Monday, January 02, 2006

Humans aren't good at oversight

We had lots of nifty rules to guide experimenting in gene alteration in crops. Too bad we didn't actually follow them ...
Lax Oversight Found in Tests of Gene-Altered Crops - New York Times

The Department of Agriculture has failed to regulate field trials of genetically engineered crops adequately, raising the risk of unintended environmental consequences, according to a stinging report issued by the department's own auditor.

The report, issued late last month by the department's Office of Inspector General, found that biotechnology regulators did not always notice violations of their own rules, did not inspect planting sites when they should have and did not assure that the genetically engineered crops were destroyed when the field trial was done...

No surprises here. I'd have been amazed if it were otherwise. Humans aren't good at following boring rules. It takes onerous discipline and great fear to ensure rules are followed at airports, nuclear plants, in the military and in hospitals. There simply wasn't enough terror involved to make sure gene experimenters followed the rules.

We should stop the experiments, determine what rules are needed, and use the lessons of nuclear power to set the rules, the monitoring, and the consequences. Alas, the mega-corps that do this work donate far too much money to various senators to face any such risks.

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