This article originally appeared in Z Magazine, June 1995, and reprinted in Third World Resurgence, Number 63, November 1995.

For many years, public debates around biotechnology and genetic engineering were mostly the domain of scientists, ex-scientists and anti-scientists. Now, those days are clearly past, as products of biotechnology have begun to transform the nature of our food, our medicines and global capitalism’s relationship to the natural world (Z July/August 1989; February 1992). But as environmentalists, consumer groups, and others struggle to come to terms with the complex issues surrounding biotechnology, a new generation of scientist-activists is proposing a much more sweeping critique of this most ambitious and imperialistic of technologies.

The debate over genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) for dairy cows has spread from the key dairy states to urban centers throughout the U.S. Tomatoes engineered to last three weeks on supermarket shelves are being test-marketed around the country, and genetically-altered varieties of squash, potatoes, soybeans, cotton, and canola oil are winding their way through the triad of USDA, FDA and EPA approval. Biotech companies pledge sure cures for anemia, cystic fibrosis, and possibly cancer—as long as patients are prepared to pay upward of $1,000 per dose—and recent developments in the international Human Genome Initiative advance the promise of diagnostic tests (if not “cures”) for a wide range of genetic diseases. Heretofore inconceivable manipulations of the genetic makeup of bacteria, plants, animals, and people are promoted as lying just around the corner.

For environmentalists, food safety advocates, medical ethicists, and others concerned about the consequences of the new genetic technologies, these developments raise a serious dilemma. Never before have the results of new scientific discoveries been so heavily promoted and so rapidly rushed to market. Never before has the course of basic scientific research been so thoroughly and single-mindedly driven by commercial considerations. Each new product contains profound implications for the integrity of natural ecosystems, the humane rearing of domestic animals, the safety and quality of the food supply, the virulence of common plant and insect pests, the survival of small farms, the nature of medical care, and the ethics of genetic experimentation itself. But with hundreds of agricultural products and scores of new drugs being developed and tested in the U.S. alone, it is difficult to imagine how activists or government regulators (if they were to be so inclined) could respond individually to every new product and every new discovery.

In the early years of the so-called “genetic revolution,” it was the scientists who first raised the alarm. In 1975, shortly after researchers at Stanford University succeeded in transferring a gene for antibiotic resistance from one species of bacteria to another, molecular biologists raised a call for federal guidelines to contain potentially hazardous experiments. Contrary to their expectations, widespread opposition emerged in cities such as Cambridge and Palo Alto where the necessary containment laboratories for genetic experimentation were to be built. Guidelines were established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and, despite a substantial record of abuses and minor scandals, they were progressively weakened in the years that followed. Gene-splicing soon became the technology of choice in an ever-widening range of research specialties. By the mid-1980s, opposition among mainstream scientists to the growing commercialization of genetic research had also all but evaporated.

Last summer, a new generation of scientific skeptics gathered, this time in Malaysia, under the auspices of the internationally renowned Third World Network. Specialists in areas ranging from molecular genetics to plant ecology, biophysics and medicine drafted a new statement, “The Need for Greater Regulation and Control of Genetic Engineering,” which should help to substantially raise the current level of debate around biotechnology. This past April, many of these scientists gathered in New York City to inform delegates to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development of their findings, and to press for an international protocol on biosafety to be amended to the Biodiversity Convention adopted at the U.N. environmental summit in 1992.

The role of the Third World Network in this debate is especially noteworthy. For many third world activists, the new genetic technologies represent a profound threat to their native ecosystems and the lives of traditional agriculturalists. Northern drug and chemical companies have been actively “mining” tropical ecosystems and their communities of indigenous people for exotic medicinal plants, highly resilient relatives of common food crops and other treasures. Hiding behind the protections of the new GATT agreement’s Intellectual Property Rights provisions, companies are able to patent their “discoveries,” and turn them into proprietary products for worldwide commercial sale.

