Sunday, February 11, 2007

It’s good to know they are working on a project that would save the world’s seeds in one location and protect them from worldwide catastrophe; but in this entire article there is no mention of biotechnology or of genetic engineering. Maybe they didn’t want to provoke any controversy. But I think these are two things that are threatening biodiversity and the world’s seeds. Anyway, read more about the project here. And read more about the Global Crop Diversity Trust here.



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4 comments:

Jeremy Cherfas said...

Dear Ed

Would you mind expanding a little on just how you think biotechnology and genetic engineering threaten biodiversity and the world's seeds.

Thanks

Jeremy

Ed Bremson said...

Yeah, thanks.

If you go to Google and type in Genetic Engineering Threatens Biodiversity you get a lot of articles. Here are a few of them:

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/genetic-engineering
http://www.higean.org/what-effect-hawaii-enviro.htm
http://www.voice.buz.org/genetic_engineering/ethicsandge.html
http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/report.asp#Biodiversity%20and%20endangered%20species
http://www.alternet.org/story/13147/
http://www.washingtonfreepress.org/56/Frankencorn.htm



Big Ag companies exist so that they can develop products, patent them, and sell them to farmers. If farmers start planting seeds that Big Ag companies develop, that means that the seeds that have existed for thousands of years will be used less. If we are using some seeds less, eventually their very existence will be threatened as biotech varieties gain more prominence. Not only that but the new biotech seeds are often very robust, and they sometimes have a tendency to move in and take over land, pushing non-biotech varieties out of the way. Here is a very good article in the New York Times, 2001:

http://www.biotech-info.net/crops_multiply.html

Jeremy Cherfas said...

Thanks for taking the trouble to do the Google search. Of course, if you search for "genetic engineering preserves biodiversity" you get a totally different set of pages.

But that's not my point. My point is only to argue that there is nothing intrinsically about genetically engineered crop varieties that threatens agricultural biodiversity any more than any other varieties. Newer varieties have been displacing older, more diverse, ones since the dawn of agriculture. The entire basis of improved agriculture is selection, which perforce removes genetic diversity. That's what selection means.

I'm not particularly in favour of genetic engineering. I just think that better arguments against it can be found elsewhere.

And if you really believe that genetic engineering threatens agricultural biodiversity, you should welcome with open arms Terminator Technology. Do you?

Ed Bremson said...

I'm not sure it follows that I should be in favor of terminator technology. (there is this article at wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminator_Technology) In fact I'm not. And I'm not really in favor of any technology really unless it is designed to solve a problem. Most biotechnology, I feel, is designed to enrich a handful of corporations. There is basically nothing wrong with the food that has existed on our planet for thousands of years. Corporations are taking this food, changing it genetically, and patenting it so they will own the rights to it, be able to charge us more whenever we buy it, and thereby make money.