Producer Commentary

PROGRAM: Genetics & Applied Ecology

AUTHOR: Barrett Golding

October 2001:

Washington, DC, the Belly of the Bureaucracy. Here, the Regulators, the Regulated, and Those-Who-Want-More-Regulations occupy adjacent suites.

My first interviewee works for a government agency. She will gladly talk to me-as long as I don't identify which agency. She wrote a great article for Science magazine, "The Ecological Risks and Benefits of Genetically Engineered Plants." It "upset a lot of people here," she says. She won't say who or why. Her job at the agency is to assess risks and benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). So, she was just doing her job. Maybe that's what upset her government co-workers.

At the Union of Concerned Scientists, I chat with another (former) worker for the same agency; a PhD in ecology, whose job now is nailing down scientific underpinnings for UCS positions on biotechnology (mostly against). I ask if she's against the specific GMOs now on the market, or against the entire path of genetically engineering plants.

She says UCS believes in supporting sustainable agriculture, not necessarily in opposing biotechnology but that we pour so many mega-dollars into the latter that barely a trickle is left for the former. After a long pause, she clearly states that the following is not a UCS belief, but her own: "I'm a feminist. The patriarchal society has always exploited women and exploited nature. Genetic engineering is the ultimate exploitation of nature, that may change the fundamental genetic makeup of organisms."

Her anti-patriarchal proclamations seem, at once, absolutely true and the ravings of a lunatic. They are by far the most significant tape I gather-the one thing that most provokes thought; the one thing the public should definitely hear; the one thing I doubt will make it to my public radio show. Someone will probably cut it. That someone will probably be me.