(actually knew two monozygotic triplets (never met the third). don't know if they were the result of fertility treatments or not.)
The panel was set up by the National Academy of Sciences in response to a request by the US Government.
It said eating food made from cloned animals appeared to be safe but products made from GM animals could pose a risk to human health.
It also said cloned and GM animals raise significant concerns over environmental risks and animal welfare.
Which is exactly what I've been trying to say, though nowhere near so clearly.
And here's the thing with GM fruits and veggies (GM food animals seems incredibly morbid to me -- it's a whole different can of worms): environmental impact is definitely iffy. But so is the environmental impact of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and the use of both of these products is on the list of problems that GM is meant to address.
Now, it's very nice to be in a privileged enough position in the world that I can choose organic produce, that I can demand that my food be grown with supposedly minimal impact on personal and ecological health. But most of the world is not so lucky. In most of the world, maximal yield per unit of land is crucial, as is increasing the nutritional quality of existing food stocks. Remember, yellow rice is the result of genetic meddling, and this introduction of essential vitamins into the diets of millions upon millions of impoverished Asian families is hard to overstate.
The world's population and distribution of wealth creates a whole set of agricultural problems that require new and novel solutions. The amount of arable land on the planet is shrinking, partly as the result of traditional agricultural practices. According to some estimates, the last couple of years have seen the first occurrence in recorded history of available arable land being incapable of feeding the world's human population at a subsistence level even at maximal yield. Does the thought of grain that monarch butterflies refuse to eat disturb me? Yes, it does. But so does the thought of continuing to bombard crops with pesticides. So does the thought of continuing to depend on industrial fertilizers that eventually render soil useless and that cause massive algal blooms along the world's coastlines.
Organic, untampered-with-food is a great luxury to have, but for most of the world it is a luxury -- most of the world has to take what it can get, and, believe it or not, science often helps these people.
When was the last time you saw somebody with rickets, for instance? There were plenty of valid concerns about the irradiation of dairy products to make active vitamin D, but doing it virtually eliminated rickets in much of the world. Are there better ways to address vitamin D deficiency now? Sure -- but they either weren't known or weren't economically feasible at the time for the people that needed them most.
Do you have any idea how devastating the effects of vitamin deficiencies can be, and how much GM research is geared toward eradicating them among people who can't afford a fancy and varied diet the way Americans and Europeans can? Believe me, I've met a lot of the young people going in to this research, and most of them aren't rubbing their hands together, Monty Burns-like, at the prospect of increasing the misery that American agribusiness can inflict on its slave-animals. There are very real problems that need to be addressed, and much of this research is aimed at addressing them. Yes, 6.5 billion people seems like way too much to me. But I don't want to be the one to decide which 2 billion of them have to grow up malnourished because I'm afraid of science.
It's a complicated planet, we're a complicated species apparently on a path to causing much suffering for ourselves and for the rest of the planet. But we've got to use the tools we've got to address these problems, and so far as I'm concerned, genetic research is one of those tools. Will it be misapplied? Sure, especially in countries that stand to benefit, in real terms, less from the technology. But if they can find a way to make healthier rice grow on less land with less environmental impact, more power to 'em: they're going to help a lot more people than the organic farmers I get my winter squash from.
Anyway, that's how I feel today. Anything to avoid studying.