The Tao of Biotechnology

Monday, November 21, 2005

Attack of the Aliens

As if we needed anymore evidence that people don’t always know what they’re doing, here it is. Just when we were so worried about bird flu, now it seems we also have to worry about things like killer bees and snakehead fish. Lots of living things, these two included, have been introduced by man into habitats where they do not normally live. They often wreak havoc with indigenous species, and it is often nearly impossible to get rid of one of these “alien species” once they have gotten a foothold, not to mention the economic and environmental damage that may ensue.

We are doing the same thing sometimes with Genetically Engineered (GE) crops. Many of them certainly meet the criteria to be called an “alien species,” first because they have never existed before (they are somebody’s new invention), and additionally because they have never existed alongside natural crops. Often the GE crops cross-pollinate with the natural crops, resulting in a sort of hybrid, and often they supplant them entirely. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to get rid of the GE species once it has gained a foothold.

While countries around the world are trying to prevent the spread of “alien species” maybe they could do something about Genetically Engineered species as well. Not everyone views them as the boon that some scientists and businessmen do.


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