Date: 15 Aug 2000 16:59:32 +0100
From Nutri-News (a Bowditch Group Newsletter) posted Aug 15, 2000
In a glimpse of what the future holds for the nutraceutical industry, researchers have genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to produce a more potent version of lycopene, an antioxidant believed to help ward off certain cancers. More and more studies are showing that antioxidant vitamins combat the cell damage that leads to cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.
As a result, there is growing interest in packaging such antioxidant activity into pill form. Developing an efficient way to mass-produce synthetic versions of antioxidants like lycopene and lutein is a major step in the process. In the August issue of Nature Biotechnology, Gerhard Sandmann of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and colleagues report on their success with genetically manipulating E. coli to produce a lycopene-like compound that they call interesting pharmaceutical candidate." (July 31)
"Science is not bad, but there is bad science. Genetic Engineering is bad science working with big business for quick profit against the public good."
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, geneticist, and scientific adviser to the Third World Network.
Date: 15 Aug 2000 22:46:15 +0100
From: "jcummins" email@example.com
In Canada medicinal use of cannabis is legal but has proved difficult to administer because prosecutors tend to split hairs and seem to approve of unnecessary human suffering. The paper below shows that cannabis is effective against experimental arthritis. This finding should broaden the legal use of cannabis in Canada.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 97, Issue 17, 9561-9566, August 15, 2000
From the Cover Immunology
A. M. Malfait*,, R. Gallily,, P. F. Sumariwalla*, A. S. Malik*, E. Andreakos* , R. Mechoulam, and M. Feldmann* ,¤
* Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, 1 Aspenlea Road, Hammersmith, London W6 8LH, United Kingdom; and Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical School, P.O.B. 12272, Jerusalem 91120, Israel
Edited by Anthony Cerami, The Kenneth S. Warren Laboratories, Tarrytown, NY, and approved June 2, 2000 (received for review March 10, 2000)
The therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD), the major nonpsychoactive component of cannabis, was explored in murine collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). CIA was elicited by immunizing DBA/1 mice with type II collagen (CII) in complete Freund's adjuvant.
The CII used was either bovine or murine, resulting in classical acute CIA or in chronic relapsing CIA, respectively. CBD was administered after onset of clinical symptoms, and in both models of arthritis the treatment effectively blocked progression of arthritis. CBD was equally effective when administered i.p. or orally.
The dose dependency showed a bell-shaped curve, with an optimal effect at 5 mg/kg per day i.p. or 25 mg/kg per day orally. Clinical improvement was associated with protection of the joints against severe damage. Ex vivo, draining lymph node cells from CBD-treated mice showed a diminished CII-specific proliferation and IFN- production, as well as a decreased release of tumor necrosis factor by knee synovial cells. In vitro effects of CBD included a dose-dependent suppression of lymphocyte proliferation, both mitogen-stimulated and antigen-specific, and the blockade of the Zymosan-triggered reactive oxygen burst by peritoneal granulocytes.
It also was found that CBD administration was capable of blocking the lipopolysaccharide-induced rise in serum tumor necrosis factor in C57/BL mice. Taken together, these data show that CBD, through its combined immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory actions, has a potent anti-arthritic effect in CIA.
Date: 16 Aug 2000 15:33:23 +0100
From: "jcummins" firstname.lastname@example.org
The publication below shows that diversity is a superior means of achieving sustainability. GM monoculture techniques are very risky.
Nature 406, 718 - 722 (2000) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
Youyong Zhu, Hairu Chen, Jinghua Fan, Yunyue Wang, Yan Li, Jianbing Chen, Jinxiang Fan, Shisheng Yang, Lingping Hu, Hei Leung, Tom W. Mew, Paul S. Teng, Zonghua Wang & Christopher C. Mundt
Crop heterogeneity is a possible solution to the vulnerability of monocultured crops to disease. Both theory and observation indicate that genetic heterogeneity provides greater disease suppression when used over large areas, though experimental data are lacking. Here we report a unique cooperation among farmers, researchers and extension personnel in Yunnan Province, China-genetically diversified rice crops were planted in all the rice fields in five townships in 1998 and ten townships in 1999.
