What, the Devil, Is He Doing?

Speaker: Categories: Jan 08, 2005


[1hr, 19min, 52sec / 1hr, 19min, 40sec]


Some SDAF members have observed that, though this chapter is devoted to discussing issues and options confronting SDAs and other Christians, oftentimes a given subject was not - is not - known to be an issue until AFTER hearing it, in person or on tape, at the SDAF meeting. This might well be said for a presentation about the work of a plant geneticist! See how you feel about this topic as you read the following five paragraphs offered by Dr. Clive Holland, a recognized plant geneticist.

"Approximately 30 percent of medications available today, or under review for commercial use, are derived from some form of biotechnology. Hardly a whimper is heard in the press or from perennial protesters of these products being unacceptable. However, similar technologies in the realm of foodstuffs invoke strong protests. This is perhaps best described by an agitated Frenchman who claimed,'Medicines I canchooseto take, but food is necessary for life and no one must interfere with my food.'"

"Is this fear and concern well founded and justified? Are genetically modified plants a threat to life and health and to be avoided at all cost? A survey on the topic of genetical modification, taken of voting age adults in four major US cities in 2003, showed fully 86% could not describe what these two words meant. Of these, 42 percent claimed to never want to eat any food made with this process, while the balance expressed a willingness to eat food from genetically modified plants, if it was considered safe."

"Genetics is complicated and often difficult to fathom. Most understand common aspects of male-pattern baldness and little Johnny's freckles coming down the genetic tree. Words made common by notorious criminal trials, such as chromosomes, genes, and DNA, are the key to this understanding. The puzzle is how they work and what can be changed when mankind dabbles in the natural world?"

"Should foods developed through biotechnology be labeled to let the consumer know what is being consumed? What of the ethics of taking what has been created and changing the function and appearance of plants? This is a whole new vista that creates concern and caution on the safety of modern foodstuffs."

"The January 8 presentation will be an overview on what really is natural in the plant world. It will look at the mechanics of mutations and biotechnology along with Christian ethics of meddling with creation. A discussion on food labeling will be included which is of importance to those pursuing Kosher or vegetarian diets. It the source of your food is important, then this is a discussion not to miss. If you are opposed to biotechnology, this session is also a must. Myths and misinformation on biotechnology abound and this meeting will most likely put it all in perspective."

How does that sound for a different focus for a Forum meeting? Please note, reading from a different Bible commentary won't be much help in preparing for this meeting. Reading a couple of food labels might. Perhaps keeping in mind the foods you ingested on this Forum Sabbath might also prove interesting, maybe alarming!


Clive Holland was born into a farming family in New Zealand where early experiences of cattle breeding piqued his interest in genetics. After owning his own dairy farm, he took a hiatus in 1973 to provide advice and guidance to an 1800-cow dairy operated by Fulton College in the Fiji Islands. This stimulated an interest for more education which began at Andrews University and extended to Michigan State University where he obtained a Ph.D. in plant physiology with specialization in international agriculture and global food supplies.

The mid-80s was the awakening period of biotechnology and he was recruited from academia by a commercial plant genetics company. Holland has served on a USDA advisory team to mainland China. Today he chairs an advisory committee providing direction and oversight to the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin. In his current position with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, he is global manager for wheat and sorghum genetics and serves as a biotechnology spokesperson, making presentations to government bodies in Europe, SE Asia, and numerous groups throughout North America. In 2003, Andrews University awarded him an honorary doctor of science degree for his contribution to science.

Clive is married to the former Carmen Hayward, also from New Zealand and they have an adult daughter gainfully occupied as a physical therapist.

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