Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

14 January 2000

Table of Contents

Nestle update from Hong Kong
Britons Seek Tighter Controls on GM Waste
Public fears bio-tech advances
Poll about Genetically Modified Foods: Are You Afraid of Eating Them?
Tesco to ban produce from GM trial sites
Poll: U.S. farmers plan decline in biotech crops
Wild salmon face battle for survival:
GM pollen gaps slated
Public perception key to future of GMOs
Huge rise in demand for organic produce.
Human Gerome Science,Inc. 7,400 pending patents
Cloning With Not-So-Fresh Cells
The Nature of the Machine
Cuban GE in medicin
Can A Virus Infect Plants And Animals?
First Successful Gene Transfer in a Crustacean
Genome Map Near Completion
The DNA-sequencing Bubble
Le Monde diplomatique -January 2000 INDEX

Top NextFront Page

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 15:11:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Nestle update from Hong Kong

South China Morning Post, Tuesday, January 4, 2000

Greenpeace targets chocolate bar Crunch time: an employee tries to clear Nestle products from the shelves to stop Greenpeace members, including activist Lo Sze-ping (centre), sticking labels on them. Picture by Antony Dickson

ALEX LO Greenpeace activists yesterday raided a North Point Wellcome store demanding the supermarket chain stop selling a popular chocolate bar they say contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

About six campaigners entered the store in City Garden and tried to stick labels on Nestle's Crunch Milk Chocolate with Crisped Rice. Staff removed all the chocolate bars and asked them to leave.

In a laboratory test last month, Greenpeace says it found the chocolate contained modified beans produced in the United States.

"Nestle has been highly secretive about its policy in Hong Kong despite the fact that its sister company in the United Kingdom was declared GM-free in April last year," Greenpeace campaigner Lo Sze-ping said.

"The public should retaliate by boycotting Nestle products."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 15:11:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Britons Seek Tighter Controls on GM Waste

Sunday January 9, 2000

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly nine out of 10 Britons want tighter controls on waste disposal from factories that use genetically modified micro-organisms (GMMs), according to a poll released on Monday.

Commissioned by research group GeneWatch UK, which monitors developments in genetic engineering, the figures showed more than 80 percent of Britons thought information on the use of GMMs and waste should be made freely available to the public.

The poll came just two months after research by GeneWatch revealed that factories and laboratories using the micro-organisms for research and drug development released living GMMs into rivers and the atmosphere as waste.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 15:11:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Public fears bio-tech advances

Calgary Herald January 8, 2000, P A1, http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20000109/sc/britain_waste_2.html

Canadians are spooked by the brave new world of science that has spawned genetically modified food and could soon lead to lab-grown organs for transplant, according to a new poll conducted for Southam newspapers. The distrust of what medical technology can offer is so deep that even the prospect of prolonging life by an extra 100 years has people wary. Fully 68 per cent of those surveyed said that, if it were medically possible, they would opt not to live another 100 years. The survey by Toronto-based Pollara suggests that governments, scientists and health-care researchers have a huge sales job to make before technological advances can be put into action.

'There's a sense that there are no limits to science in this area and while said Pollara vice- president Don Guy. In particular, the countrywide poll found Canadians are wary of genetically modified food. Three-quarters of those surveyed think that it will be commonplace within the next decade for stores to be selling genetically engineered groceries. But 62 per cent oppose this happening, a clear indication of public anxiety about an issue that has become a political timebomb in the past few months.

Public interest groups have urged the federal government to conduct more research into genetically modified foods instead of relying on data supplied by the industry. As well, they have said the government should introduce a system of mandatory labelling that informs consumers which products are genetically modified. Last fall, 200 scientists from Health Canada's Health Protection Branch signed a petition that, among other things, raised alarm at the acute shortage of scientists for evaluations and risk assessments of genetically modified foods.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 15:11:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Poll about Genetically Modified Foods: Are You Afraid of Eating Them?

http://www.pathfinder.com/time/daily/poll/0,2637,foodpoll200.html

The following poll in Time.com asks this question:

More and more food is being produced from plants and animals that have been genetically modified. Are you concerned about consuming meals made from such ingredients?

To cast your vote, go to:


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 15:11:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Tesco to ban produce from GM trial sites

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent, London Times, 7 January 2000 (p.9)

THE Tesco supermarket chain said yesterday that it was blacklisting crops grown in fields that had been host to genetically modified crops. The move will put pressure on farmers to reject GM trials.

Tesco said that its customers were concerned that genetic material from the modified crops could persist in the soil, be taken up by bacteria and contaminate conventional crops grown later. ...

Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, told the Oxford Farming Confer- ence: "We expect every super- market and food retailer in the UK will now have to follow Tesco's lead. Any farmer con- sidering holding a GM trial now faces the prospect of never being able to sell pro- duce from GM-contaminated land to the largest food retailer in Britain."

Patrick Holden. of the Soil Association, which backs organic agriculture, said that the announcement should end any doubts in farmers' minds that GM crops were not worth the trouble. 'This is excellent news. There is now an ever- growing list of questions about growing GM crops."

