You can prepare one critical review of published literature during the semester. Thepurpose of the review is to give you experience in reading, evaluating, and incorporatingtechnical literature into your knowledge base. Although you must prepare a summary ofthe material read, emphasis must be placed on your evaluation of the literature:1. How the information aligns with what you already know.2. How the new information impacts your outlook.3. The significance of the information to your knowledge base.Also include in the review why you selected the particular article. Identify the articlereviewed using a consistent citation format.If you choose not to use an article that Dr. J has sent you; then the article must have beenwritten between 2010-present and approved by Dr. J.Your review should be 2-3 pages of 12-pt double-spaced text with 1″-margins. You mustsubmit a hardcopy of the review by the due date indicated below. As this assignmentgives you an opportunity to generate some extra credit, late submissions will not beaccepted.
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Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center
Agricultural Biotechnology Presents Health Risks
David Ehrenfeld is a professor of biology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New
Jersey. He is the author of several books on biology and conservation, including Genes,
Populations, and Species.
Source Database: At Issue: Food Safety
Table of Contents: Further Readings | Source Citation
Agricultural biotechnology has undesirable health effects for people and animals. For
example, cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) suffer side
effects ranging from feeding disorders to mastitis, an udder infection that can lead to
abnormal milk. Because these cows need more protein, they are often fed ground-up
animals, which can lead to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or “mad cow
disease.” As a result of rBGH and these feeding methods, humans are at greater risk for
breast and gastro-intestinal cancers and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is analogous to
BSE. The only beneficiaries of biotechnology are the chemical and seed companies who
sell these products to farmers.
The modern history of agriculture has two faces. The first, a happy face, is turned toward
non-farmers. It speaks brightly of technological miracles, such as the “Green Revolution”
and, more recently, genetic engineering, that have resulted in the increased production of
food for the world’s hungry. The second face is turned toward the few remaining farmers
who have survived these miracles. It is downcast and silent, like a mourner at a funeral.
The real purpose of biotechnology
The Green Revolution is an early instance of the co-opting of human needs by the
techno-economic system. The latest manifestation of corporate agriculture is genetic
engineering. Excluding military spending on fabulously expensive, dysfunctional
weapons systems, there is no more dramatic case of people having their needs
appropriated for the sake of profit at any cost. Like high-input agriculture, genetic
engineering is often justified as a humane technology, one that feeds more people with
better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole
point of genetic engineering is to increase the sales of chemicals and bio-engineered
products to dependent farmers.
Social problems aside, this new agricultural biotechnology is on much shakier scientific
ground than the Green Revolution ever was. Genetic engineering is based on the
premise that we can take a gene from species A, where it does some desirable thing, and
move it into species B, where it will continue to do that same desirable thing. Most
genetic engineers know that this is not always true, but the biotech industry as a whole
acts as if it were.
First, genes are not like tiny machines. The expression of their output can change when
they are put in a new genetic and cellular environment. Second, genes usually have
multiple effects. Undesirable effects that are suppressed in species A may be expressed
when the gene is moved to species B. And third, many of the most important, genetically
regulated traits that agricultural researchers deal with are controlled by multiple genes,
perhaps on different chromosomes, and these are very resistant to manipulation by
Because of these scientific limitations, agricultural biotechnology has been largely
confined to applications that are basically simple-minded despite their technical
complexity. Even here we find problems. The production of herbicide-resistant crop
seeds is one example. Green Revolution crops tend to be on the wimpish side when it
comes to competing with weeds–hence the heavy use of herbicides in recent decades.
But many of the weeds are relatives of the crops, so the herbicides that kill the weeds can
kill the crops too, given bad luck with weather and the timing of spraying. Enter the
seed/chemical companies with a clever, profitable, unscrupulous idea. Why not introduce
the gene for resistance to our own brand of herbicide into our own crop seeds, and then
sell the patented seeds and patented herbicide as a package?
Never mind that this encourages farmers to apply recklessly large amounts of weedkiller,
and that many herbicides have been associated with human sickness, including
lymphoma. Nor that the genes for herbicide resistance can move naturally from the crops
to the related weeds via pollen transfer, rendering the herbicide ineffective in a few years.
