Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jim Watson Comments on GM Crops and Recombinant DNA Technology

Watch this clip of Jim Watson commenting on recombinant DNA technology and its uses in making genetically modified plants [Dr. James Watso]. The video is produced by Monsanto so those of you with a bias can easily dismiss it without a second thought.

The rest of you should pause to think about what Watson is saying. He's definitely outspoken but is he right? He says ...
Recombinant DNA is the safest technology I’ve ever heard.
Read Nobel Laureate: Paul Berg for information about Asilomar and the recombinant DNA controversy of the 1970's. Read the comments to that article for other points of view and references to Watson. Hsien Hsien Lei has an opinion and so does Jeremy.


  1. Most of my colleagues who have met James Watson or seen him speak live think he's a total ass. Based on that video, I can see why.

    I like biotech and all, but Monsanto's propaganda is just nauseating. They'd make things a lot easier on themselves if they didn't act like a real-life version of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

  2. And what is the truth? Is the recombinant DNA technology safe?

    Watson's statement may be a bit provocative, but I think the recombinant DNA technology is rather safe after all.

  3. There is a lot of confusion and obfuscation surrounding GM crops which paradoxically makes effective criticism of them much more difficult. I certainly listen to people who raise concerns about economic effects on farmers (especially in the Third World) from being economically tied to large corporation, in much the way DRM'd music keeps music consumers tied to monopolistic companies like Apple. I certainly listen to people who have rational concerns about transfer of herbicide resistance to weeds. But these genuine concerns tend to get drowned out by bogus claims, on the part of professional alarmists who raise money by making people afraid (just as their predecessors did in the Asilomar era), that GM crops will make people sick. There's not even a single confirmed instance of that happening in the US where such crops are very widely planted. (Just as, despite all the elaborate disaster scenarios promoted at Asilomar and after, laboratory genetic manipulation has never made anybody sick.)

  4. One of the questions is, what do you mean by "safe"?

    So far there doesn't seem to be a direct danger to health, though recent tests on an approved variety of corn seem to show some nocive effects.

    The danger currently comes from the economics of the industry. Oligarchs like Monsanto want to replace traditional crops with their patented "new, improved" versions. They wish to spread the mono-culture model everywhere. That is a different sort of biological danger.

    They want to make peasants around the world their slaves. It is not about making a better widget to improve the lives of people. It is entirely do dominate them and squeeze out as much blood money as the Monsantos of the world can get.

    People around the world will not eat better and live better because of Monsanto. Anti-GM'ers should for the moment focus on the economic imperialism of the multi-nationals and not on the hypothetical biological dangers. Those of course will come later as the companies push the envelope until they do come up with something clearly destructive.

    For the moment, they just plan to destroy world agricultural economies and societies.

    Vandana Shiva has widely written and spoken on this subject.

  5. As Bernarda said, it all depends what you mean by safe. And there are two ways you can go with that. Are other foods -- peanuts? -- as safe as people want GM foods to be? And are we free to choose which technologies we want to be part of. I can decide that Jim is right, and abandon my bicycle. Or I can cycle in the knowledge that I have to be careful. GM food doesn't currently give anyone that choice.

    The video soundtrack, which was very heavily edited, I am certain, contains more holes than a colander and if life weren't so short it might be fun to go through it in detail. But the very fact that Monsanto is using the ex cathedra approach speaks volumes.

    And thanks for putting me on the same page as Jim.

  6. A civil debate on GMOs demands that attention is paid to the technology, itself, not brikmanship and character assasination.

    Directing expletives towards Jim Watson, a man of great candor and honor,as Steve Reuland has done in his post, is least to say condescending. Watson is not a marionette to be shoved left and ri ght by Monsanto. He understands that Recombinant DNA can be used to develop genetically modified crops.

    What's the source of Steve's deep anger towards Monsanto? Steve is a reflection of corpophobia that seems to permeates this society? Steve should tell us who he wants to commercialize the biotech he claims to like. The Feds won't do it, universities won't do it, and individuals won't do it.

    It's interesting that people are more at home with drugs and medicines developed through biotechnology, but are quick to dismiss biotech crops as tools of domination by behemoth biotech companies like Monsanto, DuPont and others.

    I am a strong advocate of agricultural biotechnology because I know what it means to go for a day or two without food. I have gone for days without food. Americans have plenty of food for domestic consumption and export because of agricultural technologies such as biotechnology and others.

    Let's engage in a civil debate about GMOs.