Control plots of monocultured crops allowed us to calculate the effect of diversity on the severity of rice blast, the major disease of rice. Disease-susceptible rice varieties planted in mixtures with resistant varieties had 89% greater yield and blast was 94% less severe than when they were grown in monoculture. The experiment was so successful that fungicidal sprays were no longer applied by the end of the two-year programme. Our results support the view that intraspecific crop diversification provides an ecological approach to disease control that can be highly effective over a large area and contribute to the sustainability of crop production.
Date: 16 Aug 2000 16:59:32 +0100
Prairie producers concerned...
(15 July - Cropchoice News) It's not a philosophical beef with biotech that is driving prairie producer unrest about GMO canola, it's a bottom line problem: herbicide resistant plants are spreading like wildfire, causing management problems and new expenses. The spread of resistance means more trips across the field and more inputs to buy. Lavern Affleck, a canola producer in Moosomin, Saskatchewan says "I'm not anti-technology. But I'm having trouble with this one... science is working against us."
Attention was focused on the issue earlier this summer with the trial in Monsanto's infamous lawsuit against Saskatchewan canola producer Percy Schmeiser, who is accused of violating Monsanto's patent rights. Schmeiser says he was a victim of cross pollination and has filed a countersuit. Canada's major national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, ran a feature piece on Monday on the unchecked spread of herbicide resistance, calling GMO canola's movements a "seed invasion".
Canola varieties resistant to Roundup, Liberty, Pursuit and Odyessy have been sold in Canada, with reports of cross-pollination and resistant volunteers increasing dramatically in the last 2 years. Affleck is especially angry with Monsanto because he has never planted RR crops. He does use Roundup for weed control; but this year its less useful because of the large number of Roundup resistant canola plants that were blown into and are germinating in his wheat.
Now, Affleck has to look to other sprays to control the problem. He told the Globe and Mail "It may be necessary to use a lot more potentially more harmful chemicals to kill this monster... I will never get rid of that crop. And I will never be able to grow an organic crop... for the future, I will never be able to effectively use Roundup for my weed control."
According to the Globe and Mail, the Canadian government does not deny that there is an emerging problem with the spread of herbicide resistance...
Date: 16 Aug 2000 20:38:38 +0100
From: "jcummins" email@example.com
The article below shows that soy phytoestrogens fight asthma:
Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 223:372-378
© 2000 Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Jean F. Regal*,1, Daniel G. Fraser*, Charles E. Weeks and Norman A. Greenberg
* Department of Pharmacology, University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota 55812; and Novartis Nutrition Corporation, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416
Phytoestrogens are a normal constituent of soy protein and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity in various in vitro and in vivo models. The present study was designed to determine if a diet enriched in the phytoestrogen isoflavones, genistin and daidzin, would alter the antigen-induced cellular infiltration, particularly eosinophilia, characteristic of a guinea pig model of asthma. Throughout the duration of the study, guinea pigs were maintained on a control diet (standard guinea pig chow) or the same diet enriched in isoflavones. The animals were placed on the diet 2 weeks prior to active sensitization with ovalbumin (OA).
Three weeks after sensitization, animals were challenged with OA aerosol. The cellular infiltration into the lung and protein and red blood cells (RBC) in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BAL) were determined 17 hr later. In animals maintained on the control diet, OA aerosol challenge resulted in the expected increase in eosinophils in both the BAL and the lung tissue, an increase in neutrophils in the BAL, and an increase in protein and the number of RBC in the BAL.
In contrast, in animals maintained on the isoflavone diet, the OA-induced eosinophilia in the lung tissue was significantly attenuated. In addition, OA challenge caused a greater increase in BAL protein in animals maintained on the isoflavone diet compared with animals on the control diet. Our results indicated that a diet enriched in isoflavones results in reduced antigen-induced eosinophilia in the lung in the guinea pig model of asthma. However, this beneficial anti-inflammatory effect of dietary phytoestrogens is accompanied by a potentially detrimental increase in antigen-induced leakage of protein into the airway.
Date: 17 Aug 2000 10:29:00 +0100
From: "jcummins" firstname.lastname@example.org
The article below is very important because it deals with retrovirus infections following pig transplants. Those findings have slowed down the haste to human trials in US and Britain. However, the information was ignored by the press and regulators in Canada where the pig to human transplants can take place any time. Canada seems to have relied on pig to baboon model experiments but seem "unaware" that pigs cells do not release retrovirus when associated with baboon cells (unlike human cells).