Meanwhile, international development agencies have been actively promoting the idea of a second “green revolution” based on biotechnology. Many in the so-called “developing world” believe this would land an even more decisive blow to traditional agriculture and food self-reliance than the original “green revolution” of the 1970s, which was based on specialized hybrid varieties of common grain crops that proved highly dependent on expensive chemical inputs. Indian farmers have organized against the increasing commercialization of agriculture, and gained worldwide attention (except in the U.S.) in October 1993 when 500,000 farmers gathered in Bangalore to protest corporate control and patenting of seeds. While activists in the U.S. oppose individual products of biotechnology on a rather piecemeal basis, third world activists (and many in Europe, too) are expressing the need for a more fundamental critique and a more determined opposition to genetic engineering and the myths of “intellectual property.”

The Limits of Food Politics-as-Usual

Since the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) approved genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone for commercial use at the end of 1993, activists have been divided about how to keep the milk supply free of this harmful and unneeded drug. The case against BGH is increasingly clear: numerous studies have confirmed outbreaks of mastitis (udder infections) and high somatic cell counts in milk (from dispersed pus cells, leading to faster spoilage) after cows are injected with synthetic BGH. Infections are persistent and often require unusually high doses of non-standard antibiotics. BGH use is already declining in the Western states due to “excessive feet and leg problems, increase in abortions,.calving difficulties, breeding problems and higher cull rates,” according to the industry newsletter Dairy Profit Weekly. BGH-injected cows are clearly draining their own metabolic reserves to maintain artificially elevated levels of milk production, and consumers have good reason to be worried about antibiotic residues, faster spoilage, altered levels of fat, calcium and protein, and various side effects from elevated levels of a BGH-related growth factor (IGF-1) that cows and people happen to share in common.

With milk prices to farmers constantly edging downward (and no corresponding drop in retail prices), it is clear that only the chemical, drug, and biotechnology industries are benefiting from the use of BGH. Still, the Monsanto corporation is pulling out all the stops in order to make BGH milk the industry standard. They are selling the drug direct to farmers, paying their veterinary bills, offering free disposal of syringes and steep discounts for increased use, and threatening to sue companies that label their products as free of the synthetic hormone. It has been exceedingly difficult for people who want to buy untainted milk to find out for certain which dairy companies are actually prohibiting farmers from using the hormone. The reason: Monsanto and the rest of the agrichemical industry has decided that biotechnology is the future and that BGH will be its entree into the marketplace, whether people willingly accept it or not.

As the New York Times reported in its business pages last March, “the consensus is that if a deep-pocketed giant like Monsanto cannot make a go of it, Wall Street will shy away from investments in food-industry biotechnology for years to come.” Overall, the value of biotech stocks has fallen by half since 1992, and the success rate for new biotech drugs —until recently the industry’s highest profile product—has dropped precipitously. Recent studies have revealed that biotech drugs pass clinical trials and other tests of safety and efficacy at about the same rate as drugs discovered by more conventional methods, confirming the view that the much-touted “successes” of biotechnology stem largely from the industry’s success in crowding other technologies out of the research agenda.

Early efforts to raise public awareness of the hazards of BGH focused largely on media and legislative approaches. The Washington, D.C. (now Minnesota) based Pure Food Campaign coordinated demonstrations in major cities across the country in response to the FDA’s approval of BGH, including numerous high-profile public milk-dumpings. Media coverage was impressive in the first months of BGH use, and the coverage was often unusually sympathetic. The Vermont legislature passed the first mandatory labeling bill for BGH-tainted dairy products in March 1994, and Maine, Wisconsin, and Minnesota followed suit with considerably milder versions. Over 100 school districts from Chicago to Los Angeles passed resolutions against BGH products in their cafeterias, and lawsuits were filed against the FDA for blatant conflicts of interest among the staff responsible for BGH approval.

While all of these actions have undoubtedly tarnished the reputation of BGH and affected sales of dairy products nationwide, the dairy industry as a whole has followed in lockstep behind Monsanto’s single-minded promotion of its new flagship product. Over a year after the passage of the Vermont labeling law, it has still not been enforced. Ten months of rule-making, a governor trying to play both sides, persistent legislative attempts to weaken the law and, finally, a lawsuit by leading trade associations (International Dairy Foods Association, grocers, food processors, etc.) have turned BGH labeling into a political football few in the State House are willing to be caught with. Why is the industry vehemently opposed to labeling? It is because countless surveys in Vermont and around the country have shown that most people do not want to consume dairy products from cows treated with BGH.