Chartered surveyors gave warning that farms where tri- als take place could see a fall in land values. Mark Grif- fiths, European rural policy adviser to the Royal institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: "Farmers' advisers could well say that their farm will be worth less if they grow GM crops."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 13:47:36 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Poll: U.S. farmers plan decline in biotech crops

By Randy Fabi, Reuters - January 13, 2000

HOUSTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - U.S. farmers plan to cut back sharply their plantings of genetically modified soybeans, corn and cotton this year, partly in response to a European backlash against bioengineered foods, a Reuters straw poll said on Thursday.

Reuters surveyed 400 U.S. farmers this week at the annual meeting of the nation's largest farm organisation, the American Farm Bureau Federation. ...

Participants in the Reuters poll said they planned reductions of 15 percent in sowings of RoundUp Ready soybeans, 22 percent for RoundUp Ready corn, 24 percent for Bt corn and 26 percent for Bt cotton.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 13:47:36 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Wild salmon face battle for survival

by Tom Spears, The Ottawa Citizen, Sunday, January 9, 2000 , PAGE A1

Introduction of genes from farmed fish threatens Atlantic species

Accidental tinkering with the genes in prized Atlantic salmon is such a threat that whole populations of the fish face likely extinction, government and private scientists say.

In the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy, so few wild fish are breeding is teetering on the brink of says Bill Taylor, the president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

It's not that the wild fish are fished out. Rather the problem is competition from domesticated salmon raised in pens, which escape and breed with the wild fish, weakening the gene pool.

And meanwhile, research continues into ways of giving the farmed salmon genes from other fish species – in the hope of creating fish more suited to farming.

Genes to grow faster. Genes to resist freezing. Genes brought from European salmon. Genes that just sort of adapted in the unnatural world of a fish farm's cages. Mr. Taylor warns. And he's alarmed that these transgenic fish – so far restricted to the lab – will some day push their wild cousins off the map. says Sue Scott, vice-president of the federation, which represents salmon-lovers in central and eastern Canada and the United States. They are experimenting with the chinook genes (in Atlantic salmon) for The name of the game is productivity, and that means making salmon bigger. We're trying to prevent the weakening of protocols that could control this problem. We But transgenic fish aren't the only genetic worrying point. Ordinary breeding – the same thing farmers have done with chickens and pigs and cattle for thousands of years – can also cause a gradual but disturbing shift in the genetic makeup of Atlantic salmon.

Fish farms breed salmon in huge pens submerged in the cold ocean water, each with thousands of fish. Ms. They're breeding fat, lazy fish that grow quickly. They don't have the sleek shape and muscle development of the wild fish, and then they escape and breed with wild fish. Two or three times each year a storm will flip a cage over, and all 10,000 or more fish in it escape. Seals can also chew holes in cages to get at the salmon inside.

Two U.S. agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, concluded this fall that Atlantic salmon in Maine are edging towards extinction.

Blame genetic interference by the aquaculture industry for part of it, they say. The use of European/North American hybrids by the industry appears to be they say in a grim report. This refers not to crossing different species of salmon, but to mixing strains of Atlantic salmon from Europe and North America, which look the same but have adapted to different living conditions. Aquaculture practices continue to pose a serious threat to the genetic the report says.

And when you mess up the salmon's genes, they say, the resulting farmed have the potential to disrupt, displace and genetically their wild cousins.

Salmon are funny that way. Each wild fish belongs to a specific population, hatched and raised in a particular stream. Fish from the Miramichi River don't spawn in the Restigouche, period. And the scientists say that throwing fish from Iceland or Scotland into the mix will disturb normal breeding patterns.

Wild Atlantic salmon are already breeding in numbers far below the level needed for a stable population, says Mr.

Taylor. Wild salmon are so specialized that they spawn and swim up or downstream at different times in different rivers, adapting to local river conditions over millennia.

The trouble with bad genes is that fish lose the ability to spawn and survive. They may not know where to spawn, or may try to swim down to the sea (as young fish) or upstream (as spawning adults) at the wrong time of year. One of the joys of the Atlantic says Jeremy Read, president of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, a British conservation group. Yet farm salmon are bred in Scotland to have standard characteristics: Tolerance to crowded cages and early maturity, for example.

And there, too, the farm fish breed with wild ones, spreading their domestic genes.

After one mass escape of farm fish in Scotland, trackers managed to fit radio transmitter tags to some of the escapees and followed them upstream as they spawned.

They also detected in some of the fry (newly hatched fish) a type of synthetic protein that is put in feed pellets in fish farms, but doesn't exist in natural food. This proved some of the fry had farm fish as parents.

At Memorial University in Newfoundland, professor Garth Fletcher has been transferring genes from one fish to another since 1982.

In the old days he was extracting the bit of DNA that lets flounder create its own chemical antifreeze solution, and using a needle to inject that same gene into the eggs of Atlantic salmon.

Flounder resist cold temperatures much better than salmon do. In the wild, that's not a problem for salmon: They migrate far out to sea and find water that's warm enough for them to survive.

