Proponents of genetically engineered crops and animals point to COVID vaccines as a validation of GM crops and animals — but the Pfizer vaccine was chemically synthesized and is not in any sense “GM.”
With over 2 million dead, and countries as developed as the UK and the U.S. failing miserably to contain the virus, it’s understandable that many see vaccines as a silver bullet that can save the world from the illness and death, never mind the social isolation and economic collapse, that the current pandemic is leaving in its wake. It’s perhaps equally unsurprising that hard pressed promoters of genetically modified (GM) crops and animals are seeing this as an ideal marketing opportunity.
Charles hates GM. Will he spurn this vaccine? ran a headline in the Sunday Times to an article that declared, “Pfizer shows us genetic modification could protect humanity from COVID-19.” Its author Dominic Lawson, lambasts the heir to the UK throne for his well known opposition to GM crops, and claims that it is politics, rather than science, that can “obstruct or even deny society the full benefits of scientific breakthroughs. This is true of genetic modification more widely.”
Lawson’s thesis is somewhat undermined by his record as a rightwing idealogue who has long argued against the scientific consensus on climate change. There’s also the little matter of the Pfizer vaccine being chemically synthesized rather than genetically engineered. In other words, contrary to Lawson’s claim, the Pfizer vaccine is not in any sense “GM.”
But Lawson is far from the only GM spin doctor trying to use vaccines for COVID-19 as a validation of GM crops and animals. Lawson’s sometime ally Mark Lynas is at it too, albeit with a tad more accuracy as regards the Pfizer vaccine, using his perennial gimmick of smearing all GM crop critics as anti-science.
Everything about this is cockeyed. Temple implies that these vaccines were developed using technologies first developed for crops and that are now being applied for medical use. This is a joke. Only some of the vaccines (most obviously, the AstraZeneca one and the Russian vaccine) have been developed using any form of genetic engineering. And vaccine developers have not adopted “agbiotech” to develop their products but have simply used pre-existing medical technologies. Genetic technologies upon which some of the COVID-19 vaccines are based began to be developed in the late 1980s and have always been on a path that is completely independent of GM crops. In fact, if anything, advances in molecular genetics and genetic technologies for medical research and clinical use have been exploited by GM crop developers and not the other way round.