Re: Gene escape
>>What is the difference between "releasing" artificially modified genes into the environment, and releasing what you presumably would call "naturally" modified genes as has been done for thousands of years by selective breeding?
#1 Natural genetic drift is slow
#2 Natural borders such as seas, mountains, deserts provide degrees of isolation and therefore protection
#3 Most "naturally" modified genes are passed through vertical gene transfer in multicellular life (VRT)
#4 Most "artificially" modified genes are created through horizontal gene transfer in multicellular life (HRT)
Selective breeding is a VRT technique, but is far too slow to use practically in the emerging food markets, so these genes are spiced directly using HRT, this means that any harmful characteristics don't usually have time to be fully expressed or even identified, even in selective breeding of dogs, the selective breeding of one trait may drag in undesirable traits (such as hip dysplasia).
There are also, of course natural parallels, sickle cell anaemia is "selected in" because it offers a degree of malaria resistance, and this is in natural VRT.
HRT is a really good technique, lets say you have five species of corn, each has a useful trait expressed by having a specific gene, now, you could cross breed these five until one offspring eventually has all five traits, but that takes time and many generations (and of course they may not be cross fertile or drag unwanted issues in) - much better to pick up the five genes and splice them in, more accurate and less prone to error, and of course you are merely speeding up the process.
What is in the unknown, or at least there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns are where genes from otherwise incompatible species are spliced, these HRT hybrids are very rare in nature in comparison to VRT and have only been observed regularly in bacteria, single cell and to some extent viruses (there's potential for a virus to "inject" the genes).
If you have no concerns with GM because you think it's the same as selective breeding then you're wrong, plain and simple - it's far more complex than you think, if you have no concerns with GM because you think there's sufficient controls to protect the environment and that commercial success will come second to profit and time to market then you're a little naive.