But domestic salmon in sea cages can't migrate anywhere, and the cold can hurt them. Ice crystals can actually form in their blood, killing them.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 13:47:36 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

GM pollen gaps slated

Farmers Weekly (UK) 14 January 1999

RECOMMENDED isolation distances intended to prevent crosspollination between genetically modified trial crops and conventional varieties are wholly inadequate, claims a new report.

The independent study, undertaken by the National Pollen Research Unit for the Soil Association warns that pollen from some GM crops can carry far further than previously thought.

Drawing on all previous publications on the subject in what the Soil Association says is the most comprehensive study to date, the report says oilseed rape, sugar beet

and maize bring the highest risk of cross-pollination with other varieties of crop or wild relatives.

The authors refer to studies which report that OSR pollen can travel up to 4km, and recorded distribution of sugar beet and maize pollen 800m from source.

Government-approved guidelines drawn up by GM industry body the Supply Chain Initiative on Genetically Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC} allow modified rape to be grown 200m from organic crops of the same species, and 50 m from conventional varieties.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 10 Jan 2000 03:23:27 U
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk

Products made with the help of genetic engineering face an uphill battle gaining acceptance worldwide, and efforts must focus on changing public perceptions of these products, speakers told growers and other members of the US cotton community at Thursday's biotechnology session in Beltwide Cotton Conference.

Public perception key to future of GMOs

By Odyll Santos, Bridge News, January 10, 2000, San Antonio, Texas

For nearly all genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the future is linked to a change in consumer views around the world. If people's attitudes toward these crops do not turn positive, companies may cut back on their efforts to develop these products further.

"If there is no global acceptance, it will be difficult for the technology to be viable," said David Hegwood, who served as an agricultural attache in Rome and as the majority counsel for the Senate agriculture committee.

"If the technology companies do not make money, they won't be putting money into research."

With consumer attitudes in mind, the focus of biotechnology firms and supporters should be convincing the public that genetically altered products have significant advantages and benefits. Simply insisting that they are safe will not be enough to persuade the European public and people in other regions of the world to use those products.

"I don't think hitting the Europeans on the head is going to do it," said Mike Boehlje, professor of agribusiness at Purdue University in Indiana. "If we have true consumer benefits, we have a better chance."

Genetically modified crops and products have been used in the US and in other countries in the Americas and Asia. In Europe, however, there are fears that products made from GMO crops could have negative health effects.

Speakers pointed out that the rejection of GMO products by the European public is tied to a belief that their government is unable to handle major food and health safety concerns.

Europeans have "no confidence in the government to protect them," said J. B. Penn, a senior vice president at Sparks Companies Inc., a private research firm based in Memphis, Tenn.

Penn cited the BSE and dioxin scares and problems with tainted blood, situations that European authorities were unable to handle efficiently and successfully.

He also said anti-American sentiments may be at the heart of some of the opposition to GMOs, as are protectionism and a resistance to globalization.

The backlash in Europe easily can be transferred to the US, where most recently, various environmental and consumer groups staged a protest in Seattle last year, nearly derailing the World Trade Organization negotiations.

So far, the furor over genetically modified products has not yet led US farmers to turn away from crops developed with the help of biotechnology. Farmers, who have been looking for ways to cut production costs and produce better crops, have been planting increasing amounts of GMO variet ies in the past few years.

In US cotton areas, 50% to 60% of acres have been planted with Bt cotton, which contains a gene resistant to 2 major pests, the pink bollworm and the tobacco budworm, or with Roundup Ready varieties, which are resistant to the herbicide Roundup.

According to information presented by the Washington-based National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy, GMO cotton resulted in 173 million pounds more in crop production and $178 million in increased revenue. These cotton varieties have cut use of chemical controls, with 2 million pounds less pesticide use and 10.7 million fewer pesticide treatments.

Cotton has escaped much of the controversy over GMOs since it is a fiber rather than a food product. But those who monitor the fight over GMOs pointed out that cottonseed meal is used in some food products, and its sales eventually could be impacted by food safety fears.

Hegwood noted that while some US consumer groups have criticized GMOs, mainstream environmental organizations in the country have not.

But the European reaction to GMO products and fears that the same could happen in the US have affected biotechnology companies themselves.

Boehlje said recent mergers and spin-offs of biotechnology companies indicate these firms are concerned about their future.

"We can already see what the markets have told us about biotech investments," he said, noting that companies are trying to "walk away from the taintedness" of the biotec hnology sector.

Companies want to be able to move forward with the products that have public acceptance and will be much easier to market.

In Europe, opponents of GMO products have pushed for labeling that would inform consumers and allow them the option of buying non-GMO goods.

For GMO supporters, the concern is that labeling is "the equivalent of putting a skull and crossbones" on the products, Hegwood said. End

Send comments to Internet address: grain@bridge.com


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 10 Jan 2000 10:56:03 U
From: RBBAX@aol.com
From: Duncan@dcross1.freeserve.co.uk (duncan cross)
Forwarded by rbbax@aol.com (Ron Baxter)

Huge rise in demand for organic produce.