17 August 2000
Nature 406, 661 (2000) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
While some researchers report progress towards the goal of producing pig organs for human transplantation, others have revealed new causes for worry about the potential consequences.
The stark dilemma over the wisdom of proceeding with clinical trials of animal organ transplants in humans is crystallized in two papers that, in the interests of public debate, are being released this week by Nature in electronic form before their publication in the journal. One, by scientists at the Scottish company PPL Therapeutics, shows for the first time the successful cloning of pigs from adult somatic cells; a similar paper based on fetal cells is expected to be published in this week's issue of Science. The breakthrough opens the way to creating genetically modified animals with great precision.
Knock out the -1,3-galactosyl transferase gene, for example, and the pigs would lack the galactose sugar on their cell surfaces that is the principal cause of acute rejection of pig organs in humans.
But in another paper to appear in the same issue, Daniel Salomon from the Scripps Research Institute, and colleagues elsewhere, show that porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) can infect human cells in culture. Moreover, they go on to demonstrate that transplanting pig pancreatic islets into immunosuppressed mice leads to widespread infection with PERV.
Guidelines issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 would have allowed weakly regulated xenotransplant trials. The agency has now toughened the guidelines considerably, pulling trials under federal (rather than local) control, for example, and placing a de facto ban on transplants from non-human primates (see Nature 405, 606-607; 2000).
Contagious viruses are a major worry in xenotransplantation, as they carry the risk of creating man-made pandemics. But unlike HIV and other retroviruses, PERV seem unlikely to jump from the recipient to others. And the work by Salomon et al. provides an animal model for basic research on viral transmission in xenotransplantation. This is likely to be followed by experiments with transplants into immunosuppressed monkeys.
Salomon points out that the techniques for studying PERV infection developed in the mouse model would also allow better monitoring for such infection in clinical trials. The FDA, the world's foremost regulatory health authority, is responsible for ensuring that trials are carried out safely. It is disconcerting that even this agency was, just four years ago, willing to endorse xenotransplantation trials of pig and other animal parts with little supervision. Pushing ahead with even limited trials could pave the way for widespread trials, perhaps in countries lacking authorities as competent as the FDA.
Xenotransplantation falls into the category of hazards where, although the risk is probably low - and the benefit to individuals undoubtedly substantial - the public consequences could be catastrophic. Indeed, Salomon's research also shows how little is known about PERV, while more dangerous viruses may also be present in pigs but remain undetected. The pathogenicity of animal viruses can also change unpredictably when they jump the species barrier. But there is virtually no research aimed at detecting and understanding such risks.
The FDA now requires trial sponsors to carry out a battery of tests, and all patients are monitored for infection. But more independent research on potential viral risks is needed. In risk assessment, absence of evidence is too often read as evidence of absence. What might we learn in four years that we do not know now? That is the case for a moratorium on clinical trials.
Date: 17 Aug 2000 22:06:49 +0100
From: "jcummins" email@example.com
By Elizabeth Pennisi and Dennis Normile, Science 2000 289: 1118-1119.
Low success rates and unpredictable results have plagued cloning researchers, particularly those trying to clone pigs.
Now, on page 1188, Japanese researchers offer the first scientific report of a cloned pig, named Xena, raising hopes that pigs could one day provide an unlimited supply of organs for transplantation thanks to their close physiological relationship to humans. But this week those hopes were dealt a blow by more evidence suggesting that pig retroviruses can infect human cells.
Date: 18 Aug 2000 10:57:48 +0100
firstname.lastname@example.org (Jonathan Matthews)
(Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin) http://members.tripod.com/~ngin
Mixed Resistance to rDNA crop technology
Is There Equivalence between rDNA and 'Traditional' Sexual Gene Transfer?
Do rDNA Techniques offer Greater Precision?
RDNA techniques are profoundly different from traditional breeding methods
Do rDNA Techniques Provide an Acceptable Level of Risk?
Using An Untested And Unsophisticated Technology
Since the public education and research system is based upon a foundation of public trust, it is essential that we recognize and admit the unknowns associated with molecular biology and act with caution and integrity."
"The real threat to the future of plant biotechnology is the irresponsible and premature releases of the first generation of GMOs that are full of unsound scientific assumptions, rife with careless science, and arrogantly dismissive of valid concerns. The current generation of GMOs provide little real benefit except corporate profit and marginally improved grower returns, while at the same time introducing a host of poorly studied human and ecological risks. Not surprisingly, many have questioned the value of these crops and the integrity of those who support their use.