What matters, as an agricultural biotechnologist once remarked to me, is earning enough
profit to keep the company happy.
A related agricultural biotechnology is the transfer of bacterial or plant genes that
produce a natural insecticide directly into crops such as corn and cotton. An example is
Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which has been widely used as an external dust or spray to
kill harmful beetles and moths. In this traditional use, Bt breaks down into harmless
components in a day or two, and the surviving pests do not get a chance to evolve
resistance to it. But with Bt now produced continuously inside genetically engineered
crops, which are planted over hundreds of thousands of acres, the emergence of genetic
resistance among the pests becomes almost a certainty.
Monsanto, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of agricultural chemicals, has
patented cottonseed containing genes for Bt. Advertised as being effective against
bollworms without the use of additional insecticides, 1,800,000 acres in five southern
states of the USA were planted with this transgenic seed in 1996, at a cost to farmers of
not only the seed itself but an additional $32-per-acre “technology fee” paid to Monsanto.
Heavy bollworm infestation occurred in spite of the special seed, forcing farmers to spray
expensive insecticides anyway. Those farmers who wanted to use seeds from the
surviving crop to replace the damaged crop found that Monsanto’s licensing agreement,
like most others in the industry, permitted them only one planting.
Troubles with Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed have not been confined to cotton.
In May 1997, Monsanto Canada and its licensee, Limagrain Canada Seeds, recalled
60,000 bags of “Roundup-ready” canola seeds because they mistakenly contained a gene
that had not been tested by the government for human consumption. These seeds,
engineered to resist Monsanto’s most profitable product, the herbicide Roundup, were
enough to plant more than 600,000 acres. Two farmers had already planted the seeds
when Monsanto discovered its mistake.
Dangerous genetic tampering
There is another shaky scientific premise of agricultural biotechnology. This concerns the
transfer of animal or plant genes from the parent species into micro-organisms, so that the
valuable products of these genes can then be produced in large commercial batches. The
assumption here is that these transgenic products, when administered back to the parent
species in large doses, will simply increase whatever desirable effect they normally have.
Again, this is simplistic thinking that totally ignores the great complexity of living
organisms and the consequences of tampering with them.
In the United States, one of the most widely deployed instances of this sort of
biotechnology is the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is
produced by placing slightly modified cow genes into fermentation tanks containing
bacteria, then injected into lactating cows to make them yield more milk. This is done
despite our nationwide milk glut and despite the fact that the use of rBGH will probably
accelerate the demise of the small dairy farm, since only large farms are able to take on
the extra debt for the more expensive feeds, the high-tech feed-management systems, and
the added veterinary care that go along with its use.
The side effects of rBGH on cows are also serious. Recombinant BGH-related problems-as stated on the package insert by its manufacturer, Monsanto–include bloat, diarrhoea,
diseases of the knees and feet, feeding disorders, fevers, reduced blood haemoglobin
levels, cystic ovaries, uterine pathology, reduced pregnancy rates, smaller calves, and
mastitis–an udder infection that can result, according to the insert, in “visibly abnormal
milk”. Treatment of mastitis can lead to the presence of antibiotics in milk, probably
accelerating the spread of antibiotic resistance among bacteria that cause human disease.
Milk from rBGH-treated cows may also contain insulin growth factor, IGF-1, which has
been implicated in human breast and gastro-intestinal cancers.
Another potential problem is an indirect side-effect of the special nutritional requirements
of rBGH-treated cows. Because these cows require more protein, their feed is
supplemented with ground-up animals, a practice that has been associated with bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease”. The recent British
epidemic of BSE appears to have been associated with an increased incidence of the
disease’s human analogue, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. There seems little reason to
increase the risk of this terrible disease for the sake of a biotechnology that we don’t need.
If cows stay off hormones and concentrate on eating grass, all of us will be much better
Meanwhile the biotechnology juggernaut rolls on, converting humanity’s collective
agricultural heritage from an enduring, farmer-controlled lifestyle to an energydependent, corporate “process”. The ultimate co-optation is the patenting of life. The
Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty in 1980 paved the way for
corporations to obtain industrial, or “utility”, patents on living organisms, from bacteria
to human cells. These patents operate like the patents on mechanical inventions, granting
the patent-holder a more sweeping and longer-lasting control than had been conferred by
the older forms of plant patents.
