contact us for pithy
comments about how ill-conceived the positions of the demonstrators are.

The reporters are just doing their job (documenting newsworthy
controversy that sells papers) -- we should assist them in that area.

We aren't just standing by twiddling our thumbs, I finished my BBC
interview last week, and the reporter hopes to catch Nick & Anders
in a few weeks. Unfortunately, the show doesn't air until next year
and is more about nanotech & uploads than biotech. But we are making


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:34:18 MDT