Playing with Mother Nature


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
I just read recently, that scientists on the East coast of the US have successfully altered the DNA of a strain of Atlantic Salmon. This fish now achieves full adult growth in half the time. Of course, now the debate rages over the morality of such tampering. Is it safe for human comsumption? What if these fish escape, will they destroy the wild salmon? There are many issues to this new invention. What does everyone else think?

It was the thread on "Slow Food" that really got me thinking about this issue, and the ones that are soon to follow. Though every ounce of my being says that this is wrong and goes against nature, I also have to ask myself, what will happen in the future as humankind's population continues to increase and our land and resources continue to decrease? If feeding animals growth hormones and tampering with DNA is not a solution that we can live with, then what is the solution? Sure, Atlantic Salmon is not something that the whole world eats, but the success with this can lead to success with other animals and plants also. Of course the ultimate solution would be for humankind to learn to get by on less, and to control our population growth, but I really don't see that happening. So wherein does the solution lie?

(Please don't take this as an endorsement of genetic engineering. These are just questions that have come to my mind as I have mulled this issue over for myself)
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Yes difficult to have an opinion.

We are not scientists but that doesn't mean that we are not allowed to have an opinion on the future of our spicie...

The rules in Nature are simple. In fact there is only one rule.Only the strong spicie survives.

I am against those experiments with DNA.

The sollution to over -population is not to modify the DNA of animals or humans.

The sollutions are simpler and political. I hate when scientists want to justify their curiosity with trying to persuade us that they do that just to save us.
No they do that out of curiosity and to find out how far can they get.

I am not against science. Not at all. I just have a nostalgy for the days of Human History , that Nature and Human were considered a whole
Joined Jul 6, 1999
I would be interested in hearing more about this as a fish farm is about to open a few k's down the coast here. They are 'breeding' mahi mahi. The big concern being voiced is what happens to the surplus hormones that are fed these fish. Think of a big tank, food thrown in to the fish, they eat the stuff as it floating but not the stuff that sinks to the bottom. What effect will this have and what to when cleaned out of the tanks.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
Guess I'll be staying away from Atlantic salmon. I really dislike the thought of trying to fool mother nature. Eventually she'll realize what's been done, and there will be some consequence. I'm with Athenaeus; scientists try to justify these experiments by stating all the positives. But even they don't know what the negative aspects are yet. And by the time they learn, it may be too late.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Yeap, I'm with Athenaeus and Momoreg,

Over a decade ago farmed salmon were being givin antibiotics to kill sea lice.

Now, the species is being engineered!

I wonder if this process will effect the benifit of the omega 3 oils?

All I can see this doing is delivering a grant to the scientific community who look under telescopes, and taking monies away from the researches on the boats, in diving gear, trying to find a natural solution.


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Judy, are they actually raising the Mahi in large tanks? Often times, especially for the larger fish, there are no tanks involved. Salmon farming is done in the ocean itself, in gigantic nets, so that sea water filters throughout all the time. That is why there is concern for fish escaping.

Momoreg, you don't have to give up salmon yet. The fish has not yet been approved by the FDA. The fish has just been engineered and it will probably take awhile before any decision on its safety and environmental impact can be decided on.

Once again, playing devil's advocate, if you all are against genetic engineering to increase size and growth rate of foods, what other viable alternatives do you see, as the world's population continues to grow. Another issue, though it sounds cold-blooded, is, have we gone too far in prolonging and saving lives. Not only is our birthrate increasing, but infant mortality is declining, and humans are living a much longer time. All of this taxes our planet. We will need more room to live, yet we will also need more room to grow and produce food. Sure, these issues will not reach critical by the ends of our lives, but the time is coming when something must change, and possiblly difficut decisions will need to be made.
Joined Dec 4, 2001
I have mixed feelings on science and food.
The scientist will argue with some justification that the roll of science is to perpetuate the voyage of dicovery. It is, after all what got us out of the caves. What society does with the discoveries is another issue (splitting the atom for example.)
Fooling with nature though, is inherently fraught with danger. But that will not and IMHO should not inhibit the search for knowledge.
A few years ago, the folks at UC Davis (an agricultural school near Sacramento) identified the gene in tomatoes that makes them rot. They bred some tomatoes without this gene which allowed the tomato to ripen on the vine and still have a reasonably long shelf life. There was a huge public outcry and they stopped marketing them after a few months.
I thought this was quite funny because people around the world spend billions of $$$ a year trying arrest the aging process. If science found the gene in humans that caused aging and were able to remove it, anyone foolish enough to get in the way would be trampled in the stampede to have that proceedure done!