By John Vidal, Guardian Weekly, 17.1.99 p11

The record growth of the organic food market over the past year has left supermarkets struggling to keep pace with demand, leading to fears that standards could be diluted.

Supermarkets have doubled their sales of organic products - topping the £1million-a-week mark at Sainsbury's - as pressure from health-conscious customers beats the hefty price premium on most 'naturally produced' goods. The surge in demand was revealed last weekend at the National Conference on Organic Food & Farming organised by the Soil Association, whose strict specifications appear on more than 800 supermarket lines.

But supermarkets can barely keep up with demand, and some rogue traders & butchers are known to be exploiting the rapidly growing market by selling produce grown with pesticides or antibiotics as 'organic' Meanwhile large-scale agribusinesses in Eastern Europe & Latin America are able to legally exploit lower EU standards to export conventionally grown food as organic.

"The rate of growth would astonish even the most bullish forecasters," Dino Adriano, chief executive of Sainsbury's, told the meeting at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. "What were once niche products are now part of the supermarkets' main product range."

Growth is expected to continue for at least five years, with the sector expanding at an estimated 2.5 per cent annually overall.

The Soil Association, which certifies & sets standards for organic farming in Britain, said there was a growing problem of policing. "There can be a 59% difference in price. It's very tempting for people to offer conventionally grown food as organic," said Mark Houghton Brown of the Soil Association.

Supermarkets are having to import most of their organic food because not enough is grown in Britain. "It is possible for big farmers in Bellorussia or Hungary to get EU certification for a small piece of land and then pass off as organic other food grown on their farms," said Thomas Cierpka, a director of the International Federation of Organic Farmers.

The EU is under pressure from agribusiness & supermarkets to dilute standards, says Patrick Holden of the Soil Association. Because it can take several years to convert a farm to organic farming, Brussels allows farms converting to sell their produce after one year instead of up to five in Britain.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 10 Jan 2000 14:54:48 U
From: Colleen Robison crobison@mnsinc.com

Robin M. Henig's commentary yesterday said: "At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, more than 10,000 provisional patent applications for various segments of the human genome are awaiting action."

Check out paragraph nine. C.

================

The Intro... www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000-01/10/022l-011000-idx.html

....<snip>

On the following pages are five technology companies with which investors fell in love in 1999.

....<snip>

In the stories that follow, The Post's business staff looks deeper into this love affair, peeling back the stock market hype to find some of the fundamentals behind five of Washington's most highly valued companies, the reasons for their rise and their prospects for 2000.

Human Gerome Science,Inc. 7,400 pending patents

Human Genome's Tests Could Tell

By Justin Gillis, Washington Post, Monday, January 10, 2000; Page F17

A textbook example of a company that is difficult, if not impossible, to value is Human Genome Sciences Inc. of Rockville, a pioneer in using large-scale analysis of human genes in medical research.

The company is widely perceived as being one of the leaders in its field, known as "genomics." It has been in business since 1992, but Human Genome is still in a start-up phase and loses millions every year. It is likely to continue doing so for some time.

That hasn't stopped investors from bidding the stock up to lofty heights over the past year. Human Genome closed at an all-time record of $159.56 1/4 a share on Dec. 30 and traded even higher during the day, amid a broad run-up in biotechnology shares. It dropped along with other technology shares early last week but has been edging back up since, and is trading at triple the level of six months ago. The company announced a 2-for-1 stock split effective Jan. 31.

What is the stock really worth? It's not an easy question, but one answer may lie in the number of patent applications the company has filed since it began operations. Human Genome has patents pending on some 7,400 genes -- about 5 percent of all human genes – discovered by the company, giving it one of the largest "patent estates" among biotechnology companies.

The company has tried to zero in on the most important genes, notably those that help tell cells when to grow or stop growing.

The work has led to promising animal tests, and three compounds have moved into human testing. One substance discovered by Human Genome seems to promote rapid healing of skin wounds, intestinal inflammation and other ailments.

Another seems to promote the growth of new blood vessels, a potentially revolutionary treatment for heart disease or certain complications of diabetes.

It's hard to believe there will be nothing useful in all the research, but it's certainly possible that the drugs Human Genome is developing won't live up to expectations. At the other extreme, a fair percentage of Human Genome's patents could turn into blockbuster, billion-dollar drugs, a development that would make today's stock price look cheap.

Small investors who hold the stock tend to acknowledge that they don't have any real idea what it's worth. But they do have a gut instinct that the company will be important in the future of medicine. Gregory Freerksen is a lawyer in Chicago who favors "conservative" investments like the John Deere tractor company. His biggest play on the so-called New Economy is a small stake in Human Genome.

"Owning a part of this company makes me feel like an explorer," he said in an e-mail, referring to Human Genome by its ticker symbol, HGSI. "The idea that HGSI could patent whole gene sequences by simply discovering them is amazing. It struck me that it was like Christopher Columbus heading out to the new world and sticking the Spanish flag into whatever island or continent he found."

