19/02/01

Todos somos transgénicos

 La semana pasada, la polémica sobre los transgénicos en Italia alcanzó su punto álgido con la “rebelión” de los científicos con su Manifiesto y manifestación contra el fundamentalismo del Ministro de Agricultura Pecoraro Scanio, la discrepancia de otros ministros de su gabinete, y las declaraciones de unos y otros. Al pie de este artículo se puede encontrar una colección de algunos de los muchos  artículos al respecto de este tema aparecidos en la prensa italiana.

Precisamente esa semana, se hizo pública la finalización del descifrado del genoma humano por parte del consorcio público y la empresa Celera Genomics, que tenía como hallazgo mas resaltable los pocos genes que tenemos operativos en relación con el tamaño de nuestro DNA, y el que tenemos una gran cantidad de “basura genética” , que en gran parte es DNA insertado procedente de infecciones víricas, que se han ido acumulando durante generaciones. ¿DNA insertado?  Entonces, ¡Todos somos transgénicos!.

Los genes, la unidad de información de la vida, viajan dentro de las especies generación tras generación y también entre diferentes especies cuando intervienen agentes capaces de hacerlo como los virus, que aparte de los genes propios pueden también llevarse genes de los huéspedes y transmitirlos de una especie a otra. De hecho son los genes, y no las especies los que deben considerarse como las unidades a efectos de evolución y adaptación (es muy recomendable leer el maravilloso libro “El gen egoísta” de Richard Dawkins). Es posible que acabe resultando que la transgenia podría ser una cosa "natural" y que probablemente haya tenido que ver con nuestra propia evolución.

Todo esto viene a cuento de las gruesas palabras que se han vertido esta semana en Italia entre los partidarios de la postura de los científicos (inquisición, integrismo, oscurantismo, Edad Media...) y los “verdes” (arrogancia de los científicos, intereses de las multinacionales, y seguridad alimentaria al revuelo de las vacas locas), pero tiene mucho que ver con lo que son las posturas tópicas, los medios de comunicación y el futuro, no solo de la agricultura en la Unión Europea sino también de la misma política de la UE.

¿Alguien puede explicar que es lo que tienen de malo los transgénicos, aparte de la patraña del "Principio de Precaución" llevado a límites mas allá de lo razonable (algunos "verdes" como Pecoraro Scanio no quieren ni experimentar no sea que la evidencia no les de la razón a su idea preestablecida), y de que gran parte de los mismos sean propiedad intelectual de las perversas multinacionales?. ¿Porqué no hay fondos suficientes para que los estados o la UE en su conjunto sean una potencia en el terreno de la biotecnología, como un contrapeso al problema del gran poder potencial de la biotecnología en pocas manos privadas? ¿Cuanto de político y de científico hay sobre esta cuestión? ¿Porque las supuesta organizaciones y partidos ecologistas se dedican más a atizar la eurohisteria mediática que a la defensa real del medio ambiente con una base científica? ¿Hasta cuando la UE va estar al pairo de tópicos supuestamente medioambientales que no tienen incidencia real sobre el medio ambiente? ¿Se van a convertir los "verdes" en la nueva inquisición europea?.


(Todos los vínculos son de archivos tiff de imagen, que residen en el MIPA italiano)

 Corriere della Sera

 Caso Bovè, i verdi italiani: anche noi siamo pronti a distruggere i campi biotech

 E Pecoraro Scanio insorge: "Adesso mi dimetto"

 La ricerca sul biotech fa litigare l'ulivo

 Tra scienziati e governo accordo a metà

 La prossima sfida

 Gli scienziati protestano: libertà sul biotech

 Il decreto sta uccidendo i maialini transgenici: all'inizio erano trecento ne restano poche decine

 Reppublica

 Amo la cucina italiana ma difendo il cibo biotech

 Pecoraro Scanio: "Hanno cercato di linciarci"

 I ricercatori in trincea "torna l'oscurantismo"

 Gli scienziati in rivolta incontrano Berlusconi

 Sole 24 ore

 Transgenici, le riserve di Roma e Parigi

 Poca informazione sugli alimenti biotech

 Non ho bloccato la ricerca

 Dompe' (Assobiotech): Italia da condannare

 Mini-accordo sul biotech

 Oggi scienziati in lotta a Roma. Politici solidali a parte i Verdi

 Stampa

 Bovè: gli Ogm buoni sono quelli morti

 Biotech, tregua fra governo e scienziati

 Pecoraro: Accordo? No, un chiarimento

 Verdi sotto tiro, gli Ogm spaccano i Poli

 Amato mediatore in extremis

 Organismi politicamente modificati

 Fermare il biotech e tornare al medioevo

 Terra e Vita

 Il riso tutto d'oro è figlio del biotech

 Messagero

 Pecoraro "tra Governo e Scienziati solo un chiarimento

 Giornale

 Pecoraro disfa gli accordi di Amato. "E' una vittoria, chiuderò le colture"

