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March 14, 2000


A Tale of Two Botanies


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

To the group:

This article seems full of the usual maunderings and misinformation by
the anit-GMOs. Can real plant physiologists, biochemists, geneticists
refute some of these thoughts? It seems to me the work of an arrogant
physical scientist (and his brother[?], a lawyer) who also "understands"
all about biology and evolution as well as social and ecological
consequences. I remember in one of his books, Richard Dawkins , the
Neo-Darwinist, described how he enlightened the famous
astronomer-cosmologist, Fred Hoyle, who had no real grasp of evolution.

So, some questions for the better informed than I are:

1. ...alter isolated
> genes while disregarding the interactive totality of ecosystems?

2. ...In nature, all experiments are rigorously tested over eons. Single
> mutations venture into an unforgiving ecosystem and test their mettle.
> What's alive today is what worked; only successes yield progeny.?

3. ...Unintended consequences
> appear only later, when they may not be fixable, because novel
> lifeforms aren't recallable.?

4. ...The new botany mechanically transfers genes between
> organisms that can never mate naturally: An antifreeze gene from a
> fish becomes part of a strawberry. (What's the danger?)

5. ... Such patchwork, done by people
> who've seldom studied evolutionary biology and ecology, uses so-called
> "genetic engineering" - a double misnomer. It moves genes but is not
> about genetics.?

6. ..."Engineering" implies understanding of the causal
> mechanisms that link actions to effects, but nobody understands the
> mechanisms by which genes, interacting with each other and the
> environment, express traits.? (BTW, engineering is often wholly
>experimental, e.g., early cathedral builders, early bridge and aqueduct

7. ...genetically
> modified organisms reproduce, genes spread, and mistakes literally
> take on a life of their own. Herbicide-resistance genes may escape to
> make "superweeds." Insecticide-making genes may kill beyond their
> intended targets. Both these problems have already occurred;

8. ...Canola pollen can waft spliced genes more than a mile, and
> common crops can hybridize with completely unrelated weeds.??

9. ...Gene-spliced Bt insecticide in corn pollen kills monarch
butterflies;? (We know this was an unnatural experiment.)

10. I've run out of patience. No, I don't believe in a mystical "Gaia."

AgBioNews wrote:
> AgBioNews - http://www.agbioworld.org
> A Tale of Two Botanies
> Wired Magazine http://www.wired.com
> By L. Hunter Lovins
> Plants, shaped into incredible diversity by 3.8 billion years of
> evolution.........