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Biosentinel Corn
Emily Gertz, 25 May 04

biosentinel_corn.jpgEven though research shows, so far, that transgenetically modified crops are safe for humans to eat, I find the idea, well, creepy. Plus, the possible long-term ecological impacts, the socio-political concerns--we've posted some pros and cons of biotech agriculture here on WorldChanging.

What if we could get similar results without genetic modifications?

Smart breeding has that potential. Scientists are discovering how to turn on dormant characteristics in plants, awakening their own innate abilities to resist insects, say, or change color when they need water. It sounds pretty exciting, and I wouldn't mind one less thing to argue about with my good friend the genetic engineer.

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Ah. Much better idea, that smart breeding. I've been so creeped out, too, by the transgenetic manipulation of food stuffs; at what point are crops no longer vegetable but animal, after all? at what point are they sentient? Gah. I just don't want that kind of head trip when I sit down to eat corn on the cob...

Posted by: Rayne on 25 May 04

Your "creepy" intuition seems awfully close to Leon Kass's ethics of disgust to me. The precautionary principle is all well and good, but using the emotional font for racism and homophobia to choose tech seems a bit scary ... creepy even ...

Cyborg Democracy points out a new book which attempts to rebut the ethics of disgust:

Posted by: Adam Burke on 27 May 04

Having not read much Kass, I can't speak directly to that point. I will certainly dig further in to Kass, and Nussbaum's response; thanks for the pointer.

What I can say is that I chose, in this instance, not to edit out my emotional response to a scientific and ecological issue.

It is valid to critique that choice, although equating my unease towards transgenic engineering of food crops with emotional justifications for racism and homophobia seems to overdo it.
Scale and intent are not irrelevant to what and how I write.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 27 May 04


Equating your unease - expressed in a casual comment - with racism is of course way overdoing it, sorry. I intended to make a more subtle and less accussatory point but it seems to have been lost somewhere along the way.

Posted by: Adam Burke on 28 May 04



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