ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  14 November 2000


Below is geneticist David Suzuki's contribution to a National Post (13 November 2000) SPECIAL REPORT on BIOTECH: Tinkering with nature: a Faustian bargain?:  Tinkering with Mother Nature could lead to unforeseen,perhaps catastrophic, problems.

Suzuki has commented elsewhere,

"No group of experts should be more aware of the hazards of unwarranted claims than geneticists. After all, it was the exuberance of geneticists early in this century that led to the creation of a discipline called eugenics... [which] provided scientific respectability to the US prohibiting interracial marriage and immigration from countries judged inferior, and allowed sterilization of inmates of mental institutions on genetic grounds. In Nazi Germany, geneticist Josef Mengele held peer-reviewed research grants for his work at Auschwitz. The grand claims of geneticists led to 'race purification' laws and the Holocaust."

[from "Experimenting with Life" see -]
*  *  *
David Suzuki:  Money can be a dangerous motivator

 David Suzuki is excited by the promise biotechnology holds but  warns against rushing forward, arguing that introducing newly engineered plants or animals into society can often have consequences unintended by the scientists or firms that create them.

'There is no question this is a very, very exciting area. I mean, I'm a geneticist by training. I think we should be going full tilt ahead with the kinds of experiments that are going on in the lab,' he says. 'But right now, our knowledge is so incomplete. If it is revolutionary, our ideas are changing from week to week. So why do we want to rush out and release a genetically engineered organism into the environment by growing them in fields or in our food? 'We have no idea what the behaviour of a transgenic plant will be out in the field. But we do know that genes put into grain crops to, say, resist pesticides are transmitted into related weeds in nearby fields.'

Dr. Suzuki says society has no choice but to move ahead. 'The Faustian bargain we have is that we want to go for the benefits and we have to accept that there are going to be negative effects. And that's the reality of our world. We can't go back to the Dark Ages and say 'No, no, no we've just got to let God rule and we can't manipulate. 'But when we start applying this, I think we better be absolutely cautious. If you look at biotechnology in the agriculture area, it is not being driven by the benefit of human kind, it is being driven by money.'

He argues that profit is 'the driving force' behind the experiments as biotechnology firms march ahead. He believes the federal government is complicit, pointing to its refusal to mandate the labelling of genetically modified foods 'because they know very well a lot of people will not eat it if they can identify it.'

Human cloning is a reality, but Dr. Suzuki does not believe we are headed into wholesale duplication but duplication of tissue. He is against the transplant of animal organs into humans -- a prospect raised after the successful cloning of pigs - because of concerns of human exposure to new diseases. 'It is fraught with unbelievable question marks. I think that is just a terrifying area.'


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