1 September 2000

Table of Contents

GM goat spins web based future
Monarch Butterfly on Bt corn
GE virus for bunnys
Tasmanian Government wants Opt-out of GE
Dutch Bank issues guidelines on biotech crops
(UK) Scientists highlight new BSE threat from other animals
UK GM crops farmer in court battle
NY Times: "Mmm, Mmm, Genetically Engineered"
madder cows
Monsanto convicted over PCBs
USA Admits Possible Link between Biological Weapons and Agent Green
"Barnase or terminator by any other still stinks"
Novartis pins hopes for GM seeds on new marker system
We told them so! The CaMV promoter thinks it is still a virus!
USDA on its terminator
GM crops change microbial ecology
GM crops may eliminate birds

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Date: 21 Aug 2000 12:21:51 +0100

GM goat spins web based future

Monday, 21 August, 2000, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK

New kids on the block
Kind to humans
Cloning the future

Modified goat milk will contain web protein A goat that produces spider's web protein is about to revolutionise the materials industry.

Stronger and more flexible than steel, spider silk offers a lightweight alternative to carbon fibre.

Up to now it has been impossible to produce "spider fibre" on a commercial scale. Unlike silk worms, spiders are too anti-social to farm successfully.

Now a Canadian company claims to be on the verge of producing unlimited quantities of spider silk - in goat's milk.

Using techniques similar to those used to produce Dolly the sheep, scientists at Nexia Biotechnologies in Quebec have bred goats with spider genes.

New kids on the block

Called Webster and Peter, the world's first "web kids" cannot dangle from the ceiling, nor do they have a taste for flies.

In fact they look like any other goat. But when they mate, it is hoped they will sire nanny goats that produce milk that contains the spider silk protein.

This "silk milk" will be used to produce a web-like material called Biosteel.

Naturally occurring spider silk is widely recognised as the strongest, toughest fibre known to man.

Its tensile strength is greater than steel and it is 25 percent lighter than synthetic, petroleum-based polymers.

These qualities will allow BioSteel to be used in applications where strength and lightness are essential, such as aircraft, racing vehicles and bullet-proof clothing.

Kind to humans

Another advantage of spider silk is that it is compatible with the human body.

That means BioSteel could be used for strong, tough artificial tendons, ligaments and limbs.

The new material could also be used to help tissue repair, wound healing and to create super-thin, biodegradable sutures for eye- or neurosurgery.

"The medical need for super-strong, flexible and biodegradable materials is large," said Costas Karatzas, Nexia's Vice President of Research and Development.

"This breakthrough in goat nuclear transfer technology will move our BioSteel program into the clinical testing phases earlier than by using traditional strategies,"

Cloning the future

Nexia's first transgenic goat, called Willow, was born in 1998. Willow's genes had been engineered to produce a therapeutic human protein.

A year later Willow was followed by Clint, Arnold and Danny, the world's first cloned goats.

Using a technique similar to that used to produce Dolly the sheep, cells were taken from the body of one goat and transferred into mature unfertilised eggs.

These eggs had had their original nuclei removed and replaced by nuclei taken from cells grown in culture and obtained from a separate, source goat.

Using spider genes pinpointed by researchers at the University of Wyoming, Nexia then succeeded in breeding Webster and Pete, the world's first goats to carry the spider web gene.

The two goats have now been transferred to a stud farm in New York state and are expected to start work siring a herd of "silk milk" goats this autumn.

Attempts to create artifical spider's web have failed in the past because it is difficult to make the very long protein chains found in the natural version.

The silk milk technique works because the way mammals produce milk proteins and spiders make silk proteins are broadly similar.

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Date: 21 Aug 2000 17:35:40 +0100
From: "jcummins"

Monarch Butterfly on Bt corn

The paper below is being abused by the GM crop industry. Personally I think it is the best work yet done. Interestingly, when the work first appeared in abstract form last year there was no apparent effort to provide extensive financial support for the researchers to extend the work. Instead, universities considered "safe" by the GM crop industry were flooded with funds (to be safe about the issue?).

Oecologia, DOI 10.1007/s004420000502

Field deposition of Bt transgenic corn pollen: lethal effects on the monarch butterfly

Laura C. Hansen 1 John J. Obrycki( ) L.C. Hansen 1 J.J. Obrycki

1   Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA

E-mail:     Phone: +1-515-294-8622   Fax: +1-515-294-8027

Received: 14 April 2000 / Accepted: 29 July 2000 / Published online:


We present the first evidence that transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn pollen naturally deposited on Asclepias syriaca; common milkweed, in a corn field causes significant mortality of Danaus plexippus L. (Lepidoptera: Danaidae) larvae. Larvae feeding for 48 h on A. syriaca plants naturally dusted with pollen from Bt corn plants suffered significantly higher rates of mortality at 48 h (20±3%) compared to larvae feeding on leaves with no pollen (3±3%), or feeding on leaves with non-Bt pollen (0%).

