Biotechnology 2000

October 17, 2000

Timing is everything. Federal regulators, for whatever reason, didn't get around to approving Starlink com for human consumption. Now we have a real mess. Kraft recalled millions of taco shells. Safeway had to do the same. Farmers are blaming the seed companies that sold Starelink for not making it clear to them that they had to segregate the grain from other genetically engineered corn variates.

Here's the situation. We are eating genetically engineered corn every day now. It is approved by our government regulators. The National Academy of Science has declared that genetically engineered food products are safe. However, Starlink is the one corn that has not been approved. Supposedly, it was close to approval, but noJ yet. Now it has been mixed in the food chain probably by accident or ignorance.

Should we be worried? I don't think so. We're talking about a tiny amount of corn -- maybe less than 1 % -- and the corn is safe anyway. It just hasn't received the government seal of approval -- yet.

To demonstrate how confusing and how fast biotechnology is coming into our lives -- we can look forward to salmon spliced with genes that make them grow 2 to 4 times as fast on less feed (it is being done now on Prince Edward Island); chickens designed to resist illness caused by bacteria; leaner pigs that grow faster; and on and on.

I know it is hard to follow all of the give and take between regulators, critics and supporters. But don't be distracted by all the wailing and gnashing of teeth. There is a technological revolution underway.