The intensity of the current debate has surprised many in the scientific community and has escalated into a highly polarized and increasingly antagonistic debate. Scientists, and the professional organizations that represent them, have been publicly supportive of this technology and often dismissive of public concerns. Most scientific comment suggests that 'education' is the key to gaining the needed acceptance, while almost no comment has recognized or addressed the fears of the public. Those who oppose rDNA technology interpret the apparent willingness of the US scientific community to embrace this new technology, while failing to adequately address the potential risks, as a betrayal of public trust.
Public uncertainty has resulted in the loss of markets, and will increasingly do so, for the current generation of rDNA crops and foods. Though this is clearly of substantial economic concern, by far the most significant consequence of public concern is the threat that this conflict poses for the entire field of plant biotechnology, which holds far greater promise of human benefit than that offered by any existing rDNA crop. The loss of this technology through careless and premature implementation would be truly devastating to the goal of developing more abundant and nutritious foods in an environmentally sensitive fashion.
This issue requires immediate and thoughtful attention from plant scientists. We must recognize that our knowledge of the processes that regulate gene incorporation and expression are in their infancy and that our capacity to manipulate the plant genome is crude. Given this current lack of understanding it is certainly possible that the current regulatory safeguards are inadequate and may not be offering sufficient protection against inadvertent creation of health and ecological problems.
Since the public education and research system is based upon a foundation of public trust, it is essential that we recognize and admit the unknowns associated with molecular biology and act with caution and integrity.
The following text describes some of the uncertainties associated with rDNA technology and illustrates how the scientific community's defence of the current generation of rDNA crops represents a substantial threat to the future of this promising new technology.
Are the Current Generation of rDNA Crops, and the Regulatory System that approved them, is it Scientifically Defensible?
To adequately compare these technologies it is essential that each is well characterized and understood. The molecular processes that control gene incorporation and expression following a normal sexual crossing event, however, are only poorly understood and the extent of our ignorance is further revealed weekly as new processes involved in the regulation of gene expression in plants are determined. The inadequacy of our understanding is well illustrated by the host of genetic phenomena (such as co-suppression, intron-mediated enhancement, transcriptional regulation, protein-gene interactions etc) for which we have essentially no mechanistic understanding. Our knowledge of these processes is clearly in its infancy and few would claim that we understand more than a small percentage of the processes regulating sexual reproduction in plants.
Further, most of what is known of gene transfer using traditional and rDNA techniques illustrates the profound manner in which they differ. Traditional crossing involves the movement of clusters of functionally linked genes, primarily between homologous chromosomes, and including the relevant promoters, regulatory sequences and associated genes involved in the coordinated expression of the character of interest in the plant. The molecular regulation of this process and the biochemical and evolutionary significance of these controls is poorly understood.
In contrast to traditional techniques, current rDNA technologies (those used in all currently approved rDNA crops) involve the random insertion of genes in the absence of normal promoter sequences and associated regulatory genes. As there are very few examples of plant traits in which we have identified the associated regulatory genes, the introduction of a fully 'functional' gene using rDNA techniques is currently not possible. R-DNA techniques also involve the simultaneous insertion of viral promoters and selectable markers and facilitates the introduction of genes from incompatible species. These genetic transformations cannot occur using traditional approaches which further illustrates the profound manner in which these processes differ.
Genetic material can be moved within and between species by the poorly understood processes of gene transposition. Though the occurrence of this phenomenon in traditionally bred plants is superficially equivalent to rDNA techniques (which involve the random insertion of "artificial transposons"), the mechanisms governing this process and the significance of transposition in traditional gene transfer are unknown. Given our profound lack of understanding of these processes it is impossible to compare sensibly the two processes. Indeed, it can be argued that gene transfer via rDNA techniques resembles the process of viral infection far more closely than it resembles traditional breeding.
The presumption of "Substantial Equivalence" - the basis for current regulatory principles - is profoundly flawed and scientifically insupportable.
One of the much-touted benefits of r-DNA techniques is the capability to introduce only a discrete and well-defined number of genes into the new cultivar whereas a traditional crossing event introduces thousands of genes. This ability to control the types and numbers of genes introduced speeds the introduction of a gene of interest by eliminating the need for extensive backcrossing to the elite parent. Many have suggested that this approach is fundamentally more "precise" than traditional breeding techniques and have argued that the technique is consequently "safer".
