On the shuttle ride to Clark today I saw a sign pasted to the back of a roadsign. It shouted, BIOTECH FOODS – UNLABELED, UNTESTED, AND IN YOUR NEXT MEAL! I thought about that for a while and decided that in truth the sign didn’t actually mean anything. The group that put it up obviously has an objection to bioengineered foods, and they wish to gain converts to their cause. Yet how do they do this? Try to terrify the general public into mindless hate by posting meaningless but scary-sounding signs (that link isn’t them, specifically, just a couple of many you might find).
I would be interested to hear their reasoning behind their anti-bioengineered food, because I’m betting that they are also against pesticides and pollution. If that is the case, then it would be advantageous for them to support bioengineering to some extent: bioengineered crops reduce, if not eliminate, the need for some pesticides and they are usually hardier, needing fewer fertilizers. In fact, everything we eat to day has been “bioengineered” – people have selected for certain traits in food for millenia; according to the FDA, “…growers have been selecting certain beneficial characteristics such as faster growth or sweeter fruit since our nomadic hunter ancestors began to cultivate crops thousands of years ago. Virtually every domesticated crop plant species today differs greatly from its original, wild form due to human intervention.” This group protesting against bioengineered food then, to be consistent, must also refuse to eat any white eggs (they are naturally brown), orange carrots, or commercially-grown wheat, just to name a few.
It is true that genetically changing organisms can have negative effects. It may select for hardier insects that can eat the changed plants, or perhaps result in cross-breeding with weeds that then become difficult to eliminate. I am unsure the extent to which this trouble can happen; I recall from Bio 101 that much trouble has occured as a result of misuse of genetic manipulation and pesticides. To do some research on the dangers of bioengineering I (desiring to make this as internet-friendly as possible) did a Google search for “dangers of bioengineering.” The first site to come up is Raise the Fist, an apparently fanatical and unreliable source that appears happily undemonstrative of the tone of many anti-bioengineering groups.
In the end, of course, the sign remains pasted there in view of the whole road. People may read it and fear, or they may read it and think. Hopefully they will take the latter course of action. Or we could all just laugh about it.
As a little note on my life, my Marine Bio exam went easily, probably due to my diligent studying. It is easier to be studious in our apartment than in a dorm; that advantage I must give to living away from friends. Also, Jess and Tiffany both got A’s on papers that I edited, which says either something about their writing abilities or my editing abilities, or the combiation of the two. Rain has consistenly dripped the last few days, reminding me very much of home and thus making me happy. If there were mountains here, I’d hardly know I was back East. Finally, I am learning how to live more by myself and less with other people; this involves me attempting not to worry about if that is a good or bad development. I just appreciate time I have with friends, but try not to bemoan the loss of closeness – after all, when I go back to Seattle for good (God willing) these relationships will slowly peter out anyway. Living off campus has simply accelerated the process.
– KF –