The Pesticide Potato

[ed. note, Vegetable testing is not only inhumane, ignoring the lives of innocent vegetables, but it poses a threat to the survival of the human race, in that scientists are now splicing genes and releasing the resultant organisms into the environment without any form of regulation or control whatsoever. What if something goes wrong? How can we "experiment" safely, after billions of years of refinement by nature to the genetic code, can we seriously consider it safe to introduce into our own environment which we depend on to live, these organisms we have developed with just a few years of experience? This will ultimately change our own genetic makeup, through consumption of new chemicals and protiens, and through evolution to adapt to the modified environment. If this will be for the better, or worse, has not even been considered as it should be. If I sound too pessimistic, consider some of our other successes, such as the introduction of rabbits into Australia, or our carefully designed streets and highways with well maintained safe cars and highly trained and tested drivers, and speed limits and traffic laws and an enforcement system, yet highway deaths are among the leading causes of death in the USA.

What could go wrong with bio-engineered vegetables? Plenty.]

Whoever coined the term "couch potato" never met the tater with a license to kill. Following the supermarket success of the genetically engineered MacGregor's tomato comes the toxic potato. The MacGregor, also known as the Flavr Savr, juiced the media in 1994 for being among the first commercially available transgenic foods. It doesn't get mushy as it ripens. Easy ship, easy slice. Now, the "New Leaf Potato" is sprouting in field trials this year. It's been engineered by the Monsanto company, along with corn and cotton, to do battle on its own behalf. This Ubertuber produces a potent insecticide called cholesterol oxidase. Geneticists splice a toxic gene from soil bacteria into seed potatoes, which then fight off their own attackers: Colorado beetles. Rats, quails and mice have feasted on pesticidal spuds without suffering any sort of insidious potato poisoning -- at least not in the short term. The toxins, say scientists, are deactivated in stomach acid. They better be: genetically modified soya beans, yeast, milk and rape seed oil, along with tomatoes, are already at the local supermarket. (Unknowingly, of course, since the FDA does not require them to be labeled in any way.) If not, there's always the hope that with enough helpings of the New Leaf we may start producing the insecticide ourselves, and enjoy hot summer nights without the stink of bug spray.

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