The ability to introduce a precisely defined compliment of genes using rDNA techniques, however, is not equivalent to the introduction of a precisely defined and biologically integrated character. Whereas the incorporation of a new character using traditional techniques occurs in a fully functional and appropriately regulated manner, rDNA gene introduction is more or less random, and does not involve introduction of the regulatory sequences normally associated with that gene. Traditional techniques, therefore, result in greater "biological precision" than random gene insertion using rDNA techniques.
The FDA policy statement further suggests that it is highly unlikely that rDNA techniques will result in the inadvertent production of allergens or toxic compounds and that once incorporated into the genome, the introduced gene functions like all other genes in the genome. These statements are offered in support of the premise that rDNA experiments are more predictable than traditional breeding approaches. This presumption is, however, clearly contradicted by a large volume of scientific literature and experimental experience that illustrates the propensity of rDNA techniques to produce unexpected and often lethal perturbations. Indeed metabolic and phenological perturbations are very frequently observed following transformation events and a high percentage of transformants show profound growth aberrations. Indeed the propensity of random gene introduction to cause metabolic disruption is well documented and actively used to probe gene function.
While extreme aberrations can be easily selected out, it is also highly likely that undetected biochemical perturbations remain following essentially all transformation events. Since it is not standard practice to screen transformants there is clearly a potential for biochemically abnormal transgenic plants to persist. This is further exacerbated through the use of tissue culture and embryo rescue etc. which can be used to "rescue" metabolically altered transgenic plants that might otherwise have been eliminated during early plant growth. Whether or not these same perturbations occur following traditional breeding is unknown. Lack of knowledge, however, is not proof of safety.
The metabolic perturbations caused by rDNA gene introduction may result in production of toxic compounds. Many plant species have the capacity to produce toxic compounds which, under natural conditions, serve to protect against animal and insect predation as well as contributing to disease resistance mechanisms. In certain species, such as those in the Solanum family, there are many well-characterized and highly unpalatable or toxic compounds. It is very likely that the majority of the genes involved in the formation of these toxic and unpalatable compounds are still present (though not expressed) in modern tomato and potato. Given the random nature of rDNA gene insertion, and the use of a promiscuous viral promoter sequence, the potential clearly exists that tomato could be induced to produce a toxin as a result of an rDNA gene transfer. Whether this would occur with the same frequency following traditional sexual breeding is unknown. The presumption that it cannot occur is clearly invalid.
The preceding discussion clearly demonstrates that the risks associated with rDNA technology cannot be determined given current understanding of gene expression. Nevertheless it has been argued that risk is a normal part of technological advancement and that acceptance of this risk is warranted in the instance of rDNA crops.
While it is true that we accept risks as a normal part of life, most of the risks we accept are defined by experience and are understood before they are taken. Some risks are also taken because the rewards are perceived to outweigh the risks. Traditional breeding has on the whole been an acceptable risk with 10,000 years of experience, and a trust in the motives of those producing the new cultivars.
Many, however, are not yet prepared to accept the risks of rDNA technologies. This is in part due to a lack of understanding of the risks, the minimal benefit of the current crop of GMOs, and a mistrust of the motives of those selling the technology. Given the current state of our knowledge of this technology and the nature of the GMOs currently available, this lack of public trust is entirely reasonable. Public acceptance will require convincing demonstration of safety and the development of crops with a more direct benefit to the consumers.
The concerns expressed by many are further validated by the current generation of GMOs that have been incorporated into the food system without adequate public consultation and scientific scrutiny. The current generation of GMO crops do not provide any tangible public benefit, have not contributed to reduced food costs, and have no confirmed ecological benefit. This is well illustrated by the two most prevalent types of GMOs in use in the US.
Insect-resistant crops containing the gene encoding the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin have been planted widely in the US. This transgenic technique promises to reduce the use of pesticides and reduce growers' costs. While reduction in pesticide use is an admirable goal there are significant grounds to question the appropriateness of the current generation of Bt-producing crops and to question the haste with which these crops were released for widespread use.