Somehow, in the chaos of technological change, we have lost the distinction between a
person and a corporation, inexplicably valuing profit at any cost over basic human needs.
In doing so we have forsaken our farmers, the spiritual descendants of those early
Hebrew and Greek farmers and pastoralists who first gave us our understanding of social
justice, democracy, and the existence of a power greater than our own. No amount of lipservice to the goal of feeding the world’s hungry or to the glory of a new technology, and
no amount of transient increases in the world’s grain production, can hide this terrible
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Source Citation: “Agricultural Biotechnology Presents Health Risks” by David
Ehrenfeld. Food Safety . Laura K. Egendorf, Ed. At Issue Series. Greenhaven Press,
2000. Reprinted from David Ehrenfeld, “A Cruel Agriculture,” Resurgence,
January/February 1998, with permission from both the author and Resurgence, Ford
House, Hartland, Bideford, Devon EX39 6EE. Originally published as, “A Technopox
upon the Land,” in Harper’s Magazine, October 1997, pp. 13-17.
Reproduced in Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale
(c) 2004 by Thomson Gale.
Thomson Gale is a Thomson Corporation Company.
Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center
Alcohol Advertising Does Not Promote Underage
Morris E. Chafetz
About the author: Morris E. Chafetz is the founding director of the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, president of the Health Education Foundation in
Washington D.C., and the author of The Tyranny of Experts: Blowing the Whistle on the
Cult of Expertise.
Source Database: Current Controversies: Alcoholism
Table of Contents: Further Readings | Source Citation
As a psychiatrist, scientist, and former architect of the national effort to prevent alcohol
problems, it was my job to seek out the best science, both biomedical and behavioral.
Today, a heated debate swirls around the issue of restricting alcohol advertising on TV.
Assorted opponents who argue that advertising contributes to alcohol-related problems-especially among young people–are way off base.
Where Is the Evidence?
When I consider the pros and cons of alcohol advertising and its alleged effect on
problem drinking, I find myself asking the crucial question: Where in the name of science
is there proof that alcohol advertising is bad for society? Shouldn’t there be some science
to say it’s so?
In 1996, I was asked to write a review for the New England Journal of Medicine on how
advertising affects alcohol use. I did not find any studies that credibly connect advertising
to increases in alcohol use (or abuse) or to young persons taking up drinking. The
prevalence of reckless misinterpretation and misapplication of science allows advocacy
groups and the media to stretch research findings to suit their preconceived positions.
For example, one study showed that adolescents who drank alcohol could remember
alcohol ads better than adolescents who did not drink. But what does that prove? If
researchers found that green-colored automobiles had more accidents than cars of other
colors, would that prove the color green causes accidents?
Another study, supported by the Center on Alcohol Advertising, purportedly showed that
people who knew about the federal guidelines on moderate drinking drank less than
people who didn’t know. Poppycock! The many variables that affect behavior and define
moderate drinking are scientifically uncontrollable. Anyone with any scientific
knowledge knows the study is nonsense.
The Zealotry of Protecting Youth
But the issue of whether alcohol advertising should be restricted goes beyond what I have
noted. Nowhere is this emotional issue more conspicuous than in the zealotry of
protecting youth. A recent newspaper editorial reflects the hypocrisy at work here. The
editorial advised banning TV alcohol advertising to protect young people. Yet I know of
no newspaper publisher ready to forgo alcohol-ad revenue. Members of the print media
rationalize this hypocrisy by calling television the medium that reaches most minors. The
adage that it’s easy to give advice one needn’t take applies here.
Deaf to advice and blind to facts, anti-alcohol advocacy groups continue their mission to
protect young people from the dissoluteness of the adult world. And they amass statistics
on all kinds of problems to increase their power. During our adolescent years we tested
me world by taking risks, and we made it. So will the present generation of teenagers.
But there endures a sturdy, albeit insecure, band of believers dedicated to the idyllic
dream of the innocent, sheltered child.
The results of a national survey of high-school students belie this perfect-child fantasy. In
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