Mortality at 120 h of D. plexippus larvae exposed to 135 pollen grains/cm 2 of transgenic pollen for 48 h ranged from 60 to 70%. We found no sub-lethal effects on D. plexippus adults reared from larvae that survived a 48-h exposure to three concentrations of Bt pollen. Based on our quantification of the wind dispersal of this pollen beyond the edges of agricultural fields, we predict that the effects of transgenic pollen on D. plexippus may be observed at least 10 m from transgenic field borders.

However, the highest larval mortality will likely occur on A. syriaca plants in corn fields or within 3 m of the edge of a transgenic corn field. We conclude that the ecological effects of transgenic insecticidal crops need to be evaluated more fully before they are planted over extensive areas.

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Date: 25 Aug 2000 04:25:57 +0100
via: Biotech Activists
Posted: 08/24/2000 By

GE virus for bunnys

Bugs for bunnies

By Joanna Marchant, New Scientist magazine, 26 August 2000.

A GENETICALLY modified virus that can spread from rabbit to rabbit for one generation and immunize them against two major diseases has been created in Spain. Its development has caused unease in countries such as Australia, where rabbits are serious pests and the diseases play a key role in limiting their numbers.

"If I was a farmer I would be concerned," says David Cowan of Britain's Central Science Laboratory in York. "Rabbits cause up to £100 million worth of damage in the UK per year."

The vaccine, developed by Juan Torres and his colleagues at the Centre for Investigation into Animal Health in Madrid, is a weakened form of the myxoma virus that causes myxomatosis. A protein from the virus that causes rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) has also been added, so animals become immune to RHD too.

According to the researchers, the virus cannot replicate properly, so while the first rabbits that become infected can pass it on, the virus should not be transferred a second time. They say tests show that the virus is safe, and are now running a field trial involving 300 rabbits on a small island (Vaccine, vol 19, p 174).

But others are not persuaded. "They are basically creating a new disease," says Cowan. "I'd want to be very convinced about its safety and species specificity before it was released."

Brian Cooke of CSIRO, Australia's national research organisation, worries that the virus might be deliberately released in Australia. In the field, he says, it might behave differently or regain the ability to replicate.

"This self-propagating vaccine is not a development that sits easily with rabbit control in Australia," he says. "Myxomatosis and RHD, although repugnant from an animal welfare perspective, nevertheless have great benefits for agriculture. Both diseases are vitally important for rabbit control in Australia."

Torres says Spain needs the vaccine because rabbit numbers there are low. "Myxomatosis and RHD are endangering not only the survival of the rabbit, but also their natural predators," Torres says.

But Cooke claims that the work "has been mainly done at the instigation of hunting organisations". Torres admits the project is partly funded by the Spanish Federation of Hunters, but says hunters' cooperation is vital. "Hunters have the ability to capture and vaccinate many animals."

Another genetically modified virus being developed by Cooke kills rabbits or makes them infertile (New Scientist, 7 October 1995, p 8). It can be transmitted many times, and Torres is worried that it might reach Spain. "It would be very dangerous for the rabbit population here," he says. While the Spanish and Australian researchers are cooperating, Cooke admits they have "completely opposed aims".

Once any virus is released, it won't necessarily respect national or even continental borders. "You don't want to release something that you have no control over," says Cowan.


"Of all the technologies now in use, genetic engineering is especially dangerous because of the threat of unexpected, harmful side effects that cannot be reversed or corrected, but will afflict all future generations. The side effects caused by genetic manipulations are not just long-term. They are permanent".

Dr J. Fagan. Award-winning molecular biologist and author of Genetic Engineering: The Dangers.

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Date: 26 Aug 2000 03:28:11 +0100
From: Robert Mann
From: Tasmanian Government Media Releases

Tasmanian Government wants Opt-out of GE

David Llewellyn, MHA
Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment

Wednesday, 23 August 2000


The Tasmanian Government has told a Federal Parliamentary inquiry that the State must be given the right to opt-out of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) releases on a case-by-case or zonal basis.

The Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment, David Llewellyn, told a Senate Committee in Hobart today that the opt-out provision was essential to Tasmania for a range of reasons.

"Fundamentally, we believe that States and Territories must have the right to decide if and when GMO crops are planted," Mr Llewellyn said. "That right already exists as part of a national agreement on agricultural and veterinary chemicals and we are proposing the Federal Government take the same approach with GMOs.

"The opt out provision is not incompatible with any of Australia's international treaty obligations and there are a range of very good reasons why we should not be locked into a one-size-fits-all GM licensing mechanism."

The inquiry, being conducted by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, is gathering evidence on the Gene Technology Bill 2000 - the Federal legislation which will control GMO technology in Australia. Mr Llewellyn told the hearing in Hobart today that Tasmania would apply a range of criteria to each application.

"Health and safety, environmental and economic factors must all be serious considerations."

"Tasmania's requirements are different from other States. We have geographical separation. We have relative freedom from the pests and diseases of other States. We have trade advantages because of those factors and we have a unique natural environment to protect." Mr Llewellyn said the opt-out provision was a means of recognising and giving effect to a State's right to make policy.

"The one-size-fits-all approach of the Commonwealth Government may force a State to accept a lesser level of protection delivered nationally. Without an opt-out, the policy that is applied is that of the Commonwealth Government.

"Tasmania considers that it is our sovereign right to decide our own Appropriate Level of Protection and we believe it is essential for us to take into account a range of issues such as protecting our unique environment and market expectations for quality, natural Tasmanian produce."

Mr Llewellyn told the inquiry that Tasmania's moratorium on GMO crops had not closed any doors but had applied a cautionary approach - exploring the issues in detail before it was too late to turn back the clock.

"What we are doing is simple - and responsible. We are conducting a proper investigation before making a choice that would be irreversible. "There may be advantages for Tasmania in remaining GMO-free. On the other hand, there may be advantages in embracing the technology. The point is that we don't know until we have investigated all the issues. "But we are concerned that the Federal legislation will leave the decisions with a national regulator that will make choices based on its own undefined determination of what level of protection is available for each State or Territory.

"One flawed decision could have long-term implications disastrous for Tasmania's agricultural industries and for our natural ecology. That's why I have told the inquiry that opt-out provisions must be included in the Federal legislation."

Further Information:
Tasmanian Government Communications Office, Phone: (03) 6233 6007

- -
Robt Mann, consultant ecologist, P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand, (9) 524 2949

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Date: 28 Aug 2000 14:55:48 +0100
Via: Biotech Activists
Posted: 08/28/2000 By

Dutch Bank issues guidelines on biotech crops

Associated Press, August 25, 2000

Agricultural bank releases guidelines for genetically modified food

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands

Rabobank, one of the world's largest agricultural lenders, released guidelines Friday for financing projects that involve genetically manipulated foods. Genetic manipulation is gradually becoming part of our lives. said management board chairman Hans Smits. We are increasingly confronted with these issues. The need is therefore self-evident that Rabobank express itself clearly with

The bank, which has 30 billion euros (dlrs 27 billion) worth of agribusiness loans, said it was the first financial institution to release such a code.

A statement said the bank's approach to genetic modification of plants principle. The bank will provide funds if society's interest warrants it and a bank statement said.

The bank said consumers and food producers should always be told whether they are eating or growing genetically modified food, and be given a non-GM choice.

The statement rejected any genetic manipulation of humans.

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Date: 29 Aug 2000 07:59:47 +0100
From: "Maynard S. Clark"

(UK) Scientists highlight new BSE threat from other animals

Alarming findings by scientists investigating mad cow disease has raised new fears over the safety of beef and other meats sold in butchers and supermarkets.

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Date: 29 Aug 2000 15:55:44 +0100

UK GM crops farmer in court battle

Monday, 28 August, 2000, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK

Highland Council wants planning consent for GM crops Highland Council is to make a second legal attempt to stop a farmer on the Black Isle taking part in GM crop trials.

The council had gone to court last week in an attempt to prevent Jamie Grant from planting genetically modified oil seed rape on his Munlochy farm.

Although presiding judge, Lord Hardie, refused to grant the interim interdict he asked that Mr Grant put his case to the Court of Session on Monday.

The council is fighting to have applications for such trials put through the planning process.

Seed firm's backing Council lawyers claim that because the trial crop will never be commercially sold, it represents a change of use of the field from agriculture to research.

The authority believes that if it is right then it should be able to subject such proposals to the normal planning process.

