Re: The politics of biotechnology

Anders Sandberg (
01 Jun 1999 19:14:51 +0200

Jonathan Reeves <> writes:

> Anders Sandberg writes:
> > This is really an area where the good side of biotech can be
> > demonstrated. Anybody saying we should not spread genetically modified
> > organisms better explain how to feed 10 billion people sustainably
> > otherwise. There are of course problems with some biotechnologies...
> The environmental impact of gm crops is phenomenal, and extreme caution
> should be used in growing them in the wild. The effect of genetically
> modifying crops to withstand disease and insects would be similar to the
> problem of bacteria becoming resistant to penicilin - you simply force
> the thing you're trying to destroy to become stronger.

Not stronger, resistent. Penicilin-resistant strains of bacteria are at an disadvantage compared to wild strain bacteria in a penicilin-free environment because they have to produce extra enzymes. Sure, if everybody is using (say) bacillus thuringensis-based gm crops, then the evolutionary pressure for resistant pests will be very high and we can count on them appearing - parasitic relationships force both parts into a co-evolutionary spiral, and we humans better be a part of it for the species we like. It is likely better to have several different forms of pest resistance, so that no single resistant pest can take out all the plants and the pressure towards resistance will be weakened. How to promote this diversity economically is an interesting extropian question.

> At the moment gm crops are not very widely spread but if their use was
> more widespread then it cause tremendous ecological damage. The things
> which eat genetically modified soya will also eat other things - which
> do not have the superior genetically engineered defenses.

As I explained above, this is likely wrong since plant immunology is more a question about specific defenses and offenses than general immune defenses forcing pests to become more virulent.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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