GE Madness

December 18, 2007

Ran has a comment from me about the sheer ineptitude of the science of genetic engineering as it currently stands. It’s bordering on comical but it’s also quite insane. The prize for Monsanto et al.  is total control over world food production but the risks are phenomenal. Here’s a brief description of one example of the sort of scary and quite random side-effect that keeps happening when they conduct their ‘highly accurate’ experiments:

Klebsiella planticola, a common soil bacterium, was genetically engineered by a German research institute to make ethanol for industrial purposes. The inventors had planned a recycling system: farmers would give them agricultural slash, which would be used for the bacterial fermentation; the resulting ethanol would be separated out, and the sludge could be given back to the farmers to spread on their fields as fertilizer. It all sounded very good for the environment, but how much soil ecologists impinged on the planning is unclear.

Dr Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University and her graduate student M.T. Holmes discovered to their alarm that soils containing the engineered organism killed wheat seedlings, most likely through alcohol production in the root system, which kills roots at very low concentrations. Mycorrhizal fungi were also killed.

Had the engineered sludges been returned to farmers, it would have drastically degraded their soil, rendering them unable to grow many or all plants. Since K. planticola is a ubiquitous organism, found in the root systems of plants all over the world, the GM mutant could have spread and made ALL soil unable to support crops! Microorganisms are easily spread on surfaces of insects, on the feet of birds, on people’s feet, etc; this engineered bacterium could have spread world-wide quite rapidly. (source)

What the brief description doesn’t say is that the testing of organism in question was tested in sterile soil which is why they didn’t know there would be a problem. The institue in question took an awful lot of convincing before they would accept there was a problem too.


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