Interview with Guy-Olivier Segond :

Our analysis and commentary


Aurélie Jaecklé, Romain Jordan, Luca Willig

(Jeunes Reporters pour l'Environnement) We did our analysis by themes (which gathered different questions).

 Guy-Olivier Segond explains us that a political problem is a problem that concerns the whole of citizens; being given that the genetic engineering is an extraordinary " progress ", it is the whole of citizens that is concerned : « For the first time in the humanity, the human being knows how to modify the genetic heritage how in the plant order, animal or at the man and somewhere it is a new power [Ö] ».
 « In itself, a scientific discovery is neutral, it becomes somethink good or bad according to the applications that we can do of it ». So the public authority, with the community, must say where this applications are going. We have to build a public and instutionnal debate ; itís a heavy job because « [these problems] are calling other reflexions, which are proceeding in another order [Ö] and the autorithy canít work with his traditionnal modus operandi ». Besides the opinion are moderated in each politic classification, on booth sides there are arguments for and against genetic engineering. For instance the left can condemn the economic interest form the multinationals firms, as it can say that the genetic egineering will give something to eat for all the mankind.

According to Mr. Segond, the consummers interrogations are calling in questions about progress. These fears are justified. Each time an inventionís appearse in humanís life, heís forced to adapt himself, and thereís invevitably a lot of fears : « There has allways been in humanityís history some modifications and adaptations of the man by comparison with his environment. »These fears donít yet have a foundation.
Since ever, we do different kinds of transformations of the plant genome, not « in laboratory, but by natural  mechanisms »(crossings of species, selection,Ö). Transforming transform the genome by genetic engineering is actually located on the progression line of. According to G.-O. Segond, the risk is everywhere in the society; genetic manipulations include as many risks that whatever else. The risk scares more when it is minimal that when it is very big.
 As for the information to consumers, Mr. Segond thinks that it is satisfactory: " They are not informed like a scientific is ", but as in all debate, they are informed enough to take position.
For our part, we think that information is sufficient, but that the risk is bigger than usually because manipulations of the génome could drag some irreversible consequences on our environment. Besides, they are more difficult to control than intervening progressive modification consequences in the nature, because these operated themselves more slowly; the nature evolves more " by herself  without the genetic engineering.»
 All countries are, at the moment in consultation in order to find laws that will establish parapets. In Switzerland, the legislation is being written to protect better the consumer. " It always starts with the Constitution, the federal laws, and reglements of application. Now, we are at the Constitution floor, it has been voted; then there is the law floor, it is under manufacture;  then after there is the regimentation of application floor (Ö) these slow processes also permit to see what is necessary to center ".
But laws are already in place; the genetically modified foods must be controled and must be labeled; medicines must be ratified by the IOCM (Intercantonale Organization for the control of the Medecine). Yet, these measures don't permit a 100% security. Even the initiative for genetic engineering would not have permitted it. We can of curse imagine abuses, but the risk is not negligible. In our society, a product put on the market, without having got the certification, will be remarked quickly.
Our point of view concords with Guy-Olivier Segond on the writing of laws. This process is optimal, because it functions by landings. On the other hand, he pretends that the labeling is reliable, whereas tests (B.A.T.S., A.B.E., etc.) prove that we can not detect GMOís. in food.
 Mr. Segond explained us that the Swiss laws don't slow down research, because they are for the meantime non-existent (cf. the chapter of laws, higher). The multinationals make a " screen " of countries merely to know what legislation encourages their implantation in such or such state.
 As for the aim of agrobusiness, it would not be only the gain. Societies discover the new techniques that are going to permit them to win money. But this recipe will also serve finance news researche that will serve to take care of other illnesses, to fight against other curses. But the politician notes that societies in question " don't have for only ideal the good of the humanity ".
 The agroalimentary societies put arguments forward in favor of the third-world. According to the counselor of state, it is about a " combination " of untrue and true advertisement. But it doesn't prove it completly; it explains solely that it is positive that genetic engineering helps populations to fight against starvations, but doesn't aboard the problem of chimerical advertisement.
 If these enterprises take care of developing countries, it is because the scientific research, the economic investment drags advantages for populations in starvation. The product of the agroalimentary industry is interests to exploit for countries of the third world.
 Our position is that, we are between us fairly opposite. On one hand we think that the only interest of agrobusiness is the gain, and that these societies do not worry of countries of the third world. But on the other hand, these societies have two aspects, we discern them as sadistic, but that they make the humanity advance; and that without these motors the economy would not be as strong. But in a general manner, these societies have by definition a lucrative aim. We are opposed to the Counselor of state, when he says that gains coming from certain investments are going to finance research for example for other illnesses, because we know (numbers prove it) that gains are profits in major parts.
 Mr. the Counselor of state Guy-Olivier Segond wants himself very prudent on the future of genetic engineering: " it is very difficult to predict the future [Ö] every time that I tried to make it, I was mistaken! . However, they do think that discussions will take place and that decisions will be taken (for the legislative system?). Finally, genetic engineering is «the discussion of our generation; maybe that in 20 years it will have been abandoned as the nuclear energy, because one finds something else, maybe that to the opposite it will be developed as the aviation because we will of found something else ".
 To our opinion, Guy-Olivier Segond proves us his reasoning by examples that are not scientific (right to vote of women, reunification of the two Germany,Ö), that demonstrates nothing. For us, research in genetic engineering is going to develop itself, because it represents an enormous progress; many societies and researchers are going to work to his applications, because these last will allow to improve many things in the medical and the agricultural.
 Now, it is clear that a strict enough legislation is going to get ready, in order to avoid overflows that could be a real danger for our future. Besides, the opposition pro contra genetic manipulations will prevent applications to make themselves too quickly.

 It was very interesting to discover other facets of genetic engineering through the analysis of Mr. Segond. We notice hearing him that he is a pure politician: he knows how to answer to questions, that maybe embarasse him, by long expositions that don't have any thing to do with the question, but that are enthralling and that make us forget the content of the question. We notice that he has rather a position in favor to genetic engineering, especially for the medical view point; as for the problem of plants, he notably knows less the question because he is the Health Department chief. In any case, we are delighted to confront his point of view to those of the other personalities interviewed.
 Finally, the Counselor of state spoke of a heedful legislation of consumers who doubt but whose fears are yet ungrounded, of agroalimentary societies still ready to invest event more in the researche for; there is a lot of politics. But in any case all seems to present itself well. Yet, Mr. Segond wants himself prudent when he abords the future of this technology. The machine is launched ; but where will it stop?

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