NGO war on biotechnology
Discussions of the risks and benefits of recombinant DNA technology, or 'genetic modification' (GM), should occur within the context of experience with older, 'conventional' techniques for genetic improvement. But critics' alarmist reports and commentaries invariably emphasise the things that might go wrong only with recombinant DNA-modified organisms, while studiously avoiding the essential broader context. They ignore vast amounts of data, including literally millennia of experience with less precise methods used for genetic modification, and they continue to deny the well-established scientific consensus that no unique risks attend the use of recombinant DNA techniques. They promulgate the perception that recombinant DNA technology is unproven, untested and unregulated A€“ and promote an approach to regulation in which there is an inverse relationship between degree of scrutiny and risk. The disproportionate regulation of the products of recombinant DNA technology needlessly raises the cost of research and development, while it fails to advance consumer or environmental safety. The question we must ask is not whether regulation generally is or is not justified, but rather what should be regulated and how? The use of certain techniques A€“ in particular, those that are the most precise and predictable A€“ as a trigger for regulation cannot be justified scientifically. Regulatory efforts should be redirected to focus oversight on new organisms that express characteristics likely to pose significant risk, regardless of the methods used in their development, while leaving relatively low-risk traits of both classical and molecular genetic modification unburdened by costly regulation.
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