For 2000, the key developments to watch revolve around human tests of the company's drugs. Some results should be available by midyear, particularly on the wound-healing drug. If those results are positive they would likely give the stock another big boost.

Conversely, Human Genome is at such a critical stage that any bad news about these earliest drugs would likely be taken by the markets as a big negative. Start-up biotechnology companies have seen their stocks collapse on the basis of a single testing setback.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 10 Jan 2000 18:51:25 U
From: Colleen Robison crobison@mnsinc.com

Cloning With Not-So-Fresh Cells

Compiled from reports by Rob Stein, Washington Post Monday, January 10, 2000; Page A09
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000-01/10/130l-011000-idx.html

Ever since researchers in Scotland electrified the world by cloning Dolly the sheep, scientists have been trying to make cloning a more efficient, useful process. The hope is that cloning can enable researchers to develop better animal models to study human diseases and allow livestock breeders to engineer genetically identical farm animals with desired traits.

Now, researchers in Connecticut and Japan have cloned six calves using cells taken from the ear of a prize bull in Japan that were kept alive in the laboratory for three months before they were used for cloning.

The advance, which will be described in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could allow scientists to breed animals with specific genetic traits because they could use cells that they had kept in the laboratory long enough to add desired genes. Previously, cloning has used fresh cells.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Mario R. Capecchi of the University of Utah School of Medicine said that while the main applications of the work are for animal breeding, it could make human cloning more feasible.

"Personally, I would not be particularly concerned if a very wealthy, eccentric individual desired to produce a clone of him or herself," Capecchi wrote. "If the intent were to reproduce an exact copy, the wealthy cloner would very likely be disappointed with the results. We have lived with genetic clones, identical twins, for as long as the human race existed."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 11 Jan 2000 03:41:36 U
From: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

Just imagine - the person described here graduated at Oregon State University, in Corvallis Oregon. Her mind must have been contaminated by the aliens down the road!!

Cheers
MichaelP

===================

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999, http://www.corporatepredators.org

© Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

The Nature of the Machine

By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Imagine this: you study your entire life to reach the pinnacle of your profession. First, you secure an undergraduate degree in biology from Oregon State University. Then a PhD in developmental biology at Yale University. Then on to Indiana University, where you teach and run a lab on the cutting edge of plant research.

And you have tenure. But you wake up one day and realize that by doing the scientific research, you are creating the road map for corporations to come in and apply the science for profit, thus destroying the nature that attracted you to the study of biology in the first place.

By this time you have become well known in your field. You are "respected." In 1990, your lab gets the cover story in The Plant Cell, the leading journal of the field. But exactly one month later, you decide to write an editorial for the same publication announcing that such scientific research is unethical and that you will no longer conduct such research, thus effectively ending your scientific career.

That, in a nutshell, is the career trajectory of Martha Crouch, a Professor of Biology at Indiana University in Bloomington.

As a leading researcher in the field of plant molecular biology, Crouch got in on the ground floor, when corporations were just starting to become interested in biotechnology. In fact, Crouch consulted with a few of the them in the late 1980s, including the giant British multinational Unilever.

Then, in 1989, Crouch picked up a copy of the New Scientist magazine and read how Unilever was using her tissue culture research to harvest palm trees in the tropics.

Palm trees are grown for the oil in their seeds. The seeds are used for snack foods and industrial lubricants. Unilever wanted to expand its palm oil operations, but the trees were too variable in size to be industrialized.

So, Unilever tried to make genetically uniform oil palm trees through tissue culture.

"Some of the work that we did on rapeseed tissue culture helped them perfect their techniques so they could make identical copies of the plant and create large plantations of genetically identical palms," Crouch told us recently.

Unilever started buying out small farmers in places like Malaysia. Crouch learned that the resulting oil palm boom was responsible for the cutting down of tropical rainforests and the displacement of indigenous peoples. Also, processing factories for palm oil caused severe water pollution.

After reading the article, she asked herself: How could the research we did in our lab be applied in this way that damaged nature?

That question, combined with her day-to-day feeling of disconnection from nature, stopped her in her tracks. She began to re-examine what she was doing with her life. And that re- examination led to her editorial in Plant Cell announcing that she was quitting research because she thought it could not be done ethically.

The editorial drew scores of responses, many of them from scientists who, like Crouch, felt uneasy about the new emerging biotechnology companies and how they were hijacking basic plant cell research.

But many others were angry with Crouch. One of her colleagues confronted Crouch and told her she was "more dangerous than Hitler," apparently on the grounds that her views might limit government funding for researchers like him, and that might slow the progress of medical or agricultural discovery. "Therefore millions of people would die that wouldn't have to die if science was progressing at a faster rate," she says. "And I would be responsible for this carnage. "

But Crouch had come to a different world view.

She came to believe, for example, that the Green Revolution – the use of mechanized and chemical agriculture – had resulted in an incredible increase in hunger around the world. Farmers worldwide were better off growing food organically and with appropriate technology – as they had done for thousands of years.