Instead of going on the offensive against this blatant attempt to prevent BGH labeling, lobbyists and lawyers for Vermont farm and consumer groups sought compromise. Lacking confidence that the industry lawsuit could be beaten in the courts, they quietly supported plans to modify the labeling rules and make them less costly to the corporations. A few activists took the initiative to approach their local schoolboards and won resolutions against BGH at the local level. Meanwhile, Food & Water, a national food safety group based in Vermont, opted for a more focused campaign targeting specific corporations for promoting the use of BGH.

The plan was to focus on Land O’Lakes, one of the largest dairy processors in the U.S., and one of the most visible supporters of BGH use. Food & Water had won a small concession from Land O’Lakes in an earlier campaign, when the company began marketing a premium brand of milk in the Midwest that is free of the hormone. Days before the Vermont Land O’Lakes campaign was to begin, Food & Water was leaked an internal memo from Vermont’s best known cheese producer discussing plans to end their own ban on BGH. After hundreds of phone calls from angry customers and over $1 million in lost sales, the Cabot Creamery first defended their new policy, then backed off. The final outcome is not clear. Organizers are hopeful that the lessons of successful Cabot and Land O’Lakes campaigns can be brought to bear against the larger national brands that have dug in behind Monsanto. Focused consumer campaigns like Food & Water’s might succeed where conventional legislative politics has failed. (A federal BGH-labeling bill, sponsored by Vermont’s independent congressperson, Bernie Sanders, is seen as having little chance of being brought to the House floor. Still, several national organzations have made this bill the focus of their strategy against BGH.)

It remains to be seen whether this effort, combined with growing resistance to BGH by farmers, will succeed in halting the use of this genetically-engineered drug in the U.S. It is even less clear whether the same level of mobilization can be brought to bear against engineered tomatoes and squash later this year, potatoes and herbicide-resistant cotton next year, and on into the Brave New World of genetically-engineered foods. It would take unprecedented cooperation on the part of activists, a difficult order in this period of immobilizing cautiousness and heightened competition for scarce foundation funds among mainstream organizations. In Europe, where opposition to genetic engineering is more widespread, and is expressed at a more fundamental ethical level, the continent’s agriculture ministers have agreed to extend the European Union’s moratorium on BGH to the year 2000. In Germany, where the ugly face of eugenics is still strongly imprinted in the public consciousness, activists have organized large encampments on experimental plots where engineered crops are being tested, trampling the crops in full public view.

Scientific Opposition

While people in the U.S. are fighting important but often piecemeal battles against the hazards of specific products of biotechnology, international activists have joined with progressive scientists to articulate a wider critique of biotechnology and genetic engineering. Their focus is on the ecological, social, and ethical consequences of genetic experimentation for commercial purposes. They view the scientific paradigm of genetic engineering as a fundamental misreading of the nature of life processes, and have demonstrated how the false public optimism of the biotechnology industry reflects a willing ignorance of recent discoveries in molecular genetics and ecological science. The race to commercialize products of biotechnology has pushed studies of the effects of genetically engineered organisms (GEO’s) off the agenda of mainstream science, thus an international moratorium on open-air releases of engineered life forms needs to be enforced until meaningful safety measures can be put in place. This was the message of the Third World Network’s presentation in New York this past April.

The widest philosophical and historical critique of biotechnology was offered by Indian physicist and ecofeminist activist and author Vandana Shiva, who pointed out that the mechanistic assumptions inherent in the very concept of “genetic engineering” reduce the complexity and self-organizing ability of living ecosystems to a belief that life can be “[re]designed from the outside.” “The reductionist paradigm emerged in a era in which species were treated merely as objects of `Man’s empire’ to be manipulated at will for serving the interests of the dominant members of the human species,” Shiva has written. The dominant view not only ignores the uncertainties inherent in genetic experimentation and the overwhelming proportion of instances in which genetically altered organisms do not behave as predicted, but it systematically denigrates more traditional forms of knowledge, upon which would-be genetic engineers increasingly depend for clues about where to look in nature for promising genes to study. “A post-reductionist paradigm is needed to create respect for indigenous systems and to protect them,” Shiva has argued.

