Re: NANFA-- GM Corn

Bruce Stallsmith (
Sat, 07 Sep 2002 10:47:42 -0400

>No exegesis this time around. But this thread was reawakened a question
>that's been sitting around in my mind for quite a while. What's the
>difference if wild ancestral stocks / heirloom crop varieties are
>contaminated by pollen from GM varieties or the conventionally produced
>hybrids most large farms have been cultivating for the past 100 years?
>If you put the concerns regarding the possible impact of the BT toxins
>and concentrate on the issue of genetic swamping- wouldn't the end
>results be the same?

Not necessarily. The possible joker with GM organisms is that you're
introducing genetic material from very different life forms (i.e., bacterial
DNA moved into plant DNA). This can cause the GM organism to produced novel
proteins never before seen in this general type of organism, which could
make it either some kind of supercompetitive in nature, or produce
poisons/allergens if for human consumption. It's not exactly this simple,
though; the new DNA might not just be for a new gene, but could cause
expression differences (genetic function, in short) that could directly or
indirectly affect the expression of other genes in a cascade of effect.

Much of the above can happen with standard selective breeding techniques.
But for a variety of technical reasons they're considered much less likely
to happen.

The core of most fears about GM organisms is unintended consequences. They
might produce more food for us as humans (who seem to be too goofy to limit
our population growth...), but who knows how they might alter the biosphere.

The GM question does affect fishes... for instance, GM salmon that grow
faster to maturity but at a smaller size. The introduction of these
fish/genes into natural salmon runs is a truly stupid time bomb waiting to
go off. This would almost certainly destory the genome of wild populations,
and lead to profound changes in food relationships in streams and oceans.

Who needs science fiction?

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A
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