"You are basically treating the agricultural environment as if it was a factory where you are making televisions or VCRs," Crouch said. "If nature is not a machine, if organisms are not machines, then to treat them as if they are, is going to create big problems."

Some of her students have quit the study of biology to pursue sustainable agriculture – one is a logger in Kentucky who uses draft horses – but most are working for the biotech industry – one is at Monsanto and is responsible for helping to commercialize genetically engineered corn and soybeans.

Crouch herself will quit her tenured position at Indiana University at the end of this semester. After deciding in 1990 to not continue her research, the department prohibited her from teaching science students. For the last ten years, she has been teaching non-science students about the food system.

Crouch taught her students that we would be better off if we prevent the food system from being further industrialized. And she urges everyone to reconnect with nature.

She's taking the lead, leaving the high-tech university setting and heading back to the local farmers market – inspecting mushrooms for the City of Bloomington.

"Local people all over the world know from experience which mushrooms are poisonous and which are not," she says. "We've lost that ability."

_______________________________________________

Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. Please feel free to forward the column to friends or repost the column on other lists. If you would like to post the column on a web site or publish it in print format, we ask that you first contact us russell@essential.org or rob@essential.org).

Focus on the Corporation is distributed to individuals on the listserve corp-focus@lists.essential.org. To subscribe to corp-focus, send an e-mail message to corp-focus-request@lists.essential.org with the text: Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. subscribe

Focus on the Corporation columns are posted at http://www.corporatepredators.org.

Postings on corp-focus are limited to the columns. If you would like to comment on the columns, send a message to russell@essential.org or rob@essential.org.

------------------------------------
For MAI-not (un)subscription information, posting guidelines and links to other MAI sites please see http://mai.flora.org


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 11 Jan 2000 04:06:38 U
From: wytze geno@zap.a2000.nl

Cuban GE in medicin

Summary of a documentary on GE in medicin in Cuba as seen on Dutch TV, 10-1-2000.

It appears that Cuban biotech is now performing clinical trials with a vaccin (EGF vaccin) against lungcancer. The nature of the vaccin was not discussed, but it is a product of Cuban biotechnology research. Trials also are taking place in a hospital in London, Ontario where a dr. Mark Vincent leads the research. The vaccin possibly slows down the growth of the tumor.

Cuban biotechnology is called one of the best in the world. Reason for this is the openness and collaboration between scientists, not hindered by commercial interests. Scientists earn a very low wage, something like 1 dollar a day, 30 times less than a taxidriver. Still, some scientists prefer the situation in Cuba over other countries, since the chance for succes are greater, due to the non-competiveness and openness.

wytze


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 11 Jan 2000 21:31:48 U
From: "j.e. cummins" jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Can A Virus Infect Plants And Animals?

By Prof. Joe Cummins, January 11, 2000, e-mail: jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Earlier I distributed an article on nuclear genes in plants and a second on transposons and endogenous virus in plant chromosomes. There is compelling evidence that transposons and endogenous virus make up a significant part of the nuclear genome. In spite of that body of evidence these features are generally ignored by authorities evaluating the risk of genetic engineering even though virus components are employed in essentially all of the commercial genetically modified (GM) crops.

Some authorities go so far as to trumpet their view that the endogenous virus do not exist in plants. Such authorities dogmatically maintain the superstition that virus do not move between plants and animals. The following discussion will look at some virus that moved from plants to animals and some pararetrovirus and endogenous pararetrovirus that are very similar in plants and animals.

The circoviruses are small single stranded DNA viruses, viruses of this type cause serious infections of the digestive systems of humans and other animals , particularly pigs and chickens, along with infections in clover, banana and coconut. There is evidence that vertebrates acquired circovirus from exposure to plant sap (Gibbs and Weiller 1999).

The similarity between plant and animal circoviruses was earlier described by Meehan et al (1997) and Bassami et al (1998). Presently, further work will be needed to determine when the shift from animals to plants occurred ( the virus group is quite recently discovered) and whether or not the virus may slowy migrate between plants and animals in contemporary time. The plant and animal circoviruses are related to the plant geminiviruses (Niagro et al 1998), the geminivirus have been used in genetic engineering but have not been used commercially.

The soybean genome contains several hundred copies of a large endogenous retrovirus designated SIRE (the genetic unit is related to fruit fly retrotransposons called copia and yeast Ty1 (Laten et al 1998 and Bi and Laten 1996). SIRE is a retrovirus related the retrotransposons of fruit flies and their food, yeast.

As indicated in the earlier article plant pararetrovirus are both integrated into plant chromosomes at high copy number (Jakowitsch et al 1999) and virus infection may result from endogenous pararetrovirus in plants (Ndowora et al 1999 and Harper et al 1999). In animals including human the foamy viruses are integrated into chromosomes each cycle of replication but resemble pararetroviruses and infect as double strand DNA(Ennsle et al 1999 and Yu et al 1999).

