"Don't you know that DNA is just DNA is DNA?" (16/4/2004)

Thanks to Peter Melchett for forwarding this. Among the many supposedly scientifically superior arguments advanced as to why there's no especial reason to be concerned about tampering with an organism's DNA goes like this: "Don't you know that DNA is just DNA is DNA?". The implication is, "What does it matter if we randomly insert a bit extra from some other organism? After all, the foreign DNA inserted is made up of just the same basic constituents as any other DNA." The following exposes this for the specious nonsense it is.

Dear All,

I thought this might be of interest - maybe unsurprisingly, the Sunday Times did not choose to publish it!  George Smith agreed to it being circulated.

Best wishes,
The Editor,       
14 March 2004
The Sunday Times,
1, Pennington Street,
London E98 1ST

Dear Sir,

Is GM Food Good for You?

The argument advanced by Charles Pasternak for the safety of GM food is false [News Review, Sunday 14th March, page 2, article entitled "GM food could be good for you"].  Yes, the DNA of all living organisms is made up of just four nucleosides, and yes, virtually all proteins are made up from just 20 amino acids.  But this does not imply that everything containing these basic building blocks is without risk to human beings.  The same units, arranged in different ways, are contained in the smallpox virus, bubonic plague and influenza, deadly nightshade and other poisonous plants, creatures such as poisonous jellyfish, scorpions, deadly snakes, sharks - and people who talk absolute nonsense.

Yours sincerely,
G.D.W. Smith (Professor), FRS.
Professor of Materials, Oxford University,
Department of Materials, Parks Road, Oxford

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