For instance, a plant may be given genetic material that increases its resistance to frost. Another example would be an animal that has been modified with genes that give it the ability to secrete a human protein.

Bioethics addresses the impact of technology on individuals and societies. Bioethical issues include an individual's right to privacy, equality of access to care, and doctor-patient confidentiality. In the case of transgenic organisms, a major bioethical issue is freedom of choice. Yet broader issues also arise, such as the ethics of interfering with nature, and effects of trans-genic organisms on the environment.

The changes that are possible with transgenesis transcend what traditional gardening or agriculture can accomplish, although these too interfere with nature. A transgenic tobacco plant emits the glow of a firefly, and a transgenic rabbit given DNA from a human, a sheep, and a salmon secretes a protein hormone that is used to treat bone disorders. If mixing DNA in ways that would not occur in nature is deemed wrong, then transgenesis is unethical. Said a representative of a group opposed to GMOs in New Zealand at a government hearing, "To interfere with another life-form is disrespectful and another form of cultural arrogance."

A more practical objection to transgenic technology is the risk of alter-ecosystem an ecologi- ing ecosystems. Consider genetically modified Atlantic salmon, currently

?cal c°mmunity and its under review at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The fish have a growth hormone gene taken from Chinook salmon and a DNA sequence that controls the gene's expression taken from ocean pout, a fish fthat produces the hormone year-round. Because Atlantic salmon normally produce growth hormone only during the summer, the transgenic animal grows at more than twice the natural rate. Such genetically modified salmon could escape the farms where they are intended to be raised and invade natural ecosystems, where they may outcompete native fish for space, food, and mates.

Until recently, the fear that a transgenic organism might escape and infiltrate a natural ecosystem was based on theoretical scenarios. For example, a 1999 report of transgenic corn pollen harming Monarch butterfly larvae in a laboratory simulation was not confirmed by larger, more realistic studies. But in 2001 transgenic corn was discovered growing on remote mountaintops in Mexico, ironically in the area where most natural corn variants originated. The corn was not supposed to have been able to spread beyond the fields where it was grown. At about the same time, 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of transgenic cotton were found in India. A farmer had crossed trans-genic cotton he had obtained from the United States with a local variant and planted crops, not realizing that he had used a genetically modified product.

At the present time, American consumers cannot tell whether a food contains a genetically modified product or not because the two-thirds of processed foods that include GMOs and are sold in the United States have not been labeled. This lack of labeling is consistent with existing regulatory practice. While the FDA tests foods to determine their effect on the human digestive system, their biochemical makeup, and their similarity to existing foods (using a guiding principle called substantial equivalence), foods are not judged solely by their origin. For example, the FDA denied marketing of a potato derived from traditional selective breeding

0 0

Post a comment