The current generation of Bt crops utilize a single Bt gene rather than the complex of Bt genes that are available. There is widespread agreement amongst scientists that this use of a single Bt gene will increase the speed with which pest resistance will develop. To help alleviate the development of insect resistance the USDA and Monsanto now advise growers to plant refuge areas to ensure non-resistant insects persist under the premise that this will reduce the rate of resistance development. While this is theoretically sound there is insufficient ecological data to determine optimal size of these refuges or to estimate how effective they will be.
The current generation of Bt crops also utilize antibiotic resistance as the selectable marker and rely upon viral promoters to ensure high degrees of expression. This clearly introduces a risk associated with a promoter designed to be free of regulatory controls, it excites those who see viral and antibiotic-resistance genes as threatening, and it ensures that the Bt protein is distributed uniformly throughout the plant. The uniform presence of the Bt protein enhances the likelihood of resistance development and ensures that the protein is present throughout plant development and is present in the pollen. The death of Monarch larvae was a direct consequence of the presence of active Bt toxin in the pollen.
While some have questioned the scientific relevance of this study it did illustrate the inherent flaws in this cultivar.
Methods exist (or will soon exist) that make the use of viral promoters and antibiotic resistance markers unnecessary. There is no justification for the expression of Bt in the pollen, and the release of cultivars with a single Bt gene is certain to hasten resistance development. In the absence of data to support the refugia concept there is very little to prevent the development of widespread insect tolerance of Bt.
Clearly the release of the first generation of Bt-containing crops was premature and based upon flawed scientific principles. Regulatory and scientific support for this cultivar is clearly questionable.
The other dominant type of GMO in use today is the Roundup-Ready varieties of cotton, soybean and corn. Not only do these cultivars contain many of the same questionable genes as those in Bt crops, but also they have the additional propensity to contribute to the development of herbicide-resistant weed species for which the consequences are poorly understood. Roundup-Ready crops are also of questionable ecological value and build a long-term dependence on the use of the herbicide Glyphosate.
Not insignificantly, the overtly 'corporate' nature of these crops and the dependence they build on high cost and ecologically questionable technologies has resulted in widespread suspicion of the motives of those promoting these cultivars.
Perhaps one of the most profoundly flawed justifications of GMOs is illustrated in the often-cited refrain "GMO foods have been widely available in the marketplace for the past 5 years and not one incident of harm to public health has been documented". Since every introduced gene is inserted into a different genetic location, and every gene differs in functions and interactions within the genome, and as every species can be expected to 'react' differently to the gene introduction process, it is clear that the safety of one GMO is in no way predictive of the safety of another. In many respects the claim of safety by association is no more valid than the claim that the safety of aspirin predicts the safety of all future drugs.
The real threat to the future of plant biotechnology is the irresponsible and premature releases of the first generation of GMOs that are full of unsound scientific assumptions, rife with careless science, and arrogantly dismissive of valid concerns. The current generation of GMOs provide little real benefit except corporate profit and marginally improved grower returns, while at the same time introducing a host of poorly studied human and ecological risks. Not surprisingly, many have questioned the value of these crops and the integrity of those who support their use.
Given these issues and the overall lack of knowledge of rDNA technology it can only be concluded that the current FDA regulations guiding the release and testing of GMOs is inadequate. It can further be concluded that the technology is inadequately developed to ensure its safety. In the absence of a sound scientific basis to predict the full consequences of rDNA crop development, we must either subject all new crops to a rigorous testing program that considers all potential health, social and environmental concerns or halt further release of rDNA crops until a firm scientific understanding of the biological principles is attained.
As scientists it is our responsibility to recognize that we do not yet have sufficient knowledge of the process to use it safely. We must work towards addressing all of the concerns explicit in the current generation of crops, and must support a rigorous testing program to ensure the safety of all GMO foodstuffs in the interim. To date many in the scientific community have been unwilling to rationally consider the concerns surrounding the current GMOs and have wrongly considered that a defence of GMOs is a prerequisite to protect the science of plant biotechnology. Nothing could be further from the truth or more threatening to the future of this technology.
Date: 18 Aug 2000 16:32:20 +0100
Source: The Record, Northern New Jersey,
Genetically modified foods (GMFs) have become a major focus of concern for environmentalists and consumer activists. Though the food industry claims that these products can help alleviate world hunger by increasing productivity and improving vitamin content, critics warn of dangers in a number of areas.
In Europe and the United States, there has been such a negative reaction that major food companies such as Gerber and Frito-Lay have begun eliminating them from their products.