The limitations of the idea of genetic engineering is best illustrated by a fact never mentioned in the glowing journalistic accounts of the latest scientific breakthroughs: that the actual “success” rate of gene-splicing experiments is often very low. Vandana Shiva pointed out recent experiments in which one out of 550 “engineered” sheep eggs grew into sheep that produced usable quantities of a pharmacologically active human blood protein in its milk. Petunias altered to make extra pigment often came out white or irregularly colored. Efforts in Nova Scotia to insert cold-resistance genes from flounder into Atlantic salmon eggs were successful in one out of 100,000 tries. Pigs engineered to produce extra growth hormone, presumably for leaner meat, were born deformed, sterile, and with leg muscles so weak they were never able to walk normally. With virtually no effort to systematically study these frequent “failures,” attempts to predict the effects of releases of engineered organisms into the wild are little more than guess work.

The world view that has promoted confidence in “genetic engineering” despite the cascade of contradictory evidence is also inconsistent with discoveries in molecular genetics over the past 20 years. Popular discussions of biotechnology, according to Mae-Wan Ho of the Open University of the UK, ignore the overwhelming fact that “no gene ever functions in isolation.” The “central dogmas” of 1960s genetics—that genes determine visible characteristics in a straightforward manner (DNA – RNA – proteins), that genes are stable and passed on unchanged to future generations except for exceptionally rare mutations, and that inheritance of traits is not influenced by environmental factors—have all been called into question by recent findings. The myth of a straightforward “genetic program” has been challenged by discoveries of “jumping genes,” transposons, complex processing and “editing” of messenger RNA before it is “translated,” the phenomenon of “cosuppression” (in which additional, artificially inserted copies of a gene suppress, rather than heighten, the original gene’s expression), and new evidence that changes in environment can indeed affect the genes that bacteria and plants pass on to their progeny (See, for example, Scientific American, March 1993). “Genes are defined by context; if you don’t understand the context, you don’t understand the function of a gene,” added Ho’s colleague, Brian Goodwin, author of the recent book How the Leopard Changed its Spots.

Less than 2 percent of human diseases are now believed to be the product of a single gene. Even in these cases, genetic diagnosis is rarely sufficient to predict whether a person will ever show any symptoms. For example, one in ten African American babies in the U.S. is born with at least one copy of the well-known sickle cell gene, whereas only one in 500 actually has sickle cell anemia. Some of these people become seriously ill as young children, while others are affected much later and to a far less serious degree, all for entirely unknown reasons. According to Berkeley molecular biologist Richard Strohmann, “it is becoming clear that genetic analysis in itself will not serve to predict, diagnose or treat diseases like polygenic [multi-gene] cancer, hypertension, or other complex human phenotypes.”

The limits of genetic analysis of disease is demonstrated by clear evidence that “migration of human populations results in new patterns of cancer in which the group takes on diseases reflective of their new environment, and abandons diseases common to their relatives who remain at home and with whom there is shared genetic background,” according to Strohmann. Here again, traditional assumptions that genetic “programs” determine someone’s physiological character and that genetic traits are unaffected by environmental factors, are being seriously called into question.

Transgenic Organisms and Biosafety

Industry efforts to assuage widespread public concerns about biotechnology are usually based on three commonly held myths: that genetic manipulation is “natural,” that it is not much different from conventional breeding, and that transgenic organisms are inherently unable to escape from carefully controlled environments, whether laboratories or farm plots. Such claims have been long since discredited in scientific circles. Whereas conventional breeding—and most gene transfers in nature—result in substitutions of alternate forms (alleles) of a particular gene in its appropriate (chromosomal or extrachromosomal) location, the splicing of genes in the laboratory can result in entirely new combinations of genetic traits in a single organism.

This adds tremendous new uncertainties. According to ecologist Philip Regal of the University of Minnesota, even those who support deregulation of biotechnology now generally agree that “there can be no generic arguments for the safety of genetically engineered organisms.” By creating “populations of organisms with novel combinations of adaptive traits,” Regal has written (i.e., traits such as disease and pest resistance that improve the chances of survival), “genetic engineering does have the potential to create types of organisms that can interact with particular ecosystems and biological communities in novel competitive or functional ways .“

This view is supported by studies of the effects of exotic non-engineered organisms that people have introduced into environments to which they are not adapted. In light of nearly 40 years of ecological studies of the impacts of plants and animals introduced into new environments, the likelihood of significant ecological damage from releases of “engineered” organisms is a matter of very serious concern.

