GM (was Calling James O'Connor!)

Ken Hanly khanly at
Thu Mar 2 19:00:04 PST 2000

Well we agree on some things anyway. However, for the most part I doubt that public ownership and other forms of social ownership will take place through transfer of ownership. It will involve struggle and policies designed to bring more into the public, co-operative, and worker-owned sectors. I don't see this in many environmental thinkers such as Shiva. I see small farms, rejection of the positive aspects of modern agricultural science, and retreat to romanticised traditional ways and lots of rhetoric and emotive claptrap-to put it in the least offensive manner :)

I agree with those who would require labeling of GM products even though this may indeed increase the costs. Independent testing of safety etc. of GM products is also warranted, as well as transparency and public input into the process. Even without transformation of capitalism, as our eternal optimist Chris Burford reminds us, capital can be made more responsive to demands for safety etc.

Perhaps you could explain to me how transfer of GM modified traits to the wild could be uncontainable? Anyway, it has already happened as Ann Clark, an agronomist specialising in ecologically sustainable production systems at the U of Guelph, points out. There are two documented cases: rigid ryegrass in Australia--to Roundup and goosegrass, also to Roundup, in Malaysia. As I pointed out in an earlier post there are also documented cases of triple resistance in canola volunteers. However, even Clark an opponent of GM seeds does not suggest that there is some possible cataclysmic containment problem here. She knows better. It is usually difficult for the new trait to survive in the wild. After all herbicide resistance is not a great advantage in the wild where there are no herbicides. It is not a huge problem even if through some quirk all the members of the species become tolerant to Roundup. Farmers will have to use some other herbicide, or other methods such as cultivating before the weeds go to seed. It is not as if there is just one method of control of weeds. The only advantage this GM modified weed has is that it will not be killed by ROundup. So how is this doomsday non-containment scenario supposed to come about? There is more of a problem with anti-biotics and resistance because often there is no readily available and simple alternative treatment. So antibiotics should not have been developed?

By the way, GM technology is also used to create insulin for diabetics, and it might be used to inject arctic flounder anti-freeze genes into plants so that we could have a longer growing season and use a larger area for food production. How does your critique apply to those areas?

There is a short piece that answers some of your points. (Not that I agree with all the article) at:

Cheers, Ken Hanly Carl Remick wrote:

> >So why is it you do not recommend taking biotechnology under public
> >ownership
> >and control?
> I take that as a given. Basically I favor putting the entire economy under
> public ownership and control. I think the development of GM technology is a
> discretionary activity that should not proceed until that transfer of
> ownership is effected.
> >You ignore any of the possible benefits of the technology and stress risks.
> For the simple reason that the "worst case" risks of GM outweigh any
> conceivable benefit. The pollution caused by traditional industries can be
> isolated and cleaned up. But a GM catastrophe involving the transfer of
> heritable traits to species in the wild would be self-replicating and could
> be uncontainable.
> Carl
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