Interesting

Resection to culture

needlessly and senselessly

I think everyone now accepts that we've sequenced the Human genome, and that there aren't enough genes to cover everything we know is genetic.

This suggests that some characteristics are created by the interaction of genes, rather than by genes specialized for that characteristic. This will be true of plants, as well as humans.

In turn, we don't have the computing power to predict the probable effect of altering any given gene, because instead of having a linear problem, you now have an exponential one. One gene modified out of a sequence of N will have a potential 27^N possible results. (27 is the number of known proteins - "natural" and artificial.)

That is a VERY large problem space, and unless N is extremely small, all the computing power on Earth wouldn't be enough to determine the interactions and side-effects that may result.

Now, where SR food simply replaces one "known safe" pattern with another "known safe" pattern, then the problem space is much smaller. You now only need to examine those genes that vary between the variant you're extracting from, and the variant you're inserting into. All other interactions are "known safe", even if you don't know specifically what they are.

Of course, in reality, you don't see SR food companies invest in supercomputers of the scale required to perform even these much simpler calculations. The companies grow the food, and see what happens.

In Britain, repeated re-tellings of John Wyndham's classic "Day of the Triffids" has never inspired the population to be confident about this kind of hack-it-and-see approach to genetic material. Hey, sure, they're all for it on most technology, because most technology is unlikely to turn nasty.

BSE is certainly still a major concern in the UK, given that the incubation period is unknown. Up to 40% of Britain's 60 million inhabitants are known to be vulnerable. If the incubation period turns out to be 40+ years - certainly a possibility - then the death toll will remain low for another 20 years, before sky-rocketting.

Even if we assume that the "worst is over", we're talking several hundred totally senseless, totally avoidable deaths, for the sole purpose of making a few people richer. If those same people had gunned those hundred down, they'd be lynched or (worse) forced to watch re-runs of Beadle's About.

In other words, we're prepared to accept a hundred deaths, to enrich a bunch of already stinking rich businessmen, but those same hundred deaths FOR ANY OTHER CAUSE would be unacceptable.

No. If it's unacceptable, then it's unacceptable. We can't move the boundaries around, just to placate a few.

If SR foods demonstrably kill even a single person, where non-SR foods would not have done so, where that death was a direct, linear effect of someone cutting costs below the safe minimum, and where that effect was entirely predictable, then I believe the company would be inescapably guilty of manslaughter, even if they could never be convicted for it.

If it gets anywhere near 100, the company's directors should rot in some forgotten cell for endangering lives needlessly and senselessly.

I know my views won't be too popular on this, as they demand accountability for deliberate inaction that harms, which is counter to the concept of a deregulated free enterprise. Well, too bloody bad. Totally deregulated enterprises are as dangerous and unpredictable as a totally deregulated Government. You've GOT to have some kind of Enterprise-level Constitution. The British have finally recognised this truth, and are working on a prototype. The US needs to do the same. And these mini-Constitutions MUST provide resposibility for criminal negligence in SR'ed products.