Accidental Bioweapon

Klebsiella planticola is a micro-organism found on the roots of every plant species on earth. It helps them absorb nutrients. A company in Oregon decided to genetically modify the organism to produce alcohol from plant waste for biofuel, then sell the remaining sludge as fertiliser. By happenstance, Michael Holmes, a student needing a project for his PhD thesis, decided to test the new lifeform for toxicity and discovered that it killed any plant it touched by producing twenty times more alcohol on its roots than it could withstand. What looked like such a great green idea on paper turned out to be a bioweapon that could have killed all plant life on earth.

The problem with GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), is they are like Pandora’s box. Once we release them into the environment, there is no way to take them back. We have to be cautious. We have to think about what will happen when those modified organisms escape the field. You have no right to contaminate other people’s strains. We have to think about what will happen when the new genes jump to other species.

When you start shuffling genes between species, e.g. adding a peanut gene, or a shrimp gene, you could inadvertently create new allergies. People need to know what unexpected things are in their food to avoid allergic reactions. Monsanto fights such labeling.

~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)