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P.R. Language-Sabotage To Push Gene-Tampering

Robert Mann
Aug 2001

Almost every significant public utterance from the gene-tampering trade has been massaged, morphed, varnished & warped by the depraved trade of mercenary deception - PR. Last time I heard, Monsanto employed a couple dozen PR operatives - some with Ph.Ds in gene-splicing, able to wipe the floor on TV with Zac Goldsmith.

The very term 'genetic modification', adopted by the Minister for the Environment for the name of the Royal Commission, is deceitful. Some student should trace its origin (a decade ago). The earlier term, 'genetic engineering', while tending to ingratiate gene-splicing by the implication that the processes amount to a technology planned for foreseeable effects (a lie), has the weakness - from the viewpoint of the PR twister - of subtly menacing overtones. 'Modification' mollifies the image; it resonates better with the principal lie that the artificial gene-splicings developed just this past couple of decades are no more than speeded-up natural processes. Having established this newer, gentler term 'modification', the PR liars then crooned soothingly "genetic modification has been going on for centuries, in the form of conventional breeding", which they had not tried on back in the late 1970s when gene-splicing was invented and came under some ethical scrutiny in New Scientist & a few other scientific magazines.

But going back to 'engineering' will not go far enough. Uncontrolled insertions of spliced 'constructs' of synthetic DNA "copied" from various kingdoms of organisms and from virus genes can be called technology only at the risk of insulting proper technologies such as comprise actual engineering.

One step further back, let us reconsider the first word in the PR labels for these novel drastic gene-tamperings: 'genetic'. The organisms created are, in many cases, of unknown genetic propensities; it is not known how many, if any, generations they can breed, and there is good reason to believe they will not breed true. Furthermore, their genomes are likely to emanate infectious pathogens e.g. novel virus with modified cauliflower mosaic virus promoter causing horizontal gene transfer to mammals including man. Of course, the ultimate in anti-genetic engineering would be the fabled 'Terminator' seed - not yet real, but under development in the labs of Monsanto and other corporations - sterile if the parent crop's seed was treated with a specified chemical.

But even current gene-jiggered soya, maize, oilseed rape, & cotton (the main gene-tampered crop plants so far) have novel properties which can hardly be called genetic. The lab-produced seed expresses the transgenes so as to biosynthesize an insecticide throughout the plant, or an enzyme which confers resistance to a particular herbicide (e.g. one which is the main money-spinner of the corporation selling the herbicide-resistant line of gene-jiggered seed). Sure, transgenes are expressed; but genetics as she is known is scarcely involved. Nothing is intended to be inherited, in the commercial scenario protected by perverted patent law. Genetic pollution is expected (as the Frankenseed purveyors refuse to admit), but no worthwhile genetics. What is engineered is not genetics but - for a few years - profits for the gene-tamperers.

It cannot be too often mentioned that benefits are not expected, nor are they emerging, for the farmers, or the consumers, or the distributors, of Frankenfood. To foist on all these sectors ill-tested, possibly poisonous food must rank as one of the more vicious triumphs of the mercenary deceivers. Göbbels would have admired it.

The pollution of thought by PR has confused many who should know better. For instance, the Royal Society of NZ has become a main propagandist for gene-tampering. The RSNZ colluded with Monsanto, subsidised by government funds, in Norrie Simmons' 'private trust' called 'Genepool®' to maintain a thoroughly deceitful website and a series of 'seminars' around the country with admission fees high enough ($50 I think) to keep out ordinary citizens. The then PresRSNZ, a leading physician, wrote on behalf of the RSNZ about the Showa Denko GE-tryptophan disaster thus: "Rare cases of EMS were known before the introduction of the genetically engineered bacterium, which further supports the hypothesis that EMS is not due to the genetic engineering event." An exact analogue of that argument would run: "Rare cases of seal-limb were known before the introduction of thalidomide, which further supports the hypothesis that seal-limb is not due to thalidomide." Misleading illogic abounds as never before in the 'debate' around gene-tampering.

Auckland university snr lectr in marketing Dr Judy Motion has carefully studied the role of PR in the King Salmon caper, a field trial of gene-jiggered salmon in tanks (near Blenheim) with inadequate exit filters. The Royal Commission was told of this expert but failed to subpoena her; they didn't really want to know about the Liberian-registered company, owned by Koreans, which sued for 'defamation' the only member of Parliament who has been talking much sense on gene-tampering, Jeanette Fitzsimons - for giving the media leaked PR advice to King Salmon by the PR agent Norrie® who also ran 'Genepool'.

The most neutral, informative, widely intelligible term for DNA techniques is gene-splicing. True, it has a certain unsolemn vernacular style to it; but it is far less misleading than either of the main PR terms 'genetic engineering' and 'genetic modification'. Of course, for polemical purposes one resorts to 'gene-tampering' or 'gene-jiggering'; but I think the normal term, with minimal tendentiousness, should be 'gene-splicing'.

'Gene manipulation' may be one of the most widely suitable terms, somewhat less neutral than 'gene-splicing' but far less deceptive than either 'genetic engineering' or 'genetic modification'.

Can we look fw to a counterattack by, say, 'gene gentling' or 'gene caressing'? And then perhaps 'heritage fondling' ? :-}


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