From the blight that virtually destroyed the American chestnut to gypsy moths, California’s garden snails and “medflies,” kudzu vines in the southeast and roughly 40 percent of all the major insect pests in the U.S., organisms introduced from faraway places often have dramatic and unexpected effects on native ecosystems. Eucalyptus trees imported from Australia have suffocated wetlands in North America and southeast Asia, and have become a significant threat to the surface water supply of the Florida Everglades and many other endangered ecosystems around the world. A study commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program has documented scores of such cases, from disease-causing microbes that survive heavy quarantine to imported varieties of horses, goats and reindeer. “The results of this wholesale scrambling of the earth’s fauna and flora have been unexpected and unfortunate ecological effects,” the study concluded.

The existence of over a thousand varieties of plants and bacteria that have been genetically altered in the laboratory and then tested in the open air adds unpredictable new risks to this situation. In addition to the various physical and ecological disruptions from novel, but genetically intact organisms introduced into a new environment, genetically altered life forms add an entirely new dimension of risk. A 1993 study commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists outlines many scenarios by which genetically altered varieties of common food crops can either become invasive weeds or pass their unique combinations of genes on to native plants with unpredictable consequences. Inserted genes can spread into the wild through pollen and through various bacterial and viral carriers. The most likely scenario in the U.S. is in the case of crops such as rape seed (canola) and sunflowers that have many common wild relatives here. As genetic experimentation spreads into tropical regions from which the majority of common food crops originate, the risk factor multiplies many fold.

In other words, with hundreds of genetically-altered varieties of plants and bacteria being tested in the U.S. alone, the risk of affecting native plant species is already quite serious. If any significant number of these varieties are to be grown in commercial quantities over a wide geographic scale, the risk becomes rather extreme. In third world countries, where wild, native varieties of everyday food crops are more common, there is a high likelihood of genetic experimentation severely disrupting the natural balances of plants and animals which people have depended on for thousands of years. A recent Greenpeace study documented unregulated field tests and other development activities using GEO’s in at least 13 African, Asian, and Latin American countries, and 80 illegal releases of patented, genetically-engineered microbes in India alone. With virtually no scientific resources to monitor the effects of these experiments, these countries are entirely dependent on inadequate scientific information from countries like the U.S. and Japan where these technologies are being developed.

The Evidence Mounts

Despite the plethora of likely scenarios for ecological and genetic disruption from releases of engineered life forms, these scenarios often have a speculative quality that makes it easy for industry spokespeople to attack opponents for spreading unsubstantiated fears. Until recently, that is. Studies of the environmental consequences of genetically altered organisms are in their infancy compared to the increasing sophistication of gene splicing technologies themselves, for obvious reasons having to do with the sources of funding for such research. However, scientific evidence for the viability and disruptive potential of engineered organisms is now beginning to accumulate rapidly.

Last year, virologists at Michigan State University published a study demonstrating that virus genes implanted into plant cells could be transferred into the DNA of other viruses that the plants come into contact with. Dr. Richard F. Allison told the New York Times that this could lead to the unintentional creation of new, and perhaps more virulent, plant viruses. Various studies have suggested that viruses can also transfer genes among plants and perhaps animals as well. Studies at the University of Arizona suggest that parasitic mites may be involved in transferring jumping genes known as “P elements” among common varieties of fruitflies. When “foreign” genes begin to spread among wild populations of plants and animals, they become virtually impossible to trace, no less to control.

One of the most striking presentations at the Third World Network seminar in New York was by Dr. Elaine Ingham, a plant pathologist at Oregon State University. Ingham became concerned about the environmental consequences of her colleagues’ efforts to alter the genetics of a common variety of bacteria found in the root systems of most plants. The bacteria would become able to digest crop residues, now considered waste products and often burned in large quantities, and produce ethyl alcohol that farmers could readily use as a fuel. To some, this seemed like the perfect technological method for turning “waste” products into something useful. Ingham set out to discover how the genetically altered bacteria would affect the growth of common grasses in a variety of soil types.

