HIGHTOWER: Bioengineering Oops!

Have you ever been strapped in a dentist's chair numb with Novocain, with sharp drills screaming all around you, the dentist elbow-deep in your mouth and you thinking "it can't get any worse than this"...only to hear your dentist suddenly say: "Oops."Well buckle-up neighbors because the world's biotech industry, which has been elbow deep in the mouth of Mother Nature, has just said "oops". These are the people who mess with our natural word's genetic make up, claiming that they can "improve" on nature by taking a couple of genes from this plant, one from that one, put'em all in this one and -- presto change-o -- a new bionic wonder plant.For example, bio-engineers in Denmark recently scrambled some new genes into the plant that makes canola oil so it can absorb more weed-killers without dying. The idea was that fields could be soaked in weed killers without killing the canola-oil plant. This is bassackward thinking to start with -- better to engineer plants that are weed-tolerant, rather than poison-tolerant, thereby lessening the amount of poisons we spray on earth. However, this would offend the chemical companies.But, oops! It turns out this poison-tolerant gene did not stay in the genetically-engineered canola-oil plant -- it migrated almost immediately into the weeds in the field. That's right, now the very weeds they were trying to kill are poison-tolerant, making the whole exercise moot...not to mention stupid.The Denmark case is a giant warning signal for us. Bio-engineering companies have arrogantly dismissed public concern about what they are doing, claming that their little laboratory creations could not possibly escape in the fields and screw-up our ecology. But there they are, loose in Denmark.Dentists generally can fix their mistakes, but a bio-engineering "oops" can echo forever.

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