Mr Grant must defend the action in court under the contract he has with the UK Government to take part in the research.

It is understood his legal representatives will be provided and paid for by the seed company Advanta which is behind many of the GM crop trials.

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Date: 30 Aug 2000 05:36:51 +0100

Please circulate - especially to food companies in the US and Canada.

US food companies beware. Here comes the GM backlash.

Jerry Flanagan is the program director of New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.

NY Times: "Mmm, Mmm, Genetically Engineered"

By JERRY FLANAGAN, The New York Times
August 27, 2000, Sunday, Late Edition - Final
Section 14NJ; Page 17; Column 1; New Jersey Weekly Desk © Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

"What better way to restore Campbell's soup cans to their iconic status as symbols of reliable nourishment for the masses than to bring back the soup that Andy Warhol knew not so long ago?

IN the 1960's, Andy Warhol made Cambell's Soup a Pop Art legend with his stylized paintings of the soup can logo. The Campbell's company, based in Camden and hailing from an era when the state was a manufacturing center, has long symbolized New Jersey's pride in a home-grown original.

But Campbell's is no longer the same can of soup.

Most obvious is the recently "modernized" appearance of the cans themselves. But, more subtly and more importantly, something has been added to what's inside, perhaps dangerously so.

The soy and corn in Campbell's soup have been genetically altered. The ingredients don't have the same basic genetic makeup as the vegetables that Campbell's bought from New Jersey farmers and turned into "good, wholesome, high-quality food," as its motto goes.

Few Americans are aware of the change. And Campbell's isn't prone to let us know.

Why should we care?

After all, Campbell's corn chowder still tastes pretty much the same as it did to our grandparents.

The answer is found in the Hippocratic oath: "First, do no harm."

Common sense tells us that, if a gene from a bacteria or fish is put into a vegetable that humans have been eating for hundreds of years, some people might have bad physical reactions to the change.

Unfortunately, little independent testing of that common sense has been done, and those few tests have had mixed results.

One recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, when a Brazil nut's gene was engineered into soybeans, people with nut allergies would have harsh reactions to the food.

In addition, genetically engineered foods possess the ability to undermine the effectiveness of antibiotics. Because of this, British Medical Association has concluded that "there should be a ban on the use of antibiotic marker genes in genetically modified foods."

European consumers have expressed such strong concerns that Campbell's stopped using genetically engineered soy and corn in food it sells across the Atlantic.

Why, then, is Campbell's continuing to sell genetically engineered soups here while balking at labeling the food as genetically altered?

At root is the enormous influence on the food industry of a number of New Jersey's largest companies. In fact many of the leading producers of genetically engineered products are key participants in New Jersey's current economic boom and are the same chemical companies that sell toxic pesticides and herbicides – Monsanto, DuPont and Aventis among them. These companies are genetically engineering plants to be resistant to the herbicides that they manufacture so they can in turn sell more herbicides. Herbicide-resistant crops prompt farmers to apply more herbicides to the land, threatening the safety of our drinking water and endangering wildlife.

In their public relations campaign, the biotechnology industry is claiming that genetically engineered foods will "feed the world."

In fact, according to an independent study conducted by Dr. Roger Elmore of the University of Nebraska, genetically engineered crops can result in less, not more, food to eat. For example, Monsanto's genetically engineered Round-Up Ready soybean seeds yielded 11 percent less than conventional soybean seeds.

What then to do?

At a minimum, Campbell's can give us a choice, by simply fully labeling its products. Next, the company can treat New Jerseyans the same as Europeans, by halting the sale of genetically engineered food until independent evironmental and health testing and labeling rules are in place.

It can then join Genetically Engineered Food Alert, a new coalition of public interest organizations, farmers, scientists, chefs and public health groups, in urging the federal Food and Drug Administration to establish the same policy for all genetically engineered food.

Its actions would be more than scientifically prudent. It would be smart marketing.

A poll conducted last year for Time Magazine and CNN showed that 81 percent of Americans wanted "genetically engineered foods labeled as such."

What better way to restore Campbell's soup cans to their iconic status as symbols of reliable nourishment for the masses than to bring back the soup that Andy Warhol knew not so long ago?

And, while they're at it, they might bring back the old cans, too – but with a bit more information on them this time.