In much of the discussion, however, the voices of religious communities have not been considered. Yet religious traditions offer three major areas of objections to GMFs: ritual, ethical, and theological.
A recent class-action lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration shows that GMFs could be ritually problematic for many faith communities. The lawsuit is led by Steven Druker, executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity http://www.bio-integrity.org
Druker is a religious Jew who believes that GMFs are not kosher.
His lawsuit, among other things, claims GMFs should be labeled so that those who believe their religions prohibit the eating of such foods will be able to avoid them. For example, at present in the United States, much of the corn used in processed foods has been genetically modified.
This corn may contain an insect gene that allows it to mimic a natural pesticide. Religious Muslims, Buddhists, and vegetarians as well as Jews might object to the presence of animal genes in vegetable products.
In the area of ethics, the widespread use of GMFs will only further a process that has troubled many religious leaders: corporate control of food crops. Many people are concerned that the production and distribution of food should not be in the hands of corporations whose primary motive is profit.
This concern was recently expressed by farmers in India who burned fields of an experimental crop created by Monsanto Co. This crop was nicknamed "The Terminator" because the seeds produced a sterile plant that could not be used for seed crop. The farmers would have to buy the seed from Monsanto every year instead of being able to grow their own.
This situation would put an intolerable burden on farmers in developing nations. Monsanto, in response to these protests, decided not to develop the product further.
Theological objections offer the most far-reaching and most important critique of GMFs by asking the following questions: What are the limits of human power? Is creation only for human benefit? Does the natural world have an intrinsic value and a dignity of its own?
Many Jewish authorities are liberal in allowing the use of new medical technology for example, genetic therapy and cloning for infertility treatment. These authorities reason that Judaism permits the manipulation of creation for human benefit especially in the area of health and healing. Often, however, these authorities warn against going too far in this technology because the Torah forbids us from radically altering the boundaries of Creation.
According to the Scriptures and later rabbinic literature, the universe was created by God, who has absolute ownership over it (Genesis 1 and 2, Psalm 24:1, 1 Chronicles 29:10-16).
Creation is good, which means that it is structured and ordered in a harmonious way so that it may serve God (Psalm 148). This order reflects God's wisdom (Psalm 104:24), which is ultimately beyond human understanding (Psalm 92:6-7, Job 38-39).
All of God's creatures including humans are part of the order of creation. But humans are the only creatures who have the power to disrupt this order. This power comes from a special characteristic of humanity: We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). Humanity is allowed to manipulate creation for its own benefit, but it is not allowed to upset the boundaries of creation thus propeling creation back to primordial chaos.
It is possible to make a case that GMFs violate the boundaries of creation. We now understand that species do not exist in a fixed state, rather that they evolve. Nonetheless, we can make a distinction between the way creation naturally evolves and humanity's radical new interventions. Genetic engineering crosses species that would never be crossed in the natural world and does so in a time frame that collapses thousands or even millions of years of evolution into a few moments.
This intervention is unlike any previous human manipulation of life such as selective breeding, which has produced many of our food crops and domesticated animals. GMFs go far beyond the permissible manipulation of creation for our own benefit. They also reveal a human arrogance, which is a kind of idolatry. We have set ourselves up as gods in our belief that our knowledge and our technology will always be used wisely and will always lead to a better world. This has often not been the case in recent human history.
From this perspective, religious traditions should urge more caution when it comes to genetically modified foods. Many of these have been rushed into market without enough consideration of the impact on other species as well as on human health in the long term.
GMFs are so unprecedented and so potentially damaging that we should act with restraint and humility. We must acknowledge our limitations in the face of the depth and grandeur of the order of creation.
To share your Point of View on matters of religion, values, and faith, send submissions to Lisa Haddock, Religion & Values editor, by e-mail to email@example.com, by mail to The Record, 150 River St., Hackensack, N.J. 07601, or by fax to (201) 646-4135. Be sure to include your name, address, and phone number. All submissions selected for publication are subject to editing.
RABBI LAWRENCE TROSTER of Teaneck is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel of Northern Valley in Bergenfield and a lecturer at the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in New York City. Troster who received a master's degree and his ordination from JTS previously has served synagogues in South Orange and Canada. He is a contributing editor of Conservative Judaism, a member of the executive committee of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and a board member of Partners for Environmental Quality.
