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Date:

December 30, 2000

Subject:

a reply to Ann Oaks

 

Dear Ann:

I don't know what your background is or what area of research you
specialize in. However, you should enroll in my HC70A course at UCLA
entitled: Genetic Engineering in Medicine, Agriculture, & Law for
non-science students. These students are an ELITE bunch of honors
students --- with backgrounds in the

humanities. fine arts, social sciences, and linguistics. They put on
"plays" dealing with real-life situations related to environmental
releases of genetically engineered organisms, GMO controversy, DNA
testing, and other socially-relevant issues. In addition, they LEARN
about SCIENCE and the FOUNDATION for what they
are debating. Guess what: 100% come out of the course UNDERSTANDING
what genetic engineering is and how it relates to biology and REAL
ISSUES IN SOCIETY. And they come out 100% IN FAVOR of it's use in
MEDICINE AND AGRICULTURE AND OTHER AREAS OF SOCIETY.

After working 30 years dedicating myself to the advancement of science
education and knowledge in plant molecular biology and agriculture, it
depresses me to read and listen to the pseudoscientific hysteria that
is so non-factually-based and ideologically driven. And guess what, my
students see right through it as well in a course that presents pros
and cons in an OBJECTIVE way.

I don't know what your agenda is, but if you probably have used canola
oil of canadian origin and are still alive, the you are genetically
engineered food!! My, my...... I was the one who contributed to
enabling new hybrids of canola to grow in canada at a 25% increase in
yield -- if that's bad for science and society I must have misread what
the green revolution is all about.

The real issue is not about genetic engineering. The issue is how to
advance science so that risks can be minimized and then MITIGATED by
rationale scientific solutions -- not anti-science hysteria. I would
rather eat BT corn than corn sprayed with pesticides -- and so would my
students. You are aware as much as I of the tremendous advances in
genomics today. We are moving from the first generation of ag biotec
to one in which ALL of the genes required to make a plant will be
known -- including plant-specific "natural" defense genes. These will
be the next generation of engineered plants -- along with many, many
more traits. This has been the goal of agriculturists for 10,000 years
-- use the natural variability of plants grown in the "wild" to make
plants better suited for human consumption. It's an admirable goal.
And many researchers work very hard to see that it will become a
reality.

The debate which goes on now is a healthy one -- but reminiscent of the
same debate that we had in the early 80's when genetically engineered
plants were first being released. Then as now, there is not one shred
of REAL SCIENTIFIC evidence that genetically engineered plants (or any
organism) cause harm to people --- and your writing is a testimony to
that as I doubt that you have "escaped" from gobbling down something
that was made from genetically-engineered organisms -- plant, bacteria,
or whatever.

If you really think that there could be a problem with genetically
engineered organisms -- on a cases by case basis -- put your money
where your pen is and DO SOME REAL RESEARCH TO DETERMINE WHETHER YOUR
THESIS IS CORRECT AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH WITH REAL SOLUTIONS FROM
BENCHED-BASED RESEARCH.

TALK IS CHEAP.

bob goldberg

Professor Bob Goldberg
Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
University of California
405 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606
Phone: 310-825-9093
Fax: 310-825-8201