"Swapping genes between organisms can produce unknown toxic effects and allergies that are most likely to affect children"

- Dr Vyvyan Howard: expert in infant toxico-pathology at Liverpool University Hospital, UK. (Ref: The Guardian: 19/3/98)

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Date: 30 Aug 2000 09:07:32 +0100
From: "jcummins"

madder cows

The abstract below is from the report that prions the disease agents in mad cow disease may spread between species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 97, Issue 18, 10248-10253, August 29, 2000


Species-barrier-independent prion replication in apparently resistant species

Andrew F. Hill*, Susan Joiner*, Jackie Linehan*, Melanie Desbruslais*, Peter L. Lantos, and John Collinge*,

* Medical Research Council Prion Unit and Department of Neurogenetics, Imperial College School of Medicine at St. Mary's, London W2 1PG, United Kingdom; and Department of Neuropathology, Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom

Communicated by Charles Weissmann, Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, London, United Kingdom, June 23, 2000 (received for review January 20, 2000)

Transmission of prions between mammalian species is thought to be limited by a "species barrier," which depends on differences in the primary structure of prion proteins in the infecting inoculum and the host. Here we demonstrate that a strain of hamster prions thought to be nonpathogenic for conventional mice leads to prion replication to high levels in such mice but without causing clinical disease.

Prions pathogenic in both mice and hamsters are produced. These results demonstrate the existence of subclinical forms of prion infection with important public health implications, both with respect to iatrogenic transmission from apparently healthy humans and dietary exposure to cattle and other species exposed to bovine spongiform encephalopathy prions. Current definitions of the species barrier, which have been based on clinical end-points, need to be fundamentally reassessed.

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Date: 30 Aug 2000 10:11:45 +0100
Via: (NLP Wessex)

Monsanto convicted over PCBs

Extract from The AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER Issue # 87 August 30, 2000

Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
A.V. Krebs Editor\Publisher

Monsanto Corp.: Convicted And Fined $90 Million For Selling Defective And Toxic Pcbs

After listening to testimony that the danger to workers posed by PCBs was the reason state officials had to demolish and replace a 12-story state building next to the Capitol after a 1994 fire, a Philadelphia jury stunned the Monsanto Co. recently by ruling that the company should pay $90 million in damages to the state of Pennsylvania for selling defective and toxic PCBs that left the building contaminated after a 1994 fire.

The state argued that the danger to workers posed by the PCBs was the reason state officials had to demolish and replace the 12-story building. State officials sought more than $200 million in damages to cover cleanup, demolition and replacement costs. Monsanto, which stopped making PCBs in the 1970s, countered that the state was seeking a scapegoat for its own mismanagement of the building and was trying to stick the chemical company with the bill for a modern office facility that was needed anyway.

But, as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Ken Dilanian reports, the 12-member Commonwealth Court jury of six men and six women after a 10 days of deliberations and a 15-month civil trial found Monsanto liable for the contamination.

At the same time they also cleared two other defendants in the case, U.S. Mineral Corp. and Courtaulds Aerospace Inc., of any liability. The state previously reached a $1 million settlement with U.S. Mineral over asbestos in the building.

PCB, a suspected carcinogen banned by Congress in 1976, was present in glue used in the ductwork of the 30-year-old Department of Transportation headquarters. Elevated levels of PCBs were discovered only after the fire, and state officials cited the contamination as a reason for their decision to demolish the building in August 1998.

Kenneth McClain, a Kansas City, Missouri. litigator who tried the case for the state, said the verdict made history as the first time Monsanto had been held liable for PCB contamination in a building. The case was also unusual in that it was brought by a state government, he said.

"This is a very historic case," he told Dilanian, "one which establishes an incredible precedent: that Monsanto is responsible for PCB contamination, which for years they have ignored and denied all over the country."

Monsanto's lead defense lawyer, Thomas Goutman, said the company would appeal the jury's decision to the trial judge. He said the company also might seek state Supreme Court review of the judge's decision to allow the state to seek replacement costs for the building, which Monsanto believes is contrary to state law.

Three jurors interviewed after the verdict said that no one on the panel believed Monsanto's contention that PCBs in the office building were not a human health risk. The jurors said they considered $90 million a compromise verdict.


"We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society."

- Albert Einstein May 1949

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Date: 30 Aug 2000 10:12:30 +0100

USA Admits Possible Link between Biological Weapons and Agent Green

The Sunshine Project
Press Release
29 August 2000

Biological Warfare
Call for Action
Opposition Increasing

Seattle and Hamburg, 29 August 2000.

Biological Warfare

In an August 22 memorandum, US President Bill Clinton has conceded that the US plan to use microbial agents to eradicate drug crops may have an impact on biological weapons proliferation. This is the first time that US officials have publically admitted that the use of biological agents like Fusarium oxysporum (dubbed "Agent Green") raises arms control concerns.

