Waltham, Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts

Is the recombination of genes during natural domestication an act of genetic engineering? --Galinat, WC Has Fink (1999, Web Access Excellence, About Biotech [:http://www.accessexcellence.org/AB/WYW/fink/fink_3.html]) incorrectly redefined the use of the term recombination (or recombinant) in order to serve an artificial agenda? The term recombination was first used by Darwin to describe the power of the breeder during the domestication of plants and animals and by Mendel to describe genetic recombination during segregation of various traits in the Garden Pea.

According to Fink, recombination means genetically engineered and, since most food has undergone human-directed recombination of mutant genes during domestication, we would starve to death without Finkís genetic engineering. He states, "Of course they (the restaurants) will serve recombinant corn because it is the only corn we have."

I may add the only sexual-based life we have on Earth is recombinant life. In an appeal to those who have a fear reaction to the unknown breeding created or modified by genetic engineering, I quote from Franklin Roosevelt: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." To those who respond to logic, I ask questions. If it is natural evolution for flu viruses to pick up human genes that trigger sneezing for the sake of virus survival, isnít it also natural evolution for humans to use transgenic genes for the sake of human survival? Are we just another living thing or are we a unique life form capable of amazing grace, of cultural evolution and of travel beyond our planet of origin? Are we destined to understand and populate the Universe while we have a chance before we become extinct and our "Pale Blue Dot" non-existent?

Does a good goal justify bad means? The botanical terminology Fink uses is incorrect, such as his misuse of the term spike to refer to spikelet, each morphologically different and genetic-pathway different. He incorrectly plagiarizes (and allows recopyrighting without permission) my drawing showing the role of recombination in the domestication of teosinte leading to the origin of corn, already copyrighted by the University of Chicago Press in my article "Corn, Columbus and Culture," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 36:1-12. 1992. My drawing in Fig. 2 on page 5 of the article is described in correct botanical terminology.

Finkís confusion between spike and spikelet may be corrected in the dictionaries and glossaries of grasses as follows:

A spike is a head (ear) of grain (grass seed) bearing many spikelets sometimes in many rows (ranks) borne around the main axis (rachis) of a compound inflorescence. In the case of corn, the entire ear (spike), sometimes bearing 1000 kernels, may be bracted (enclosed) by husks borne below on the shank.

A spikelet is bracted by two glumes. The axis (rachilla) of the spikelet may carry several florets, with each bracted by a lemma on the outer side and a palea next to the rachilla. The spikelets may be paired as in both the separate male and female inflorescences of corn, or they may be single in just the female spikelets of teosinte (cornís wild ancestor).

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