 E amato in tutta fretta lancia un miniaccordo sul biotech

 Resto de Carlino

 E Pecoraro Scanio finisce in minoranza

 Biotecnologie, L'ambiguità della sinistra

 Tempo

 Gli intoccabili profeti della scienza

 Pecoraro: La mia posizione non e isolata

 Francescato: non siamo noi gli oscurantisti

 Boptech, compromesso all'italiana

 Contro di noi una crociata integralista

 Avvenire

E' un'opposizione a base di pregiudizi

I Fondi per la ricerca. Una vergogna nazionale

L'agricoltura non produce mostri e le biotecnologie possono aiutarla

Mattino

Libertà di ricerca . E tra i due poli è ancora scontro

Giornale 

I verdi, ovvero la nuova inquisizione

 Gli scienziati chiedono aiuto al Polo

 Se la ricerca muore rischiano i consumatori

 Realacci: Cari ambientalisti non andiamo alle crociate


No Green Peace

Editorial
Copyright 2000 Dow Jones & Co., Inc.
Feruary 16, 2001, Wall Street Journal Europe

"Never put off doing something useful for fear of evil that may never arrive."

-- James Watson, Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1962

Will someone please explain to us just what, exactly, is wrong with genetically modified foods?

Trolling through Greenpeace's 50,000 or so press releases of the last few years, we read about how certain consumers reject GM, certain farmers don't want GM, certain corporations are telling lies about GM, certain governments have destroyed GM crops. But the only thing we come upon that actually explains why GM is bad is contained in the following statement:

"Current understanding of the way in which genes are regulated is extremely limited. Any change to the DNA of an organism at any point may well have knock-on effects that are impossible to predict or control."

In other words, the reverse of Dr. Watson's dictum: For fear that some evil may possibly arise, do nothing. Anyone seeking to find out where this concept leads ought to put it into practice in his own life for a single day: Don't bathe because you might slip in the tub; ignore breakfast because you might get food poisoning; don't go outside because . . . you get the idea.

Now it appears the European Union is getting the idea too -- sort of. On Wednesday, the European Parliament lifted a three-year moratorium on GM foods by approving legislation regulating their introduction. The legislation is described by its author, Socialist MEP David Bowe, as the "toughest in the world." It mandates an arduous approval process for GM crops to ensure their safety. And it mandates labeling requirements. But it also provides companies who win a licence with a 10-year "consent period," during which their GM foods may legally be sold throughout Europe.

So far so good. Even onerous regulation is better than the extralegal blanket prohibition that obtained before. Putting the EU's imprimatur on "approved" biotech foods should help allay some of the GM hysteria. Biotech companies can now operate in a more predictable regulatory environment. Consumers get expanded choice. And if they really don't want to eat GM foods, labelling allows them to choose something else.

But this is not how it's likely to play out.

By treaty, EU member states must accommodate this directive in their national laws within 18 months. But at least six countries--France, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Luxembourg and Greece--appear unwilling to do so unless a slew of conditions are met. The politically influential organic-farming lobby is also opposed, and they have just gained a champion in the figure of Renate Kuenast, Germany's Green Party agriculture minister. Then the anti-GM folks can always call out French farmer Jose Bove to stage a protest, trash a building, write a song. So it is much too soon to say whether this law will settle anything.

In fact, things may well get worse.

Let's face it: the GM scare is based on less than nothing. Genetic manipulation of food and animal breeds has been going on for centuries. The United States has been gobbling up nutritious GM food for years with no adverse health effects (except obesity, perhaps). The great butterfly scare of 1999 -- wherein monarch butterflies allegedly keeled over after eating GM leaves -- turned out to be baseless, as an exhaustive study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed. It found no difference between the survival rates of monarchs who'd eaten GM foods and those that had not.

And yet the scare refuses to go away, causing many people to believe that there just must be something to it. Why? One reason is that certain groups have developed vested interests in perpetuating the scare. For instance, as our Holman Jenkins reported, John Fagan, dean of "Maharishi University" has created a company called "Genetic ID" that tests for GM. Does Mr. Fagan want the scare to go away? Ponder that for a second.

But the issue here goes deeper. Instead of standing up to scaremongers -- um, excuse us, "civil society" -- politicians in Europe have attempted to placate them with ever more complex regulations. In this way, they appear to be "doing something." But the actual effect is to lend legitimacy to the fringe, and to embolden it. This is not a good idea.

People, it's 2001, we were supposed to be in orbit around Jupiter right now. Instead, we're living in a Continent gripped by fears -- of depleted uranium, mad cows, poisoned toys, and GM foods -- more appropriate to the Middle Ages.

 

 

 


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