Letter to Ronald Bailey

By John "Birdman" Bryant


To: Ronald Bailey (rbailey@reason.com)

From: John Bryant

Re: Dr Strangelunch (Reason, Jan 2001)

Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 5:17 PM

Your paean in favor of genetically-modified crops made some interesting points, particularly that a number of prominent anti-GMers make extremely foolish arguments. But for all that, and for all the material which you muster in your favor, my conclusions are that not only does your argument not carry the day, but you actually manage to ignore the real issues. These issues I put in a letter last year to one of the major boosters of GM foods, Michael Fumento -- a letter which he did not answer, and which I believe he could not answer. This letter appeared in the 17 Nov issue of my Weekly Letter, and is reproduced here. Having read your article, I find only one small change that I would make in the arguments I made to him. You rightly point out that a sterility gene would terminate the reproduction of plants in which it appears, and hence cannot 'reproduce' itself so as to wipe out a species; but you do not account for the possibility that, if this gene wipes out a substantial number of plants, that the remaining ones may not be able to reproduce because the population is so decimated -- a possibility which becomes much more likely should sterile GM seeds become widely used.

You also correctly point out that crossbreeding to create better strains is the 'slow' way of what GM does 'fast', but the conclusion which you implicitly draw from this -- that GM is just 'natural', only speeded up, hence is safe -- does not follow. That is because doing something quickly does not allow for as easy perception of problems -- problems which can be more easily caught in slow motion, such as allergic reactions.

Another thing you don't discuss is that there is Big Money behind GM foods. Certainly I, as a libertarian, am not averse to making money, but Big Money has a tendency to sweep problems under the carpet -- problems which anyone the least familiar with corporate behavior knows can become nightmares in time. You yourself may be a representative -- perhaps unknowingly -- of such a force -- after all, Reason is not self-supporting, and must rely on contributions to survive (a most ironic fact, I would opine).

I would be most interested to see your reactions to these points, as well as to the points in the Fumento letter. I will be happy to publish your letter on my website in whatever form is satisfactory to you, tho I will note the fact if you refuse to answer. But unless you confront me with new arguments, my conclusion is that you have not made your case because you haven't dealt with the real issues. -jb

[There was no response]


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