Foamy virus infection is associated with human thyroid infection leading to Graves disease (Lee et al 1998). The foamy virus and plant endogenous pararetrovirus are very similar and possibly related. Switching of such viruses between plants and mammals took place , but whether or not they still take place should be determined. The use of pararetrovirus sequences from Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) in essentially all of the commercial GM crops has not been subject to risk analysis other than very superficially.

It has been agreed, by government agencies such as USDA, that there is no risk from CaMV because the virus has been eaten by people consuming infected crucifers. That view simply ignores the replication of cycle of CaMV. The virus is replicated from nuclear minichromosomes that make masses of RNA transcripts which are transported to the cell cytoplasm . In the cytoplasm the RNA is reverse transcribed and replicated to make infectious DNA, which is then coated with protein and released as infectious virus. Recombination does take place during reverse transcription but most exchange occurs between identical copies of the virus.

In contrast, virus components inserted into the chromosome are subject to exchanges involving both endogenous virus and retrotransposons. The promoter TATA box acts as a hot spot for genetic recombination, in particular the CaMV 35S promoter acts as a hotspot for genetic recombination in the absence of viral components Kohli et al 1999 (in other words plant nuclear enzymes).

Adding the CaMV promoter to a genome laden with pararetrovirus retrotransposons and/or endogenous pararetrovirus may be the genetic fuse that lights a virus explosion. It is more reasonable to assume that a virus explosion in plants can extend to animals from fruit flies to people than it is to assume that the bureaucratic authorities in USDA just won=92t allow that to happen.

References

  1. Gibs,M., and Weiler, G. Evidence that a plant virus switched hosts to infect a vertebrate and then recombined with a vertebrate infecting virus Proc. Natnl. Acad. Sci. USA 96,8022-7,1999

  2. Bssami,M.,Berryman,D.,Wilcox,G., and Raidal S. Psittacine beak and feather disease virus nucleotide sequence analysis and its relationship to porcine circovirus, plant circoviruses and chicken anaemia virus Virology 249,453-9,1998

  3. Bi,Y and Laten,H. Sequence analysis of a cDNA containing the gag and prot regions of the soybean reteovirus like element Plant. Mol. Biol. 30,1315-9,1996

  4. Essle,J.,Moebes,A.,Heinkelein,M.,Panhusen,M.,Mauer,B.,Schweitzer,M., and Neumann-Haeflin,D. An active foamy virus integrase is required for virus replication J. Gen Virol 80,1445-52,1999

  5. Niagro,F.,Forshoegfel,A.,Lawther,R.,Kamalanathan,L.,Ritchie,B.,Latimer,K., and Luckert,P. Beak nd feather disease virus and porcine circovirus genomes intermediates between the geminivirus and plant circovirus Arch Virol 143,1723-44,1998

  6. Harper,G.,Osuji,J.,Heslop-Harrison,J and Hull,R. Integration of banana streak badnavirus into the Musa genome:molecular and cytogenetic evidence Virology 255,207-13,1999

  7. Jakowitsch,J.,Mette,M.,van der Winden,J.,Matzke,M. and Matzke,A. Integrated pararetroviral sequences define a unique class of dispersed repetitive DNA in plants Proc. Natnl. Acad. Sci. USA 13241-6,1999

  8. Kohli,A.,Griffiths,S.,Palacios,N.,Twyman,R.,Vain,P., Laurie,D. and Christou,P. Molecular characterization of transforming plasmid rearrangements in transgenic rice reveals a recombination hot spot in the CaMV 35S promoter and confirms the predominance of microhomology mediated recombination Plant.J. 17,591-601,1999

  9. Laten,H.,Majundar,A. and Gaucher,E. SIRE-1 a copia/Ty1-like retroelement from soybean encodes a retoviral envelope-like protein Proc. Natnl.Acad Sci USA 95,6897-902,1998

  10. Lee,H.,Kim,S.,Kang,M.,Kim,W.,and Cho.B.Prevalence of foamy virus related sequences in the Korean population J.Biomed SCI.5,267-73,1998

  11. Ndowora,T.,Dahal.G.,LaFleur,D.,Harper,G.,Hull.R.,Olszwewski,N. and Lockhart,B. Evidence that badnavirus in Musa can originate from integrated pararetroviral sequencesVirology 255,214-20,1999

  12. Niagro,F.,Forsthoefel,A.,Lawther,R.,Kamalananthan,L.,Ritchie,B., Latmer,K. and Lukert,P. Beak and feather virus and porcine circ0virus genomes intermediate between the geminiviruses and plant circovirusesArch Virol 143,1723-44,1998

  13. Meehan,B.,Creelan,J.,McNulty,M. and Todd,D. Sequence of porcine circovirus DNA affinities with plant circovirus J.GenVirol. 78,221-7,1997

  14. Yu,S.,Sullivan,M., and Linial,M. Evidence that the human foamy virus genome is DNA JVirol. 73,1565-72,1999

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 12 Jan 2000 13:32:59 U
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

First Successful Gene Transfer in a Crustacean

Full Story: http://www.enn.com/features/2000/01/01122000/crustaceans_8767.asp

New science breeds solutions and critics

Thomas Chen of the University of Connecticut has completed the first successful gene transfer in a crustacean. He says genetic engineering could someday breed lobsters better equipped to ward off pollution and disease. Critics of biotechnology call the crayfish experiment "evolutional roulette."

