Monday 22 February 2010, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh
The following is the lucidest possible exposition of transgenic genetic engineering. There has been no other exposition anywhere with comparable lucidity of this intricate subject. Since this kind of engineering poses a threat to life’s survival on earth, it has become a crucial political issue. This article was published in Mainstream Annual 2001 (dated December 22, 2001). It is being reproduced here, with minor alternations by the author, in view of the latest controversy surrounding Bt brinjal.
Despite this massive evidence that harmony with Nature gives plentitude and permanence, the practitioners of “nature-conquering science” are now embarking on an yet more dangerous course—namely, “transgenic genetic engineering”. Bioscience—whose purpose was to understand the interlinkages between and among plant and animal species and to find thereform the clues to least expensive agri- and other cultures and cures for diseases—has long been hijacked by commercial interests to enthrone biotechnology, in which the emphasis is on mass production rather than production by the masses. Hybridisation, tissue culture, even cloning to a limited extent of endangered species to repair the damage of near-extinction already done to bioresources, was permissible. But what is now being attempted in the wake of the failure of the “Green Revolution” is a hydra-headed disaster, a biological holocaust, more insidious than nuclear holocaust because it is silent and, in the initial stages, imperceptible.
The “bright” idea is to transfer genes to unrelated species that never interbreed in nature, such as inserting toad genes into potatoes or genes of some bacteria into crop plants. Scientists have taken the gene in a firefly that emits light and inserted it into the genetic code of tobacco plant. Anti-freeze gene from the “flounder fish” has been inserted into the genetic code of tomato plant to protect the plant from cold spells. Insecticide producing gene from bacteria and viruses are being inserted into plants. Attempts are being made to create novel life forms that have not existed before.