Add as bookmark

Editorial Issue 32

by Sandra Goodman PhD(more info)

listed in editorial, originally published in issue 32 - September 1998

If you were at high risk of getting breast cancer what would you do? Suppose that you were in your early 30s, and a DNA test showed that you had inherited a gene with an 80% probability of getting breast cancer. Even worse, suppose that close female relatives – your mother or sister – had previously died of breast cancer. This is actually a horrifying yet very real scenario for some women today.

Knowing that there is a genetic and environmental component in the development of breast cancer, would you carry on with a healthy lifestyle to help prevent cancer? Would you hope that in the future, genetic technology will develop a tool to prevent breast cancer or cause apoptosis (suicide) of breast cancer cells? Or, having watched your mother or sister die an agonising death, would you choose to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy and have your healthy breasts surgically removed to prevent breast cancer in the future? These are issues confronting us as genetic tests are developed, as argued in Doris Grant's The Bogey of Genetic Determination (see page 16).

The dilemma is that genetic test results predict the possibility of having a disease, perhaps far in the future. It could be Alzheimer's when you are 65, or colon cancer in twenty years' time. Nobody knows for certain if you will develop that disease, because there are so many variables involved. If you find out that you are at risk, as we probably all are for certain illnesses, what are you to do? There is no cure, no genetic fix at the moment. All that you can do, apart from prophylactically committing suicide, is live your life, hoping that you won't develop the disease and dreading that you will.

The insurance companies are extremely interested in our genetic pedigree, just as they were in our test results for AIDs/HIV. In the 1980s, people who had just been tested for HIV, were blacklisted for insurance and mortgages. Hardly an incentive to get tested!

I spent 10 years as a genetic engineering scientist in the 1970s and 1980s, striving to identify nitrogen fixing genes in soybeans and Rhizobium, with the goal one day of being able to transfer these into cereals which could then fix nitrogen without added fertiliser. This research was intended to help the poorer, hungry, developing nations.

I quit being a genetic engineering scientist because I felt that the solution to hunger and famine was more a political and economic endeavour than a technological one, and that if I did discover important genes, the process would be owned, patented and controlled by a Corporation, and the people for whom the seeds were intended would not be able to afford it. It wasn't the technology at fault, but the way in which biotechnology can be controlled and manipulated to deprive people of what rightfully belongs to them.

Plant and animal breeding has gone on for many centuries, and has been utilised in intensive agriculture for many decades with conventional plant and animal breeding techniques. It is these "conventional" intensive practices, not genetic biotechnology, which have given rise to the food poisoning and BSE epidemics and the development of antibiotic resistance of Superbugs, as Simon Martin discusses on page 20.

I cringe at some of the emotive and misleading terms such as "genetic pollution" being bandied about regarding genetic modification. Genetic technologies have huge potential to transform, and improve many aspects of our lives. We need to focus our scrutiny upon those companies who own and controls these techniques, rather than rejecting biotechnology itself, which is after all, only a tool.

Many lives may be saved in the future due to pioneering work done in the area of genetic biotechnology. As consumers we should campaign vigorously to preserve our right to choose food which is not genetically modified, but we should not reject valuable research being conducted to develop foods and treatments which may prevent cancer and other diseases.


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Sandra Goodman PhD

Sandra Goodman PhD, Co-founder and Editor of Positive Health, trained as a Molecular Biology scientist in Agricultural Biotechnology in Canada and the US, focusing upon health issues since the 1980s in the UK. Author of 4 books, including Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art, Vitamin C – The Master Nutrient, Germanium: The Health and Life Enhancer and numerous articles, Dr Goodman was the lead author of the Consensus Document Nutritional and LifeStyle Guidelines for People with Cancer and compiled the Cancer and Nutrition Database for the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in 1993. Dr Goodman is passionate about making available to all people, particularly those with cancer, clinical expertise in Nutrition and Complementary Therapies. Dr Goodman was recently featured as Doctor of the Fortnight in ThinkWellness360.

Dr Goodman and long-term partner Mike Howell seek individuals with vision, resources, and organization to continue and expand the Positive Health PH Online legacy beyond the first 30 years, with facilities for training, to fund alternative cancer research, and promote holistic organizations internationally. Read about Dr Goodman and purchase Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art.  She may be contacted privately for Research, Lectures and Editorial services via:   and

  • Super Patch Wellbeing

    Super Patches – a most revolutionary advance in wellbeing strategies in the history of medicine

  • Liposomal Nutrients

    Optimum system for nutrient delivery to cells - fully bioavailable vitamins absorbed and metabolised

  • Flower essences online

    Fine quality flower essences international ranges to help promote vitality and emotional well-being.

  • nutrition and cancer

    by Sandra Goodman PhD The latest scientific research regarding Nutrition and Cancer. Full details at

  • mycology research MRL

    MRL markets mushroom products food grade US & Netherlands GMP standards. Health Professional Videos

top of the page