Better living slogan meant to include, not exclude science

Like everyone else, the daily mail to the editor's desk at Western Farm Press includes too much junk. Some goes instantly into the round file. Most gets at least a scan.

A newsletter entitled "Organic Matters" from the Ecological Farming Association in Watsonville, Calif., was a scanner. I thumbed through it with the lead item, "Better Living Through Frankenfoods?" catching my eye. Wanting to keep abreast of this controversial issue, I read the article closely to see what the opposition was saying. It was the expected indictment of biotechnology, listing all the things the author claimed were coming as part of the dastardly second generation of genetically engineered or "GE" products:

- "Goats engineered with a spider web gene producing proteins used to make biosteel fibers for bulletproof vests."

- "GE meat chickens will have others capable of producing as many offspring as the best of the egg laying breeds."

- And one which said scientists are trying to add human genes to chickens to produce human proteins such as insulin into egg whites.

I had not heard about that last one, but it captured my personal interest.

Editors are to take objective views of all things, but it is hard for this one to be impartial when the subject is diabetes and insulin. My 12-year-old granddaughter has juvenile diabetes. Several times each day she must prick her finger to draw a drop of blood to determine how much insulin she must inject herself with to enjoy life as a normal junior high student.

So when I read about something that holds hope that some day she might be able to eat a couple of eggs each morning to avoid that, I took a personal interest in it. I made a mental note to look into the subject and continued reading the article.

There was no scientific support for the innuendoes and indictments that pervaded the article - just the typical chicken-little rhetoric.

The "concluding thoughts" included a call for a "moratorium" on "GE" and a call to "limit technology to its beneficial purpose, preserve our food, our farms and our future" and to take "direct actions" against this peril to man.

Here is the place when a columnist is expected to be sarcastic and suggest that those opposing biotechnology want everyone to revert to horse and buggy days and control insect pests with blocks of 2 by 4s in each hand. Of course, the world would starve, but that is beside the point with many of these radicals.

These folks have a right to their opinion, but it gets personal when they start talking about "direct actions" (eco-terrorism?) to stop biotechnology - to stop scientists who may come up with a cure for diabetes or at least make life easier for my granddaughter and thousands of other children and adults with diabetes.

We live in the most regulated nation in the world with safeguards that protect us far better than any other country. The American government at times is meddlesome and frustrating, but it has done a good job of regulating my food supply to make it safe and encouraging scientists to come up with ways that will prolong my life beyond generations past.

And I want the next generation that includes my granddaughter to live longer than her grandpa's generation. I have little tolerance for people whose philosophies are largely scientifically baseless that threaten to stop progress by any means possible.

The "Organic Matters" columnist concluded his tirade quoting " Walking Buffalo (Tatanga Mani): "When people live far from scenes of the Great Spirit's making (in the labs of biotech firms and in the halls of Washington), it easy for them to forget His laws."

Thank God Walking Buffalo and the people who wrote "Better Living Through Frankenfoods?" were not around when Louis Pasteur and Alexander Fleming were in their labs discovering pasteurization and penicillin. Or maybe they were and were ignored.

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