Joined Jul 24, 2001

This is exactly the point. Why to stop aging?
Why we, humans are so selfish that we want to live for ever.

Please. The last centuries, human mind , tried to find ways to fight about all these questions. Those ways were called philosophy.
Philosophy is not something vague it's a way to appreciate life and why not, death.

What happened to societies, guys, what's wrong these days? I am gratefull about science and its progress. I am gratefull for aspirin for penicillin, for new surgical methods
I am not gratefull for Dolly, the cloned sheep.
I don't want to become 200 years old.

Pete. I might appear blunt but the asnwer to your question , regarding over-population is simple
if we don't find an acceptable sollution, we won't survive, we all going to die.
Simple things by the simple rules of Nature.


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
I take no offense at any statements made here at all. You all voice the same concerns and issues I have on the subject. We may differ slightly. My whole intent was to hear what other people feel on the subject. As I said, I am "playing devil's advocate", giving one side of the issue. It may not be the side I agree with, but knowing how most people probably feel about this issue, I chose to take the less popular view, to get a good discussion and debate on the issue going. So please feel free to say what is on your mind. I take no offense.

Athenaeus, my question to you is where do we stop before we cross the line. You say you are glad for asprinin, for penicillin, etc., but you draw the line at cloning. How do you choose your point where you say stop? What makes your decision something other than an arbitrary decision?

What do you say to the statement that "humans have been practicing a form of 'genetic engineering' for thousands of years, but breeding for traits desireable to our needs. IE cows breed to produce milk, cows to produce beef, dogs and cats in all sizes and colors. Many would argue that this is genetic engineering, just done at a much slower speed, after all is that a form of manipulating genes and taking advantage of mutations that occur in those genes?

As an ex-philosophy major (ethics concentration) I agree with you Athenaeus, that we have forgotten how to think and debate issues. Humankind has come to relie on science to answer those profound questions. Unfortunately, science tends to often times forget the human equation.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
The difference between pain killers and antibiotics, as opposed to cloning, is that one is meant to improve upon our lives (and yes, sometimes lengthen it past what nature intended), while the other seems to have greater power to change humanity as we know it. Cloning has serious implications as far as population control and life expectancy are concerned, not to mention, general health of the populace.

I know this question was geared towards Athenaeus; I just had to open my big mouth on this one.
Joined Jul 24, 2001
I guess we came to the crucial point.

Which are the criteria to draw the "enough" lines.

I have a couple of answers that pop-up from my mind instictively , like" What ever resembles to eugenics, must stop"
But I haven't worked that enough in my mind to built my arguments.

Frankly Pete, I don't know , personaly I need more time to think and learn about certain things.
I think that as a society, we need some time to think over certain issues. This is called philosophy. We not need to be grabbed by the throat and forced to decide at once.
In the mean time , I wish that those experiments stop.

I have a colleague at the Univesity who has studied Human Anthropology in Germany, in a small University in small town,
30 years ago, before the Americans with the greatest living Human anthropologist W.Angel take over human anthropology.I am almost certain that Angel has studied there too.

This tiny university university was the best in this field.
Do you know why? Because there was hiding a person, a scientist who was performing experiments on prisoners in Camps during WWII. She was the best in her field.

According to my friend, Germans have accumulated so much knowledge regarding humans and human diseases during the short period of War that it was beyond imagination.
"Thanks to them" the science went many steaps ahead.
In fact my friend told me in all honesty that if the War was prolonged for a couple of years , maybe now we would have the cure for cancer.

Ironic right?

That's a nice moral dillema. Or it is not dillema?
Joined Nov 29, 2001
When I approach a box or bag of food in the supermarket, I know there's a good chance I have to read the label. This is especially true if it's a man made food like rice mixed with something or a combined dairy product or box of cereal. There are certain things in this world for which I should not have to read a label and apples, for example, fall under this category.

