Re: Health risks [was Re: Biotech rice (roundup)]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Tue, 24 Aug 1999 12:00:15 -0700 (PDT)

On Tue, 24 Aug 1999 wrote:

> On Tue, 24 Aug 1999 wrote:
> > Monsanto's new genetically engineered soybean has been modified so
> > that it can survive heavy doses of Monsanto's poisonous weed-killing
> > herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate).

Actually, Entropyfoe didn't write it, I did, but I took it from the web page the message mentions.

> The soybean isn't engineered to take particularly high doses,
>just the same kind of dose as corn already gets.

Just another case of slightly distorting the facts... :-)

> You are aware that both the incidence of and the mortality from cancer have
> been dropping for several years and that the age-adjusted risk of cancer is
> probably lower than it's ever been before, right?
Now I am. :-)
But I would have to believe that the major reasons for this are:

  1. A decline in smoking.
  2. More health awareness (for things like breast exams).
  3. Air & water pollution laws instituted in the '60s and '70s. [Improvements in these laws at this time are starting to produce very marginal benefits.]
  4. An increased understanding of radon causing cancer.

Most of the cancers are now related to people giving themselves megadoses of carcinogens (in cigarrete smoke or alcohol). There is a small but important fraction that result from high levels of exposures in specific industries, such as agriculture.

The remaining risk factors are probably highly genetic and it won't be until we have the complete genome, and the polymorphisms in genes responsible for -- tumor promotion & suppression, DNA repair, oxidative stress resistance, antioxidant nutrient absorption, toxin metabolism, the levels of various growth factors and the genes responsible for determing what mutated peptide fragments are displayed to your immune system (and probably a couple of more paths I can't think of right now) -- are completely known and on a chip that can run a test in your doctor's office will we fully understand who is at risk and how aggressive we should be with monitoring them. Maybe in 5-10 years.

Given this number of pathways are involved, I'm not surprised that ~1/3 of people die from cancer. The rest probably have the "super"-gene variants (alleles) in all of these pathways.