The Sunshine Project has convincingly argued that F. oxysporum and other mycoherbicides are biological weapons. Because of its ilicit coca crop, Colombia is on the front line of US biological warfare plans. Other projects on biological agents to kill opium poppy and marijuana are also funded be the US and the British Governments.

The Presidential memo waives several conditions for US assistance to Colombia. In particular, Clinton overuled the US Congress and severed the link between Colombian acceptance of Agent Green and the overall implementation of the US 1.3 billion dollar bilateral assistance package for Plan Colombia.

Clinton states that the US will not use Agent Green until "a broader national security assessment, including consideration of the potential impact on biological weapons proliferation and terrorism, provides a solid foundation for concluding that the use of this particular drug control tool is in our national interest." (from Memorandum of Justification for Presidential Determination 2000-28).

According to the Sunshine Project's Edward Hammond, "This is an important step forward. While important parts of the US Government stubbornly refuse to withdraw support for Agent Green, President Clinton has eased the bilateral pressure on Colombia and admitted that this may have been a bad idea from the start."

Adds Sunshine's Jan Van Aken, "Agent Green is a biological weapon. It was developed with a hostile purpose, intended to be used in an armed conflict in Colombia. Use of Agent Green threatens to undermine international agreements prohibiting biological weapons. It must be stopped immediately, worldwide.."

It is important to note that the presidential memorandum does not necessarily signal a change in US policy. "Pro-fungus parts of the schizophrenic US Government could easily rebound. The memorandum is a window of opportunity. Governments should take fast action and exploit the posibilities for progress before the window closes." says the Sunshine Project's Susana Pimiento.

Call for Action

The Sunshine Project is calling on governments and international agencies to take the following steps:

Opposition Increasing

In July, the Ecuadorian Government banned the introduction and use of Fusarium oxysporum. In an editorial in its August 7th edition titled "Agent Orange and F. oxysporum", the Managing Editor of Chemical and Engineering News, the magazine of the American Chemical Society, called for a halt to drug war bioweapon research. Accusing the US of developing "dubious weapons systems", the editorial condemns the program, saying, "There is an unavoidable moral component to scientific research, and development of F. oxysporum as a weapon in the war on drugs or any other war violates it. Scientists should just say no to participating in this research."


(Please note the new US phone number.)

Germany: Jan van Aken, phone +49 40 431 88 001

USA: Edward Hammond, +1 512 689-5369

Susana Pimiento, +1 512 689-5369

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Date: 30 Aug 2000 12:59:52 +0100
From: "jcummins"

"Barnase or terminator by any other still stinks"

August 30, 2000, Prof. Joe Cummins, e-mail:

Barnase is the enzyme Rnase from Bacillus amyloliquefaciens it is normally lethal in the living cell but produced in the bacterium with an inhibitor that is separated from the enzyme when it is excreted. Traces of barnase are toxic to the rat kidney (Ilinskaya and Vamvakas 1997) and to human cell lines (Prior et al 1996).

Barnase was a key component in the "terminator" construction where it is linked to a plant promoter active only in the cells of the tapetum ( the sac from which pollen cells are generated). The pollen cannot develop when the barnase gene is active ( Us patent 5,723,765 is jointly held by the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA) and Delta and Pine Company, which for a time considered joining Monsanto).

The terminator technology was designed to control seed production to benefit seed companies by preventing seed saving. The system has also been studied for use in seedless fruit production (Varoquaux et al 2000). The barnase component of terminator is also being used to produce male sterile lines in wheat by introducing promoters from corn or rice linked to barnase gene (Block et al 1997).

Male sterile lines are used to produce hybrids which are more uniform than inbred lines and may also show heterosis (hybrid vigor). Hybrids also benefit seed producers because saved seeds segregate undesirable progeny. Several methods have been studied for producing hybrid canola including use of barnase. The most significant question about use of barnase is "do the crops bearing barnase gene pose any threat to humans or animals?".

This question does not seem to have been addressed by those developing or testing the crops. During seed production barnase may be present in dust and debris from the crop and surface along with groundwater may be contaminated with the toxin. Humans or animals breathing the plant material may experience severe toxicity. Normally, the crop generation would bear the barnase gene and the gene for a barnase inhibitor. It seems likely that mitotic recombination could easily separate barnase gene from barnase inhibitor gene. Such complications should not be ignored.