If scientists cross two items that would not cross on their own, it opens up a can of worms for people with food allergies. For years, these people have known what to steer clear of - but if Frankenfood is involved, all bets are off.

Crossbreeding food is different from naturally hybridizing things like peppers. Peppers crossed with other peppers are still peppers. Anyone who is allergic to peppers will stay away from them and what's more, they're instantly recognizable as peppers. To use the genes of say, a walnut, in conjunction with a pepper to produce something that looks like a pepper would cause havoc with someone who is allergic to nuts, possibly costing him or her their life.

I like my lamb made of lamb crossed with other lambs but not giraffes or something. I like my apples to be apples. I'm all for improving food in its current state but not all this "playing God with food."
Joined Dec 30, 1999
Public Perception Issues in Biotechnology

Genetically Engineered Foods

1. Should genetically engineered foods be labeled?

2. Will engineered foods be less expensive and/or more nutritious?

3. Are genetically engineered foods safe to eat?

4. Will certain genetically engineered foods be considered ethically unacceptable?

Genetically Engineered Plants

5. Can genetically engineered crops become weeds?

6. Could genetically engineered crops invade sensitive habitats and become a threat to native plants?

7. Could genetically engineered crops transfer new genes and properties to wild relatives?

Genetically Engineered Animals

8. Will genetically engineered animals present a health hazard to humans?

9. Is development of genetically engineering animals ethically acceptable?

10. Are animal welfare issues being considered in the development of genetically engineered food animals?

Genetically Engineered Microorganisms

11. What are the risks to people from large-scale releases of genetically engineered microorganisms?

12. Will engineered microbes have any long-term effects on the environment?

13. How can an engineered microbe be controlled after release in the environment?

Social/Legal Issues

14. Will decisions about the use of biotechnology products be made with input from those who will be most directly affected?

15. What are the ethical and moral concerns with creating engineered organisms?

16. Why can engineered organisms be patented, and how does patenting impact availability of scientific information?

17. Will biotechnology contribute to the disappearance of small farms and erosion of rural values?

Risk Assessment/Regulations

18. How adequate are current regulations for assuring public safety?

19. How can the public have a direct voice in the risk assessment process?

20. What risks are acceptable for biotechnology, and who can be trusted to explain the risks?

Educational Issues

21. Will increased knowledge about biotechnology be sufficient to allay fears?

22. Do television and the popular press accurately depict biotechnology issues?

23. How can academic responsibility to the public be maintained with increasing commercial support for biotechnology research?

International Issues

24. How will public safety be maintained as a result of testing biotechnology products in developing countries with little or no regulatory systems?

25. How will biotechnology products commercialized in industrialized nations be made available to developing countries?

For more information, look here.
Joined Jul 6, 1999
Pete, these mahi mahi are to be raised in pens close to the ocean hence the concern with the sludge from the tanks. how will the water be cleaned of the hormones when pumped back in the ocean. Also when cleaned what the guts will be used for, wether this will be thrown in the ocean and the natural fish will eat it and therefore be influenced by the growth hormones or used for fertilizer and will this effect the plants etc and how. If there are these concerns with fish in the wild how come it ok for the 'bred' fish.
Many questions.
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Let's define cloning; reproductive cloning is the type of cloning done a la Dolly the sheep, to gain a reproduction of the original model. Therapeutic cloning is the process of reproducing identical germ cells (not fertilized) to, at the present time, learn more about the benefits of stem cells in curing neurologically based conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries.

Most of the world is violently opposed to reproductive cloning, while therapeutic cloning is what is causing the huge debates and uproar, basically because it's largely misunderstood how that cloning takes place.

The issue that frightens me the most about genetically altered food is that, as someone mentioned, we don't know what it'll do down the road. Just as when the chickens were all being fed antibiotics, no one knew that the antibiotics were going to be responsible for the bacteria mutating, and becoming disease resistant bacteria, leading to the development of more and more powerful antibiotics, and ultimately to strains of bacteria that even today are resistant to any known antibiotics.
Joined Nov 29, 2001
I'm hoping that some legislation will be enacted that requires these types of foods be clearly marked with all the genes included. At least people who have allergies can still steer clear of what they need to avoid.
Joined May 14, 2001
Here's a tidbit from my very own website. Boy, talk about playing with you food.

