AgBio economics [was Re: Health Risks]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Thu, 26 Aug 1999 10:55:35 -0700 (PDT)

On Tue, 24 Aug 1999, Brian D Williams wrote:

> If I recall correctly they were spraying a modified bacteria onto
> the plants to prevent frost damage. The bacteria involved was known
> to cause possible respiratory infection if inhaled in sufficient
> quantities, hence the precaution. Cheap maybe, funny definitely.

Yep, these are legitmate concerns. Perhaps an example of the "premature" use of an emerging technology.

> I guess we agree to disagree on this one.
Lets reframe the discussion (see below).

> My bet is that if agribusiness had to label products with (contains
> genetically engineered materials) those products would fail in the
> marketplace......

Exactly! If we assume that most of the fears and naysaying is unjustified (because the people don't understand the relative risks), then your "right" to have free and complete access to information is conflicting with my "right" to buy the cheapest food products. If some people have and *misinterpret* the information, then companies fail to develop markets that would otherwise be benificial to everyone. [You don't have to buy it if its engineered, but you shouldn't be able to force me into not being able to buy it as well.] Furthermore, if you look at the agenda of the anti-Ag-Bio people, they not only want to take away my right to buy cheaper food, they want to take away *your* right to grow such food. So it would appear that you have a logical conflict between your desire for full disclosure and your desire to grow whatever crop you feel like on your property. [I'm assuming that you would argue fairly strongly that if you want to grow *any* crop you should be able to do so.]

Now, I suspect that companies would still develop the products because there are people who can interpret the relative risks properly. They might do some educational advertising or fund PBS specials, etc. It would all take longer though because the ROI would be slower.

The real *sticky* point is going to revolve around the cross-pollination and "natural crop" contamination issues. Who should have to bear the burden enclosing their crops in "safe zones" (miles from other crops, greenhouses, etc.), the Gene-Engineers or the Naturalists?