Re: SOC: Activism and the "Anti-GM" Movement

Robert J. Bradbury (
Wed, 6 Oct 1999 06:47:32 -0700 (PDT)

On Wed, 6 Oct 1999 wrote:

I wrote:
> > Please cite references here for "use of advanced genetic technology in
> > human medical applications"
> Only time for a very quick reply now (maybe more later today -- Robert, I
> think you consistently overestimate the rationality of "the mainstream"

Perhaps, perhaps not. I do however tend to think globally and have enough experience with that that I tend to think the activisim of local kooks largely *irrelevant*. I subject things to the acid test of "could they really stop a number of determined individuals". The answer I believe is no.

> For the nonce, I'll just repost something we saw on the list just
> yesterday:
> >
> > We support biotechnology in the public interest. We oppose
> > policies and biotechnologies--including human germline
> > engineering and human cloning--that foster inequality,
> > discrimination, objectification, and the commodification
> > of human genes and tissues.

Exactly -- they cite "human germline engineering" and "human cloning". Both of these are "edge" technologies that have little relevance to our primary agenda. They are outlawed in specific countries. But that is largely irrelevant. They are small scale technologies that could easily be researched on a yacht in international waters.

Their perspective of avoiding a "commodification" I generally agree with if that is taken to mean avoiding patents on my genetic sequences. I've already addressed how these technologies are good if they want to make us truely equal and Hal has provided a nice perspective on taking apart the discrimination question.

By and large however it comes down to an economic scale question. The Ag-bio industry comes is a few billion dollars (max)! The NIH and Pharma industries are an order of magnitude larger. Organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have "affected" how we do logging and real estate development, but they haven't stopped it. Even if you stopped all Ag-bio tomorrow, would that impact us negatively? No, it might even help us because those well-trained scientists would go off and get jobs in other-biotech that would be more directly related to things that might improve human health and longevity.

Yes, there is a fight coming -- fundamentally it will be about the an agenda of preventing the implementation of technologies that allow life-extension. But we are already pretty well down that slippery slope so I tend to see it as the opponents have already lost. I also tend to view it as a personal self-interest problem because it is very difficult to get people enthusiastic about plants that they don't for the most part need. On the other hand it is very easy to get them excited about their own personal well being.

If you want to cite a marketing mis-call look at the automobile industry with things like air-bags and door beams. They got caught unawares when the market shifted and they realized that people would actually pay more for cars that had better passive safety features. They had to scramble to get those features into the cars so they could remain competitive.

You probably have a better read on the "mainstream" person since you have to deal on a daily basis with misunderstandings between them. I may have a greater experience with the "clever" person(s) and see how they will generally go over/under/around or through the irrational roadblocks presented by the "mainstream" person. As Dr. Hekimi (the discover of the nematode clock genes) once told me, "What man can conceive, he will eventually do". The efforts of the luddites will not stop progress, they simply make the path a little more adventuresome.