A forum recently brought up the issue of GM (genetically modified) chickens. I haven't read into this very much as I find the concept depressing. But here are a few of my personal thoughts...
The first is a question. Why?
Why do we need to allow such tinkering? Commercial meat birds are already so affected by the profit motive that they can barely survive to reproductive age. The majority have short lives of great discomfort. Why do we need to go further?
The second is a concern about potential disease transmission. By that I mean simply that nobody has ever convincingly explained to me how putting cross-order genes into a living organism won't lead to increased disease susceptibility. Is it possible a rat carrying some genes from jellyfish might help disease organisms that ordinarily harm only one order of life-form to cross species? I don't know; it's never been discussed by those doing the gene splicing. But if a disease that only ever affected one order of life-form suddenly becomes able to infect a whole new order... Do I need to say more?
The third concern is allergies. How do we know gene splicing won't cause allergens that affect individuals to sneak into a wider range of foodstuffs? Will we see higher rates of allergy? Incidentally higher rates of allergies have already accompanied (though I'm not saying 'been definitively caused by') the increase of GM products on our shelves.
The fourth concern is labelling. Will GM chickens be labelled so that people who for whatever reason want to avoid them can? I doubt it because it hasn't happened with other GM foods.
Here are some of the common arguments in favour of GM science:
We can't feed the world without GM. But when countries produce surpluses, do these automatically go to feed the starving? Nope; never have. Why should GM production overcome distribution (and goodwill) shortages? It simply won't happen. Furthermore, if we need to splice genes in order to survive as a species, won't we simply escalate in population to a point where GM science can't help us? As soon as we meet global population needs, global population will climb still further. This isn't an argument for population control by forced means (much less starvation) but it is a solid reason why GM arguments don't wash.
Man has always practiced 'genetic engineering' or 'genetic modification'. Utterly wrong. We have never crossbred chickens with tomatoes or sea creatures. It hasn't been possible. GM is a wholly new technology.
Some life forms have always practiced gene-swapping; it's perfectly natural. This may be true of bacteria and viruses, but it isn't true of the organisms currently undergoing gene splicing. In any case natural gene-transfer — for instance between disease-causing bacteria or viruses and benign forms — has had a slow process of evolution over thousands or millions of years, which is long enough for any negative impacts to be weeded out. Remember, evolution doesn't just mean survival of the 'fit'; it also means death of the 'unfit' (or unlucky). Do we really want to see evolution in quicktime?
Man evolved from nature; therefore GM is natural. I've read at least one comment along the lines that 'God created man with the intelligence and resourcefulness to invent gene splicing; therefore gene splicing is God's will.' There are some strange beliefs in the world, but this takes the cake. Murder is quite reasonable using the same logic.
I really don't know very much about genetic modification, but I've read fairly widely (as a layperson) on biology and animal husbandry. I also know one thing: as long as we have mysterious childhood syndromes that nobody is investigating the environmental causes of, we need to be highly suspicious of whatever goes in our mouths.
Say 'no' to GMO...