Sunday, 8 September 2013

Just pay me, says scientist

There was reportedly a bit of a scrap at the wine industry conference last week over genetic modification.

I always enjoy reading this kind of report because the pro-GM lobby usually sound like idiots when they try to explain why we must embrace GM technology.

My favourite line is the guilt trip: we must go GM because the world's population is exploding and they won't have enough to eat without GM. That's beautiful isn't it? The sellers of GM telling us we are morally obliged to buy their patented seeds otherwise the third world will starve. Its like something a kidnapper would say: pay up or the poor little children get it.

Large chunks of the scientific community are just as keen on GM, but they often use different arguments. The hardy perennial "we'll fall behind" line got an outing at the wine industry conference.
Mr Trought said if the industry did not start doing work in the field, they would fall behind other wine-producing countries.
In the United States, most maize and soy bean products were genetically modified, and diabetics worldwide used insulin that was genetically modified, he said. 
If American scientists were to discover how to find cells resistant to various vine diseases, they would use it.
"If we don't invest in research, we won't understand the physiological and genetic processes and whether we can use GM plants or yeast," Mr Trought said.
Implicitly, this assumes that US-based corporations that gain patents on new GM technology will not want to sell it. So we will lose any hope of getting access to this technology unless we "invent" it ourselves, independently.

It sounds like self-serving rubbish to me. Think about it this way. Suppose that the technology for using screw caps on wine bottles is (a) vastly superior to corks and (b) patented by someone who invented it. Why would that person not sell or licence the technology to wine producers all over the world?  

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