Assuming that commercial hybrids are created , say for example, in canola the hybrid crops are likely to produce viable pollen. The pollen would likely segregate active tapetal barnase producing some male sterility in weedy relatives and neighboring canola producers fields. In a sense the hybrid producers would pollute the crops of neighbors in a sever manner , much like the pollution of conventional canola from GM pollen in Saskatchewan. However, the barnase gene produces a welldescribed toxin active against humans and animals.


  1. DeBlock,M,Debrouwer,D and Moens,T. "The development of a nuclear male sterility system in wheat" Theor and Appl Gen 1997, 95,125-31
  2. Ilinskaya,O and Vamvakas,S "Nephrotic effect of bacterial ribonucleases in the isolated and perfused rat kidney" Toxicology 1997,120.55-63
  3. Prior,T,Kunwar,S and Pastan,I "Studies on the activity of barnase toxins in vitro and in vivo" Biocong Chem 1996,7,23-9
  4. Varoquaux,F,Blanvillain,R,Delseny,M and Gallois,P "Less is better: new approaches for seedless fruit production" TIBTECH 2000,18,233-43

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Date: 30 Aug 2000 14:39:54 +0100
From: "jcummins"

What happens when you eat Positech? Who knows? 31 August 2000

Novartis pins hopes for GM seeds on new marker system

By Quirin Schiermeier, Nature 406, 924 (2000) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

München – The multinational company Novartis Seeds last week launched a campaign to gain worldwide support from the plant-science community for its new marker-gene system, Positech.

The campaign follows the company's recent announcement that it plans to phase out antibiotic-resistance marker genes in its future products, in an attempt to restore public confidence in the safety of genetically modified foodstuffs.

Plant geneticists use marker genes to monitor the transformation of plant cells after a foreign gene has been introduced into a plant along with the marker. The most commonly used markers are antibiotic- or herbicide-resistance genes, which protect the cells against an agent introduced to kill those that have not taken up the desired DNA.

But concerns have been triggered about the potential threat to public health. There are fears that antibiotic resistance genes could 'jump' from transgenic plants to microorganisms such as gut bacteria, increasing antibiotic resistance in humans.

The Positech marker system uses transformed plant cells that contain the gene encoding the enzyme phosphomannose isomerase (PMI). In the selection process, only the cells that take on the PMI trait can survive in a culture in which they are fed only mannose, a simple sugar. Novartis says the system has been tested successfully with transgenic maize and wheat.

"Positech is well along on the development path," Wally Beversdorf, head of research and development at Novartis Seeds, told last week's International Crop Sciences Congress in Hamburg. "We will have regulatory packages containing PMI probably within 12 to 18 months."

Basic researchers, who can use 'Positech' without royalties, have welcomed the launch. "The availability of less controversial marker genes would certainly improve the acceptance of our research, and cool down the public debate," says Uwe Sonnewald, head of molecular cell biology at the Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Gatersleben, Germany.

But environmental groups say that phasing out antibiotic-resistance marker genes would only be a small improvement. Greenpeace has called Novartis' campaign "mere propaganda" aimed at easing consumer concerns about genetically modified foods. "Other important issues, such as the ecological impact of gene transfer into the environment, are ignored," says a spokesman.

Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2000 Registered No. 785998 England.

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Date: 30 Aug 2000 15:01:27 +0100
From: "jcummins"

We told them so! The CaMV promoter thinks it is still a virus!

Natur Biotechnology Articles

September 2000 Volume 18 Number 9 pp 995 - 999

Plants rendered herbicide-susceptible by cauliflower mosaic virus-elicited suppression of a 35S promoter-regulated transgene

Nadia S. Al-Kaff, Maria M. Kreike, Simon N. Covey, Robert Pitcher, Anthony M. Page & Philip J. Dale

John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK. Correspondence should be addressed to N S Al-Kaff. e-mail:

Crop plants genetically modified for herbicide tolerance were some of the first to be released into the environment. Frequently, the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter is used to drive expression of the herbicide tolerance transgene. We analyzed the response to CaMV infection of a transgenic oilseed rape line containing the bialaphos tolerance gene (BAR) from Streptomyces hygroscopicus, regulated by the 35S promoter.

Oilseed rape is susceptible to CaMV, but plants recover from infection. CaMV infection altered the expression of the herbicide tolerance gene such that plants became susceptible to the herbicide. The effect on transgene expression differed in infections with viral pathogenic variants typical of those found in natural situations worldwide. Susceptibility to the herbicide was most likely a result of transcriptional gene silencing of the transgene. Our results show that transgene phenotypes can be modified by pathogen invasion.

