Editor's note: The Sierra Club is not against all gene modification. While some applications show promise, others are clearly perilous, and many are somewhere in between. What the Club advocates is a thorough evaluation of the suspected hazards and purported benefits of this powerful new technology.
Congratulations on the timely issue on genetic engineering. Few scientists are willing to speak out because they are either involved in some way with biotech or they fear reprisal from their superiors. It is scandalous that money is now the driving force behind the push to get products to market.
Many reputable scientists and thoughtful citizens have called attention to the dangers of headlong commercialization of the very young science of genetic engineering. The danger is that of irremediable harm to life. Almost as frightening are the "partnerships" between greedy biotechnology corporations and greedy universities that are encouraged and sanctioned by greedy governments. Independent science, intellectual discipline, and political responsibility must now struggle hard for survival against an utterly thoughtless and giddy salesmanship.
Bucky Fuller advised that the only way for humans to survive as a species is through "comprehensive, anticipatory design science." The current biotech situation is a classic example of noncomprehensive thinking that ignores essentials. The "unintended side effects" of biotech experiments and products are irrefutable proof that experimenters literally don't know what they are doing. Our job is to educate and include them in our efforts, rather than close their ears
by denouncing them.
Even if biotechnology's corporate science was borne out, ecological damage was nonexistent, and threats to diversity erased, we are still left with an irreducible absurdity: A small group of four to five companies are trying to control and dominate 90 percent of the germ plasm comprising 90 percent of the caloric intake for the world. There is not one single scenario for the future of the world in which that outcome could be considered helpful to humankind.
Sierra Club genetic-engineering committee chair Laurel Hopwood replies: The Sierra Club worked with Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) last year on mandatory labeling legislation, which will soon be reintroduced. Labeling laws are coming into effect in Europe, Japan, and other countries, which gives us a good chance to demand the same freedom of choice enjoyed by foreign consumers. Readers are welcome to contact me for updates on labeling legislation, as well as all of our committee's activities, at email@example.com or (216) 371-9779.
One potent weapon we have in
the fight to protect our food supply is shareholder advocacy. Recent resolutions requiring labeling of genetically engineered ingredients received strong support at the annual meetings of Pepsi, Kroger, and Albertson's (Kroger and Albertson's are the two largest U.S. supermarket chains); similar resolutions are pending at Campbell's, General Mills, and Procter & Gamble. It seems only reasonable that companies disclose their use of genetically engineered ingredients--and let us decide for ourselves how much we're willing to risk.
Barbara Keeler responds: Mr. Bailey is misinformed. Hundreds of studies link elevated IGF-1 to cancer. For the ongoing Harvard-based Physicians' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study, see Hankinson et al., Lancet May 9, 1998; Holly et al., Lancet May 9, 1998; and Chan et al., Science January 23, 1998. For more recent studies, searching PubMed for "IGF-1 AND cancer" will return more than 1,000 documents.
Similarly, numerous studies demonstrate or reference elevated levels of IGF in milk from rBGH-treated cows. As early as 1989, the Journal of Dairy Research (Prosser et al.) showed a six-fold increase. You can find more recent data on PubMed searching "IGF-1 AND bovine growth hormone AND milk." At least five studies, including Xian, et al., in the Journal of Endocrinology, 1995, v. 146, show that IGF ingested in milk survives digestion and is absorbed.
(For a long list of citations and a discussion of their significance, I would suggest checking www.consumersunion.org/food/bgh-codex.htm for the 1997 testimony of Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumers Union.)
My article does not state, nor do I believe, that these studies absolutely prove milk from rBGH-treated cows increases cancer risk. They do raise questions about the cumulative effects of long-term ingestion, however, and surely merit further investigation.
I urge Mr. Bailey and all readers to check the funding sources of any scientists or organizations claiming there are no studies linking IGF and cancer, or rBGH and elevated IGF-1 levels. Look for funding from Monsanto and subsidiaries, Eli Lilly, Cyanamid, or DowElanco, as well as food or infant-formula companies. See www.integrityinscience.org.
KEEP IT QUIET
NO HUNTING ALLOWED
I was horrified by "Why I Hunt." The environment is not simply the woods, trees, sea, and earth, but also the wonderful, amazing animals that inhabit them. Killing these creatures
is an abomination.
Rick Bass is right on target in crediting himself with a powerful imagination. But his rhetorical question--"What else is the hunt but a stirring of the imagination?"--is easily answered: It is killing. That shooting wildlife makes Bass feel more alive hardly justifies it.
It's ironic that a conservationist should so smugly place his own interests above the lives of the animals he destroys. Does Bass think the oil industry should be allowed to wipe out caribou in the Arctic Refuge? If not, what makes his need for an adrenaline rush more compelling than SUV drivers' craving for cheaper gas, or Exxon's for fatter profits? Since when is romanticism a license to kill?
When hunting season ends, Bass writes, it "astounds" him to "take both mental and physical inventory of all that was hunted." If it wouldn't interfere too much with his flights of lyricism, perhaps he should try taking inventory before the next season begins--that is, while those wild things that make his spirit soar are still alive.
By allying with those who destroy wildlife, the Sierra Club is doing the politically expedient thing. But this policy nevertheless is deeply offensive to many members.
Sticking to their guns
Environmentalists too often consider hunters to be the enemy. Instead, hunters should be considered allies in the struggle to protect things wild. I am a member of a number of environmental and pro-hunting organizations, including the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association, and I do not consider them to have mutually exclusive goals. To be successful in
the fight to protect our environment, we must work together.
I was disappointed in the article "Old King Coal" (July/August, "Lay of the Land"). To dismiss clean coal as an oxymoron suggests a lack of familiarity with the technologies developed by the Department of Energy. For more information, visit the DOE's Web site at www.fe.doe.gov.
Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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