8 Jul 2020

Some Thoughts on Genetic Modification/Manipulation

Submitted by John T Reagan

I have, from time to time, shared posts here that originate with The Cornwall Alliance.  The Cornwall Alliance is a group that advocates good, strong stewardship of this planet that God has given us.  Last winter Mr. Vijay Jayaraj, writing from his home in India, posted the article linked below.  It was well-written and he made some very good and valid points.  Still, there were some items that I felt I needed to comment on.  Below the link is a copy of my comments.  You likely should follow the link below and read his article before reading my thoughts. 

At this writing, I live in a city full of technophobes.  There is no reasoning with them, either.  Mention the subject of this post – genetic modification – and they act like the devil himself is trying to feed them poison.  However, and it’s hard for me to say this, but there is, in spite of their mindless fears, some cogent reasoning that can be distilled from their rants and tirades.  If you have some thoughts of your own, please share them in the comments section that follows this post.

Cornwall Alliance -- Isn't Gene Editing a Better Form of Crossbreeding?


Some Thoughts on Genetic Modification/Manipulation

Splicing a GeneI appreciate the careful explanation presented by Mr. Jayaraj, especially his emphasis on how the CRISPR-Cas9 technology does not introduce outside (foreign) genes into the organism.  When limited in this fashion, his claim that GM is really just an advanced form of crossbreeding rings true.  Thought of that way it is no different than when, during my growing up years on the farm, we bred a Holstein cow to a Hereford bull producing offspring that had the high milk production of the Holstein and the beef-producing body type of the Hereford.  It was a highly successful hybridization that worked well for us on our tiny farm.  Yet, Mr. Jayaraj failed to hold to that model at the end of his article when he seemed to be cheering on the practice of introducing foreign genes into certain types of crops.  The goal of producing more food is noble, but the practice of moving genes between species is dangerous.

Don't get me wrong -- I am not a technophobic obstructionist naysayer.  I support some use of GM technology, but not only see great potential for disaster, but also gross violation of God's domain and order.  Let me deal with that potential disaster first.  Several years ago genes from the Thuringiensis soil bacteria (BT) were introduced into corn, producing a variety of corn that is deadly to insects that eat it.  The benefits to farmers (and to the world's food supply) have been tremendous.  My greatest concern about BT corn has been the development of resistance in the targeted insects.  Once this resistance develops (and it has developed in some places), what will we use to combat these pests?  My understanding right now is that the problem has been properly managed, but the very fact that it has to be managed sets me back.  It causes me to wonder if bigger problems are waiting for us down the road.  Management plans and efforts always fail at some point.  What will be the result when (not if) that happens? 

That brings me to my second concern:  By moving genes from one species to another we are violating God's sovereignty.  Let me go back to the above example.  God designed the Thuringiensis soil bacteria for a specific purpose.  He inserted genes into that bacterium that produce an insecticidal protein.  His purpose for doing that is a mystery to me, but clearly He had something in mind.  One thing is certain – He knew what He was doing.  I suspect that the insecticidal protein produced by the Thuringiensis bacterium in some way positively affects the eco-system of the soil in which the bacterium lives.  He designed corn without the genes that produce that toxic protein.  He did that for a reason, whether we fully understand His thinking or not.  For us to selectively breed corn that produces bigger crops is all part of how we, His created images, work together with our Father in managing this planet for/with Him.  For us to transfer genetic material from a bacterium to a corn plant violates His domain.  He created these things, not us.  When the Bible says that each and every species was created to reproduce "after its kind", we see a boundary beyond which we should not go.  We are here on this planet as His stewards and caretakers.  For the Cornwall Alliance, a proponent of that stewardship, to support and cheerlead the practice of moving genetic material from one species to another violates the stated purpose of that organization.