Environmentalists Block Scientific Progress - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Environmentalists Block Scientific Progress

The biggest barriers to scientific progress often come from environmentalists, which is ironic, because they often claim to carry the banner of good science.

On Thursday, Mr. Obama’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released a report which cautiously approved research focused on creating so-called “synthetic life.” (The “synthetic” bacterium– known as Mycoplasma laboratorium— was actually just a normal bacterium, the natural DNA of which had been replaced by laboratory-made DNA. While impressive, this hardly constitutes creating life from scratch.)

Predictably, environmentalists were outraged. What exactly they were outraged about, however, still remains unclear. Back in May, when this breakthrough was first announced, a member of a Canadian environmental organization called ETC Group, said: “We know that lab-created life-forms can escape and become biological weapons, and that their use threatens existing natural biodiversity.” Statements such as this essentially prove that many environmental groups are ignorant of basic biology and the current state of biotechnology.

First, if a scientist wanted to create a biological weapon, he most certainly does not need to make one from scratch in the laboratory. Mother Nature herself has been conducting a very long evolutionary experiment, and she has produced plague, Ebola, anthrax, smallpox, malaria, swine flu, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and a whole host of other highly fatal infections. Even though evil creatures could be dreamed up in the laboratory, Mother Nature will almost certainly invent something far more creative and destructive.

Second, environmentalists clearly misunderstand the current state of biotechnology. It is standard practice in biological laboratories to insert or delete genes. Your correspondent has himself created dozens of strains of genetically-modified bacteria using these common methods. The technology to alter bacteria (and hence, the ability to modify existing microbes into super-killers in the laboratory) has existed for a couple of decades. The “synthetic” bacterium does not represent any new terrorist threat and is simply the extension of an existing, commonplace technology.

Finally, the accusation that the technology will threaten natural biodiversity is incredibly premature and likely exaggerated. It is true that any genetically-modified organisms should be tested for both human and ecological safety. However, the environmentalists have already concluded that the technology is unsafe, even before the technology has been put to practical use. They have already declared the defendant “guilty,” but the trial has yet to start.

Until environmentalists can prove that they at least paid attention in high school biology class, it will be difficult to take their concerns seriously.

Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience.  He holds a Ph.D. in microbiology.

Sign Up to receive Our Latest Updates! Register

Notice to Readers: The American Spectator and Spectator World are marks used by independent publishing companies that are not affiliated in any way. If you are looking for The Spectator World please click on the following link: https://spectatorworld.com/.

Be a Free Market Loving Patriot. Subscribe Today!

Stop the Inflation Grinch From Stealing Christmas!

That’s right, the Grinch (Joe Biden) is coming for your pocketbooks this Christmas season with record inflation. Just to recap, here is a list of items that have gone up during his reign. 

Gas: 40%+
Beef: 20%+
Used Cars: 20%+
Lodging: 17%
Eggs: 13%

What hasn’t increased? The cost to subscribe to The American Spectator! For a limited time, we are offering our popular yearly subscription for only $49.99. Lock in the lowest price of the year by subscribing today

The Grinch Stole Christmas Sale
Commander-in-chief of Christmas inflation