The importance of commenting

The ABCs of Biotech for Christians - Thirteenth in a series - L is for Lab

Yesterday was the last day you could comment on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website concerning their Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on Biotechnology Regulations. The commenting period began June 29, 2018.

In early 2017 the Agency had published a draft of Proposed Rules and invited public comment. That 32-page document addressed the need to regulate the import, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms (basically). Though the GE plants are for the purpose of introducing new or improved types of food, or affecting crop yield or resistance to disease, or meeting other goals, they could have detrimental effects so oversight is needed.

That document states:

To date, APHIS has issued more than 18,000 authorizations for the environmental release of GE organisms in multiple sites, primarily for research and development of improved crop varieties for agriculture. Additionally, APHIS has issued more than 12,000 authorizations for the importation of GE organisms, and nearly 12,000 authorizations for the interstate movement of GE organisms. APHIS has, to date, denied slightly more than 1,500 requests for permits or notifications, many of which were denied because APHIS ultimately decided the requests lacked sufficient information on which to base an Agency decision.

Biotech labs are busy places. Biotech is big business and hopeful investors watch its developments religiously. So do groups that are concerned about the environment and health safety.

After the APHIS document was posted in early 2017 and open for public comments, it was withdrawn in early November 2017 to go back to the drawing board. The commenters brought up too many reasons why the proposed rules needed work.

APHIS of the USDA is only one government agency concerned with what biotech labs are inventing. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety) and probably others are involved with oversight of biotech products and developments.

Whether approving the release of the first GE mosquito whose mission was to decimate its fellow mosquitoes, or permitting genetically modified livestock that produce human milk, or letting people try a new drug even though its risks are not fully understood, in the USA, biotech must answer to the regulators.

Laboratory safety is carefully prescribed and guarded but no one can prevent scientists from tinkering with the genomes of living organisms. The inventions of biotechnology are changing our definition and experience of life everyday. As Christians, what are the questions we need to ask relating to GE? What should our comments be? A comment can be a powerful lever in a democratic society.

Angel fish
Public Domain, Link

...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1


A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. It is also available here in PDF format. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.