Publication date: 2000-08-17 © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.
Date: 18 Aug 2000 19:16:04 +0100
From: "jcummins" firstname.lastname@example.org
The abstract below is a good example of horizontal gene transfer between pathogens and their hosts: Molecules and Cells
Abstract Volume 10 Issue 2 (2000) pp 127-134
ISSN: 1016-8478 (printed version) ISSN: 0219-1032 (electronic version) research article:
Nam-Soo Kim 1 *, Nam-Il Park 1, Sun-Hyung Kim 1, Sun-Tae Kim 1, 2, Sung-Sook Han 1, 3, Kyu-Young Kang 1, 2
Received October 7, 1999
Then, fragments from the Alu-Inter SSR analysis were isolated to be used as probes in Southern hybridization, which also revealed high polymorphism between isolates to distinguish individuals. The sequences of the isolated fragments contained TC/AG tandem repeats interspersed with a 30 bp direct repeat. In gel blot analysis, the isolated TC/AG repeat microsatellite sequences were proved to be useful for characterizing the isolates in blast fungi in addition to the conventional MGR (Magnaporthe grisea repeat) probes. One interesting point was that the rice blast fungus derived TC/AG repeat microsatellite sequences were abundant in non-rice blast fungi and plant species, but not in other fungi and yeasts. A discussion on the possible horizontal gene transfer between phytopathogenic fungi and host plants is presented.
Keywords: Alu-Inter SSR; Blast Fungus; Fingerprinting; Horizontal Gene Transfer; Microsatellite
Date: 19 Aug 2000 06:03:06 +0100
If you haven't yet checked out Mark Grifiths website, its at:
(Lots of articles, data and quotes on the dangers of GM food and crops).
Ron Baxter, Lancs.
Date: 19 Aug 2000 22:31:36 +0100
From: MichaelP email@example.com
By Michael Littlejohns,,
Earth Times News Service
UNITED NATIONS The Food and Agriculture Organization has again stressed its concerns in the international debate over the genetic modification of food sources, warning scientists of their "moral responsibility" to supply objective, peer-reviewed data and not rush to give publicity to "immature, insufficiently tested results." In short, avoid any temptation to whitewash.
But at the same time Louise Fresco, the agency's deputy head, also underscored its view that every means must be employed to improve food security "subject to careful assessments being made."
She went on to remind the scientific community of their moral responsibility to speak up for the poor and hungry of the world, and the "small countries, small companies and small farmers [who] have very small voices" where the globalized economy is concerned.
Fresco, an assistant director general of FAO, said scientists were especially important because they best understood the likely consequences of keeping silent about the problems facing the impoverished masses. In a wide ranging inaugural address to the 3rd International Crop Science Congress, in Hamburg, she spoke of the uneven distribution of food, the responsible use of land and water and harnessing biological diversity, as well as the hot potato of genetic modification, a subject of lively debate in Europe and the US.
"Popular perception has it that the world of agricultural science has isolated itself from the man in the street, or the woman in the field, and is seeking to impose its ideas on the planet, rather than understand public needs," she said. "These views are not new, but they have quickly become more vigorous.
"The most forceful public questions are being asked about both the sharing of benefits and the perceived negative effects on human health and the earth's environment of the uncontrolled application of genetically modified crops. FAO's position is that we must use every means at our disposal to improve food security subject to careful assessments being made."
The agency was confident that a consensus could be reached on GM food standards, she said, while cautioning against a rush to judgment an implicit warning to scientists working for corporations with a vested interest in playing down the risks in GM.
She noted that FAO recently set up an international ethics committee to include the advice of philosophers and religionists in an investigation of the human factors related to agriculture so that strategies might be developed to use genetic modification as a tool against hunger and malnutrition, while still taking all necessary precautions to protect health and the environment.
In her remarks, Fresco joined a rising chorus of senior officials in the UN community who still have serious reservations about the virtue of globalization. "Whatever its potential benefits, globalization also exacerbates the existing differences among countries and regions and calls for specific strategies to be developed according to different needs," she said.
On biodiversity, FAO recognized that food security called for continuing work on improving the main crops genetically. "However," said Fresco, "I also want to emphasize the need to explore a wide range of species that are already adapted to different and marginal ecologies." There was room to improve locally important minor crops that could make a big contribution to diets but attracted limited research and development cash.
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