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Sunday, 18 August 2013

GM Animals – More about the Prometheus Syndrome!

BBC Countryfile transmitted an interesting and alarming item about GM animals on Sunday August 11th 2013. Centred on work being undertaken at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, pigs are being genetically modified to develop immunity to African Swine Fever. Apparently this is a disease that is spreading quickly, and has already reached Russia. Although not explicitly stated, the implication was that it will reach the shores of the UK in the near future. This is, without doubt, bad news for pigs, for it is a fatal and unpleasant disease, for which there is no vaccine and no cure.

Pigs in Africa, it was stated, have a natural immunity to the disease, hence the research at Roslin. So what’s the problem? Surely this is the right research to be undertaking?

The first problem is that the research is years away from arriving at a GM pig with immunity to African Swine Fever. Once the immunity is demonstrated there is matter of researching the longer term consequences, and, of course, obtaining regulatory approval. So, we are looking at possibly a 10 to 20 year timescale? So one must ask: why bother?

The answer to this latter question is straightforward: patents, money, publications, and the kudos that comes from undertaking groundbreaking research, and, the further research funding that follows. We live in a world where people act and advise in their own interests. So it is advisable that people should not participate in the delusion that scientists involved in this type of research are impartial, unbiased, and value free.

And what of other problems? The one of most concern is that these scientists do not understand what they are meddling with and may well be creating unforeseen problems for future generations. This is why, in my about to be released book, A Tale of Two Deserts, I call scientists, whatever the name their parents gave them at birth: Epimetheus (if you do not know Ancient Greek Mythology, Google “Epimetheus”). Of course, they, the (mad) scientists and their supporters will no doubt eventually say, that the risks can be managed. The meaning of this is something that I will address in a future blog, but you may be interested to know that this phrase is one that the central character in my forthcoming novel Moments in Time, says a lot, until that is, he learns the hard way, that the risks cannot be managed!

The essence of sustainability – sustainable agriculture – is that one does not, in our time, create problems for future generations. This has not been internalised by scientists, engineers and technologists, who bear a significant responsibility for the problems that the world now faces. And the answer to these problems does not lie in doing more of what has created the problems! We need new approaches to science, engineering and technology, and this means breaking those unbreakable chains that tie these people to the past. So we are back once more with the problem of the Prometheus Syndrome!

It is time to start peacefully opposing the madness of people meddling with that which they do not understand. We therefore need to push for research into a different way of dealing with these types of issues, while at the same time applying pressure to have this type of research stopped. If you are not aware, the Roslin Institute is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). This means that it is spending UK taxpayers money on research that people in the UK should be asking questions about. So recall what I have said in previous blogs about using your vote, your wallet and your lifestyle choices to bring about peaceful change in the world.

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