In my memories, Green Peace International is a organization that cares our planet, fight against pollution and all kinds of things that endanger our environment. A recent read about their opinion on genetic engineering (GE) and genetic modified (GM) organisms changed my mind.
Green Peace International (GPI) is opposed of GE. They published articles on the web, write “paper” saying that GE is outdated and failed and should not be used; genetic modified (GM) organisms should not be released into the environment.
In this paper, “50 years since the double helix: Genetic Engineering is crude and old-fashioned”, GPI basically stated that 1) the basic theory “Central Dogma” that GE is based on has undergone so many changes so that it is not a good foundation for GE any more; 2) gene expression is far more complicated that people thought, and GE simply randomly insert a single foreign gene into the organism and it is not acceptable; 3) GM food have not been fully tested and their impact on human and environment is unpredictable.
While they might have made some strong arguments, they fail to see that GE has also been changing while discoveries being made. It is not only industry is doing GE and GM food, scientists in universities and institutes are doing it too. Who modified central dogma? Scientists in universities. And these scientists are also changing the way of doing GE. So GE is NOT old-fashioned and it is GPI and other people who blindly fight against GE are old-fashioned: in their mind, GE is the same as 50 years ago.
Introduced genes into GM organisms are also not exactly “pollution”. Maybe bacterial genes such as Bt can be considered, to some extent, “pollution”, but there are many other cases in which people introduce one gene from one species of plant to another species of plant. Also, these genes are ALL naturally exisiting in nature, none of them are artificially made (we don’t have that technology yet either). Even we don’t insert foreign genes into crops, there are many plant pathogenic bacteria and viruses who have the ability to insert their own genome components into plants and it is HAPPENING. So the “pollution” GPI defined, is even occuring in nature, and I cannot imagine they could start a campaign to stop that.
So, GE is not something completely artificial. Many techniques scientist utilize to deliver foreign genes are using natural organisms, for instance plant pathogenic bacteria and viruses because they have the ability and they have been delivering genes into plants’ genomes (for millions of years). And genes that are delivered are basically naturally exisiting genes. GE is elvoving together with other molecular biology discoveries and scientists are trying to make it safer and more efficient.
I have to say GPI is a great disappointment. I knew them since childhood, and I believe they have done a lot of good things. But any organization that goes extreme is a hazard to our world. I have mention that in the paper I just mentioned, their references are quite funny. They did cite many important papers, and many published in Science and Nature. But they also cited quite a large number of articles from New Scientist. New Scientist is NOT a scientific journal. According to Wikipedia:
New Scientist is a weekly international science magazine covering recent developments in science and technology for a general English-speaking audience. As well as covering current events and news from the scientific community, the magazine often features speculative articles, ranging from the philosophical to the technical.
It is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but it is widely read by both nonscientists and scientists as a way of keeping track of developments outside their own fields of study or areas of interest.
Please pay attention to the bold words in the citation above. Not only does New Scientist is not scientific journal, it is not neutral either. Their editors’ point of view decide how they are going to influence the public (without responsibility). A little google will tell you that New Scientist has already chosen their position to be NO to the GE. And you are not expected to see a REAL neutral article analysing the GE issue on such a magazine. GPI’s citing this magazine only makes their “paper” making no sense.
General public, of course, do not know much about molecular biology and what scientists are doing. And their opinions are just very easily manipulated by organization and magazine like GPI and New Scientist. While it is true that GE has potential environmental and health issues, and GE needs to be improved along the way, and also GE might not be ready for large scale commercial production, I am extremely disappointed to see organization like GPI to treat GE as it is a nuke, or a terrorist.
I will not donate money to GPI because I am not one of them.