IJMC A Genetic End to the Deluge

                IJMC - A Genetic End to the Deluge

That is right folks. The Deluge of 1999 is officially over. I am back on 
schedule for *one*, count it, one, post a day for the year. What would I 
ever do without my Far Side page-a-day calendar? I think I would lose 
track and just would be no fun! So, we are truly, officially back and 
geared to go. Whew. Done. Wow. Goodnight, I need a drink.          -dave

A Vegetative Effect

The age of the genetically engineered crop is upon us. In supermarkets all
over the country there are packets and tins of food bearing the sinister
label "May contain genetically altered produce". Part of a government
conspiracy, surely? Well no, but from the anxiety and concern that the
move has generated, you might be led to believe it was. All the label
means is that one of the ingredients has had a gene conferring immunity to
pesticides or that improves flavour (for example) inserted into it's DNA.
The result is that we get a better end product. Now for some reason, this
seems to terrify people. 

I stumbled across what might well be the reason last week while watching
television. It was a news item about these genetically altered foodstuffs,
and a spokeswoman from a pressure group campaigning against such
instruments of the devil was being interviewed. Like all women, she knew
exactly what she was talking about. Consequently the words 'genetically
altered crop' ended up in the same sentences as dangerous, detrimental,
noxious, life-threatening, linked to BSE, deadly and satanic. Not a
negative in sight. And nor for that matter, a piece of evidence either.
That was the amazing thing. She did not reveal one single harmful effect,
piece of damning evidence or otherwise of such products. But all the same,
she did sound very convincing and assured viewers that "these new
super-veg" would be the end of us all. 

So I suppose it is interviews like these which make the new, improved
vegetables as popular and as trusted as a minister without portfolio. But
what on earth can the general public be thinking? Despite all the
doom-mongering by lobby group fundamentalists, not a single accusation has
been backed by evidence, so the effects are left to the public's
imagination. I can only offer three possible explanations for the public
and lobby groups' fear. Firstly, they might be afraid that these new
genetically altered vegetables will transfer all their genes to us. In
short, they are scared that we will turn into potatoes, cauliflowers,
carrots or whatever it was we ate for lunch. Either way, if this turns out
to be true or is just a cheap trick by gingers to get compensation for
their lot in life; "you see M'lud, I ate this carrot and.", Ann Robinson
will have a field day. I suppose that the only part of society that would
remain unchanged would be the Sunday Sport's "Best melons" competition. 

The second reason is that some jealous, millionaire gardener or farmer is
orchestrating the whole scare story. I believe that somewhere in Britain
there is a rich amateur horticulturist paying a pressure group to give
relentless bad publicity about these "super veg". And why? Well, just to
discredit Professor Jones, his neighbour/rival, in his efforts to win
"best tomato" category at the county agricultural show. 

The final and perhaps the most plausible reason is that these vegetables
might become animate, intelligent megalomaniacs and take over the world.
In event of such an assault, stay tuned to your TV. From the government
film team that brought you "In event of attack from Germany" and " In
event of nuclear attack from Russia" there is a new film to bring you up
to date with this bizarre threat: "In event of attack from the allotments"
will tell you how to cope with the terrors of kamikaze aubergine attacks
and suchlike. Incidentally, this is probably the world's only government
endorsed B-movie. 

Now if this came true, I can't see any real cause for alarm. All you would
need to save the world is a potato peeler and a good, sharp kitchen knife.
These genetically altered vegetables might have been made immune to every
pesticide and herbicide known to man but I don't think that there is a
gene that confers immunity to kitchen implements. Oh, and if you hear of
the US military requisitioning the prairies, it will probably be a vain
attempt to outnumber the Chinese in event of world war three. 

So where does that leave us? Well, on the face of it, we now know that
genetically modified foods are perfectly safe to eat and that lobby groups
spout more hot air than hairdryers. But what if I'm wrong? Well, I'll be
ridiculed and left with egg on my face. And if not egg, a bunch of crazed,
carnivorous bananas trying to gouge my eyes out. 

Anyway, I'm off to Sainsbury's now, but just to play safe: Cover me. 

By Richard Leszczynski

IJMC September 1999 Archives