The Barons are at Court - How an Unheralded Supreme Court Decision Could Turn You Into a Serf

The United States Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, has declared that it is legal to claim utility patents on plants. The December 10, 2001 ruling states that the Plant Patent Act (PPA) of 1930 and the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970 (PVPA) are so broad that they can cover any type of plant that is “new, distinct, uniform, and stable.” No exclusivity is granted to genetically modified plants. In fact, companies such as the plaintiff in this case, Pioneer Hy-Bred, can claim utility patent on any seed it breeds, making it illegal not just for you to propagate and sell that seed, but even for a farmer to save seeds from the previous season to plant next season.

In your own garden when the coriander goes to seed so quickly, as it does when the whether gets warm, you could keep those seeds, grind a few for your chili or curry powder, and save the rest for next year. The trouble is, now you may be breaking the law when you do, at least if your original seeds were patented. Companies like Dupont (who owns Pioneer) may not be interested in going after one lonely gardener or farmer for patent infringement, but the disturbing part is that under this ruling they could. In fact, Monsanto has already started prosecuting farmers. They have already succeeded in a case against a Canadian farmer, Perry Schmeiser of Bruno, Saskatchewan. In that case, Schmeiser claimed that the patented “Roundup Ready” seed blew onto his land from neighboring farms and passing trucks. No matter, Monsanto said, it was still their proprietary seed. Schmeiser lost in Canada’s Supreme Court last summer.

In the American Supreme Court case, Pioneer Hy-Bred V. JEM Ag Supply, Pioneer brought suit against JEM for buying, repackaging and reselling Pioneer’s proprietary brand of corn. While this may well be an infringement of patent or copyright law, the decision by the Supreme Court goes well beyond that to include rights, bestowed by the court upon companies, to claim proprietary rights on generations of sexually reproduced plants. That is where it gets disturbing. That same coriander in your garden might be heirloom seed that your Great-Grandmother began saving, but when a butterfly cross-pollinates your plant with pollen from your neighbor’s patented coriander, your next crop will be a violation of the law and you won’t even know it.

According to the Plant Variety Protection Office at the USDA, The PVPA expressly states that among its exemptions is “A farmer's exemption to allow the saving of seed for the sole use of replanting the farmer's land. Neither plant patents nor utility patents provide these exemptions.”

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) states that a utility patent “may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new, useful, and nonobvious [sic] process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” The same office states that a “Plant Patent” may be granted to a person who “invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.”

Justice Thomas (a former attorney for agri-business giant Monsanto) and 5 assenters have declared that since the PVPA does not expressly forbid utility patents on plants, then they are to be allowed, effectively circumventing the obvious intent of Congress when it made the original farmer’s exemption in the PVPA. This is unusual for a strict constructionist like Thomas. Remember Civics class? A constructionist is one who believes that if the law does not say you can, then you can’t.

Justices Breyer and Stevens dissented. In the dissent, authored by Justice Breyer, what is made clear is the intent of patent law vis a vis the intent of the PPA and the PVPA. The key factor is the term “asexually reproduce.” In high school biology you learned about asexual reproduction when the little amoeba cell divided and became two amoebae, genetically identical to the original. In agriculture, asexual reproduction means grafting. For example, take a cutting from a grape vine, graft it to existing rootstock, and the new grapes will be genetically identical to the old vine. A similar goal can be achieved with apples and other fruit trees. Breyer and Stevens dissented because while the original lawsuit was brought to stop JEM Ag from packaging and reselling Pioneer’s seed (akin to copying and selling a movie on video), the ruling Justice Thomas penned conveyed rights having little to do with the case. It is as if Microsoft programmed Windows to replicate itself onto other computers via the Internet, and then claimed that the users of those new computers owed royalties to Microsoft. Such an idea would be laughable, even for mighty Microsoft to attempt, but the Agri-business industry seems to have managed it.

Since that term “asexually reproduce” is clear in Plant Patents, the Agri-business giants are eager to make Utility Patent claims, insuring their grip on vital food supplies worldwide for generations, and sounding perhaps the final death-knell of the family farm. A regression to land barons and serfs in a fiefdom has already begun. Do you know the penalty for poaching the King’s deer?
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