Re: SOC/BIO: Rifkin's "worldwide moratorium" on genetically modified organisms

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Tue Aug 01 2000 - 20:43:20 MDT

Steve wrote:
> Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 12:47:01 -0400
> From: "Michael S. Lorrey" <>
> Subject: Re: SOC/BIO: Rifkin's "worldwide moratorium" on genetically
> modified organisms
> >Actually, there is no evidence that butterflies are harmed by pesticides
> >produced by plants in the field, and evidence to the contrary has been
> pretty
> >overwhelming that the 'sky is falling' whines of the anti-GM greenies is
> >unfounded in any way.
> The case I read was about GM crops, not pesticides ...

The GM crops referred to are varieties of corn and wheat that produces
its own pesticide (much like other plants produce their own pesticides),
thus repelling parasites. In laboratory tests, where monarch butterflies
were given NOTHING else to eat but the GM plants, they did eat them and
did become sterilized and died. Where the butterflies were given a
choice between plants to eat, they avoided the GM plants. The Greens
have not acknowledged this fact, and have demonstrated a rather unique
case of selective literacy and memory.

> As for 'spores' being 'freed' into the environment, plants do not reproduce
> by
> 'spores', so any greenies telling you that are obviously ignorant. Since
> agronomists are aware of the risks, they typically plant a band of crops
> around
> test fields that cannot cross pollinate with the test plants. THe pollen
> only
> drifts so far before settling to the ground, where it rots.
> OK, spores, pollen whatever ... I'm not a biologist .... but tell me how you
> can stop cross-pollination (by wind or insects) by planting a band of crops
> around a test field? What self-respecting bee or wasp will be put off by
> this?

Well, first off wasps do not pollinate plants or produce honey, they
predate on other insects and their nests are not built of honeycomb, but
out of paper created by chewing wood and leaves (although their nests
are structured similarly with hexagonal shapes.)

As for bees, GM crops are typically tested in areas where there are
little or no native bee populations. If you were not aware, most of the
native bees in North America died off a couple years ago due to the
depradations of a *naturally* evolved fungal infection epidemic (showing
that evolution itself still has far more impact upon our environment
than we think we do in our hubris). Most farmers these days have been
dependent upon bee breeders to bring their hives around to provide help
with pollenation. Due to this, we have unique conditions where it is
relatively easy to find areas that are free of bees, and to keep them
free of bees, and where crops pollinate each other via wind conducted

> >
> > Just because a technology is new, like GM, does not automatically mean it
> is
> > good. Proper long term testing does not seem to have occurred with GM in
> the
> > same way as a new drug testing, although the technology impacts on more
> > people.
> >Just because technology is new does not mean you have to fear it like the H
> >Bomb.
> >Proper testing has progressed as far as it can in the laboratories. They
> must be
> >tested in the field, but all attempts at this testing are being sabotaged
> by the
> >anti-GM greenies, which proves that they are not, in fact, interested in
> 'proper
> >testing'.
> If they still have to be tested in the field .... how come so much GM soya
> is already on the supermarket shelves? What point are you making here?

The anti-GM forces don't go after established GM crops that are already
in the environment and which have shown no negative impact. They go
after research plots where new strains are being tested in the open.
They know they can't put the genie of established GM crops back in the
bottle, but they can fight a delaying war, impeding and sabotaging
efforts to introduce new varieties of GM crops.

> >That is merely a straw man for them to present themselves as
> >'moderate' while they vilify their opponents.
> I think that until science can ensure that neighbouring crops won't become
> pollinated by GM test crops, the environmentalists have a point.

Since established GM crops and animal species have shown absolutely no
negative impact to date, the fears of the luddites are pretty much
unfounded. They take the rather rational concern about keeping
potentially endemic species from getting loose, and blow it way out of
proportion. They have shown absolutely no interest in actually
participating in work to ensure that potentially dangerous crops are
safe for the environment. All they are interested in is sabotage. Their
real goals have only a little to do with their stated goals of
environmental concern, and have much more to do with preventing the US
gengineering industry from enabling the farmers of the world to keep
feeding the people of the world, because they know that well fed people
are far less likely to seek revolution. It is not an accident that these
anti-GM groups are organized around and with the help of established
marxist and maoist groups, in and around communist, socialist, wobbly,
and other radical leftist bookstores and reading rooms around the
country. These are the facts that they don't want to admit to.

> Surely we should err on the side of caution ...... we just don't know how
> large-scale GM cultivation will impact on the environment. The dangers of
> H-bombs &c. is all too apparent, but some new technologies might have more
> subtle dangers. We are not living in sci-fi fantasy .... if things go wrong
> in the world they effect real lives.

Plant pollen is not like grey goo, so stop giving it that level of
alarmism. It is more like a forest fire, which it is possible to fight
and contain and eliminate (much as we have eliminated smallpox and other

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