* Interactive Poll:
Do the benefits of genetic engineering outweigh its costs?
Read the feature story and then take today's poll.

---------------------------------------
Robt Mann
Mulgoon Professor emeritus of Environmental Studies, U of Auckland consultant stirrer & motorcyclist
P O Box 28878, Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 12 Jan 2000 14:14:41 U
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

Genome Map Near Completion

(Technology 8:55 a.m. PST)

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,33534,00.html?tw=wn20000110

Celera Genomics says it is ahead of public efforts to detail human DNA and has identified 97 percent of all genes. The company expects to finish the sequencing later this year.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 12 Jan 2000 14:14:41 U
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

This promo is on a free daily bulletin from Wired Digital Inc devoted primarily to promoting the komputink trade. It prompts me to a jotting of the genre developed by Prof Joe.

The DNA-sequencing Bubble

By Robt Mann, consultant ecologist
P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand

The enormous venture-capital bubble of DNA sequencing is based on junk science and is grossly overhyped using crude caricatures of biochemistry & genetics.

The recent fad of exaggerating the biological & social significance of genes has been ably criticised by Dorothy Nelkin in her book 'The DNA Mystique', and earlier by Jonathan King one of the pioneer critics of GE and still a prof at MIT. If we really want to improve health & welfare, we know many good methods without gambling on GE; and the outer limit of credible potential benefits from GE is very modest compared with the hype.

To the extent that genes are important, the idea of improving on them by engineering has been overblown.

And the sequencing corporations generally underplay the little-understood importance of the minor bases within DNA. It is not only journalists such as Ms Henig who oversimplify by stating The Big Four Rule OK; your actual 'genome' enthusiast typically tries to patent rows of 3-letter codons in just the 4-letter alphabet of the journos. But the truth is that other bases occur in DNA. Some of them are methylated derivatives of the Big 4, notably Me-C and Me-G; but there are others, and this fact has been known 4 decades. What is actually sequenced is almost always copy molecules made in systems which make not true copies but drongo polymers on the slogan The Big Four Rule OK. Thus the sequences for which patents are sought will be, generally, false.

Even if they were all true sequences, their usefulness is far more limited than the corporations make out. Their general model is: find a mutated sequence correlated with an illness, or failing that a pseudo-illness (e.g. AAT deficiency), and then work up an image of correcting that dud gene either by gene therapy (of which few if any actual examples exist) or by other biochemical intervention. There is more wrong than right with this model.

Along with other GE, this approach is futuristic rather than realistic. The gene-jockeys, intoxicated with power over life, pretend that they are about to deliver something useful, in order to get funding for their expts from venture-capitalists who don't understand.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: 12 Jan 2000 17:00:43 U
From: MichaelP papadop@peak.org

Le Monde diplomatique -January 2000 INDEX

Le Monde diplomatique January 2000

http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/en/2000/01

This looks like a very important volume - especially the items - "Defining the World's Public Property". There are far too many items for me to post - only some of them are available generally. I'm grouping (and posting) those I think particularly interesting - I'd be glad to forward others of the indexed pieces at individual request.

Cheers
MichaelP

Index

  1. LEADER: A new dawn by IGNACIO RAMONET
  2. MIDDLE EAST HOLDS ITS BREATH: Israel and Syria on the brink of peace by ALAIN GRESH
  3. FROM EMBARGO TO EXILE: Road to Calvary for Iraq's Christians by our special correspondents HANA JABER and KHALIL KAMOUK
  4. IN EGYPT AND MEXICO, A NEW TYPE OF CONFLICT: Zapatistas and Islamists fight the odds by DAN TSCHIRGI
  5. THIRD WAY, BRITISH-STYLE: Blair's march to market modernity by KEITH DIXON
  6. RUSSIA IN TRANSITION: Lost pride of the working class by KARINE CLEMENT
  7. SEATTLE TURNING POINT: Fixing or nixing the WTO by SUSAN GEORGE
  8. SEATTLE TURNING POINT: The day the South cut up rough Translated by Barry Smerin
  9. AFRICA'S FORGOTTEN TRIBE: Who would be a mother? by ELISABETH LEQUERET
  10. Ill-used, overworked, undervalued by COLETTE BERTHOUD
  11. No child, no role by GERALDINE ZAMANSKY
  12. DEFINING THE WORLD'S PUBLIC PROPERTY: A global public good
  13. Apartheid of pharmacology by MARTINE BULARD
  14. Who owns knowledge? by PHILIPPE QUEAU
  15. AIDS: Safeguarding the future?
  16. Plants above ground
  17. On the Web
  18. TYRANNY OF THE 35-HOUR WEEK: A production-line dictatorship by GILLES BALBASTRE and STEPHANE BINHAS
  19. BACK PAGE: Should outsiders have the vote? by MONIQUE CHEMILLIER-GENDREAU

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.