Ingham discovered that the altered bacteria survived easily and often outcompeted their parent strains, something biotech advocates used to say could never happen. But the effects on the grasses were even more unexpected. In sandy soil, most of the grasses died from alcohol poisoning. In clay soils, however, the grasses also died, but from an entirely different cause. The altered bacteria apparently increased the numbers of root-feeding nematodes and decreased populations of beneficial soil fungi that help grasses resist common diseases.

“We must understand the effects on the whole system, not just isolated portions,” Ingham has written, “because biotechnology products will have a range of impacts much greater than just the engineered organism.” In forest soils, for example, native tree species depend on root-dwelling fungi for proper absorption of nutrients and water from the soil. What would happen if these bacteria spread from a farmstead into nearby forests? Other studies described by Ingham have demonstrated effects such as altered carbon dioxide levels, increased plant disease and changes in the distribution of other essential soil microbes from the introduction of genetically altered organisms and their byproducts.

For years, arguments for the safety of engineered organisms depended on claims that they simply could not survive outside the controlled environment of laboratories and experimental farm plots. Beatrix Tappeser of the Institute of Applied Ecology in Frankfurt, Germany presented a comprehensive survey of experiments designed to test this claim, and found numerous cases of genetically altered life forms surviving in surface water, drinking water, wastewater, soil and even clothing at rates comparable to their natural relatives. In addition, isolated fragments of DNA not only survive, but are often protected from natural degradation in sewage sludge, and in particles suspended in soil, water and animal feces. These findings compound the range of plausible scenarios for the uncontrolled spread of traits such as resistance to antibiotics and herbicides, production of substances toxic to various insects, ability to grow better in salty and otherwise degraded soils, and many more subtle biochemical changes. In light of recent knowledge about the complexities of gene expression, the seriousness of the possible consequences increases many fold.

International Politics

The Third World Network seminar in New York was organized to educate UN delegates and staff in preparation for the upcoming annual meeting of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development. But it also became a forum for addressing several issues of immediate concern to third world activists concerned about biotechnology. Participants focused their doubts on the “environmentally sound applications of biotechnology” emphasized in several key UN documents since the 1992 UN environmental summit.

For example, one recent policy document from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), since adopted by the Secretary General’s office, advocated “capacity building” in biotechnology by so-called “developing countries” under UN auspices. While UN officials described these proposals as a means for countries to more fully address the consequences of biotechnology development, most participants viewed it as a plan for international promotion and funding of biotechnology at a time when the industry’s fortunes on Wall Street are in decline. German environmentalist Christine von Weizsaecker explained how many countries’ science and technology ministries have become agencies for the promotion of particular technologies, such as biotechnology.

An alternate plan described by international lawyer Gurdial Nijar placed priority on evaluating social, ecological, cultural, public health, and economic impacts of new discoveries and all planned releases. Impacts of released life forms would be carefully studied beyond just the immediate areas where releases take place, and the burden of proof for claims of safety would be placed on those who propose tests of genetically altered organisms. Nijar proposed an international guarantee of prior informed consent, based on the 1992 Rio Declaration’s Precautionary Principle, which states, “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

Since the approval of the Convention on Biodiversity at the Rio “Earth Summit,” activists around the world have pressed for an added protocol on biosafety to protect native ecosystems from the possible consequences of genetic experimentation. While the Clinton administration has endorsed the Biodiversity Convention shunned by its predecessors in Washington, it has sought to reinterpret it to satisfy the persistent objections of the biotechnology industry. Specifically, they objected to provisions requiring agribusiness and drug companies to share their research with the indigenous peoples who have been the traditional caretakers of biodiversity (see Z October 1993). The U.S. has also been in the forefront of efforts to oppose a biosafety protocol.

Advocates of biotechnology on the staff of various UN agencies, as well as the U.S. government, cite the usual claims about biotechnology’s mission to feed the world, enhance renewable resources, improve human health and environmental protection. The testimony of scientists and activists skeptical about biotechnology only confirms the questionable character of these claims, and exposes the long-underreported risks inherent in the new genetic technologies. The best antidote to accusations by food industry executives that biotech opponents are using “scare tactics” to slow the inevitable acceptance of engineered foods may be a heightened understanding of the real consequences of the engineered future corporate America so anxiously awaits. Combined with the already widespread skepticism toward the increasing technological manipulation of food, this may offer our best hope that the Brave New World of biotechnology is not as inevitable as its proponents would have us believe.