[eDebate] Genetic Engineering--Clearing up one piece of rhetorical manipulation

David Glass gacggc
Tue Apr 10 12:04:41 CDT 2007

As perhaps one of the few genetic engineers on the listserv, I just
wanted to put my 2 cents in on this paper.

While one can undoubtedly find particular examples of genetic
manipulation that should arguably be banned (such as recloning the
1918 flu virus, which has been done -  or  a host of potential
bioweapon approches) someone who is knowledgeable in the field could
offer highly technical and defensible counterplans (and disads) which
would be difficult for someone who is not schooled in the field to

... I had a similar concern about a high school topic paper geared at
discussing regulations of the internet; a perusal of the field quickly
revealed the potential for getting bogged down in engineering details
- and it was not obvious how an aff (or a resolution) could be written
to avoid such a problem.

for example: say you want to ban cloning of the 1818 flu virus; I
could counterplan to clone it without certain pieces of the virulence
factor... say you catch up to that counterplan, I could counterplan to
just clone the envelope of the virus, and not the rest of it... so
that antibodies could be made vs possible bioweapons....     say you
want to ban genetic manipulation in general - for that there are
literally millions of exclusion counter-plans, since such manipulation
is used in most phases of modern pharmaceutical development, in the
US, Europe, India, Brazil, etc, and in almost all basic biological
research programs...    say you wanted to restrict research on a
particular organism, because you have cards that say this is being
used for bioweapons; the counterplan is to just work on defensive
projects, in case others are working on that organism...  say that you
write an aff to just work on defensive projects, but ban all other
study of that organism...  the counterplan would be to allow research
on genes X or Y that might help people to understand a particular
enzyme (protein that has some catalytic function in the organism), but
don't contribute to weaponization potential...

then there are even more technical issues; such as what cloning
vectors might be allowed, or what promoters to express particular
genes, so as to minimize problems such as weaponization

then there are even more technical approaches, such as banning a
particular sequence, since that sequence is part of a particularly
dangeous gene... to which one could counterplan to avoid only a
sub-sequence of the suggested ban, etc etc...

a rez that restricts the "research, development or use" of genetic
engineering does not obviously avoid these technical issues

the same issues are probably true of nanotech, since that is also a
widely used technology; though that isn't my field.

i'm sorry to add a negative voice against this topic; surely a lot of
work was put into the paper...  and obviously I'd be pleased to coach
this topic, since I know a lot about it... but it's not clear to me
that it can be made debatable for most programs...

just my opinion

David J. Glass  (M.D)
Edgemont, Harvard Debate
if you want my technical quals, you can look me up on www.pubmed.gov
(type in "Glass DJ[au]".... just the bit between the quotes)

On 4/9/07, scottelliott at grandecom.net <scottelliott at grandecom.net> wrote:
> I just want to clear up what I have found to be a misrepresentation of my topic
> paper.
> I have NEVER advocated for a topic that merely "regulates" genetic engineering
> and nanotechnology.
> The topic porposal I submitted clearly explains why a resolution should allow
> the affirmative to restrict the "research, development or use" of genetic
> engineering or nanotechnology through "legislation, regulation, or formal
> international agreement."
> I beleive some people have gotten the impression via different postings that I
> advocated the mere regulation of these areas of technology in my paper. This
> is, at best, a misreading of my paper. I clearly explain why mere regulation
> would not work.
> Why?
> Well, regualtions are the EXECUTIVE branch's means of enforcing a legislative
> directives. Given that there are few, if any, actual laws restricting genetic
> engineering or nanotechnology ( in fact the only legislation regarding NANO
> actually mandates an INCREASE in its development)regulations cannot be enacted
> in many cases. Also, mere regulation creates the problem of international
> solvency. Only by allowing affirmatives to choose one or more solvency
> options--legislation, regulation, or treaties, can they actually accomplish the
> scope of what solvency authors really advocate. (Wouldn't consistency with one's
> solvency advocate be great?)
> If the topic area were merely "regulation", I too would not choose to vote for
> it.
> If the topic area is chosen, but the topic committee mutates the resolutions to
> say, "regulation" only, I would not vote for that resolution.
> Genetics and nanotechnology is an amazing area of research and the debates among
> experts of how to limit, restrict, or regulate are extremely timely and on
> point. I find it sad to think that students are going to spend another year
> debating the middle-east morass ( Jeez, hasn't been solved in 10,000 years) and
> prolif rather than researching cutting edge issues--many of which are so cutting
> edge, their coaches don't even realize they are cutting edge.
> Scott
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