Keywords: 35S promoter, oilseed rape, transgene expression, CaMV, herbicide tolerance gene

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Date: 31 Aug 2000 08:24:18 +0100
From: "jcummins"

USDA on its terminator

The article below points out that USDA owns half of the terminator patent (the other half is delta and pine). USDA also regulates GM crops through APHIS, my readings of APHIS reviews are that they are blatantly biased to support GM crops. Terminator is , in fact, spreading to crop systems of male sterility to produce hybrid wheat, canola and other crops.

Terminator is also being used to develop seedless fruits. The latter developments have never been questioned about the use of the barnase toxin which is potently active against human cells and animals as well. Frankly, USDA will continue their "godfather" role in crop biotechnology unless the public objects. Independent , unbiased reviews of GM crops are needed.

USDA's terminator talks

by Jeff Fox, Natur Biotechnology
Business and Regulatory News, September 2000, Volume 18 Number 9 p 911

Members of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA; Washington, DC) Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology (ACAB) played host in July to another round in the hot debate over the "terminator" technology, which is patented jointly by USDA and the seed company, Delta & Pine Land. The patents covering this technology broadly protect several genetic manipulations that can render plant seeds sterile or can control gene expression in specific plant tissues.

With their main concerns focused on seed sterilization-related issues, activists and some ACAB members are insisting that USDA either abandon these patents or impose various conditions on companies that obtain licenses to develop commercial products through use of this technology. In one non-binding vote, ACAB members recommended that USDA restrict such licenses to uses in which no heirloom varieties are at stake and the plants being engineered self-pollinate rather than out-cross.

However, a potentially more far-reaching issue looms for the industry: What happens if USDA and other federal agencies begin imposing revised conditions after patents are granted and well after initial cooperative technology agreements have been signed? USDA officials are expected to announce their plans for terminator-related licensing sometime in the next few months.

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Date: 31 Aug 2000 15:01:55 +0100
From: "jcummins"

GM crops change microbial ecology

The paper below is a good reference for submitting to governemental reviews of GM crops. Of course the fanatics who promote GM crops will demand not only change in soil ecology but catastrophic changes in soil ecology. However, if we are patiencient we may finally overcome the cerebral adipose of the forces of darkness.

"Use of the T-RFLP technique to assess spatial and temporal changes in the bacterial community structure within an agricultural soil planted with transgenic and non-transgenic potato plants."

[Record Supplied By Publisher]

FEMS Microbiol Ecol 2000 Jun 01;32(3):241-247 (ISSN: 0168-6496)

Lukow T; Dunfield PF; Liesack W
Max-Planck-Institut für terrestrische Mikrobiologie,
Karl-von-Frisch-Strase, D-35043, Marburg, Germany.

The aim of this study was to examine whether the terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis represents an appropriate technique for monitoring highly diverse soil bacterial communities, i.e. to assess spatial and/or temporal effects on bacterial community structure. The T-RFLP method, a recently described fingerprinting technique, is based on terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms between distinct small-subunit rRNA gene sequence types.

This technique permits an automated quantification of the fluorescence signal intensities of the individual terminal restriction fragments (T-RFs) in a given community fingerprint pattern. The indigenous bacterial communities of three soil plots located within an agricultural field of 110 m(2) were compared. The first site was planted with non-transgenic potato plants, while the other two were planted with transgenic GUS and Barnase/Barstar potato plants, respectively. Once prior to planting and three times after planting, seven parallel samples were taken from each of the three soil plots. The T-RFLP analysis resulted in very complex but highly reproducible community fingerprint patterns.

The percentage abundance values of defined T-RFs were calculated for the seven parallel samples of the respective soil plot. A multivariate analysis of variance was used to test T-RFLP data sets for significant differences. The statistical treatments clearly revealed spatial and temporal effects, as well as spacextime interaction effects, on the structural composition of the bacterial communities. T-RFs which showed the highest correlations to the discriminant factors were not those T-RFs which showed the largest single variations between the seven-sample means of individual plots. In summary, the T-RFLP technique, although a polymerase chain reaction-based method, proved to be a suitable technique for monitoring highly diverse soil microbial communities for changes over space and/or time.

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Date: 31 Aug 2000 18:15:07 +0100
From: "jcummins"

GM crops may eliminate birds

GM herbicide tolerant crops are likely to eliminate birds. The article below is a good current reference, it is theoretical but good. I expect that APHIS will pretend to be superior and to discount the finding, however, if we are patient and active we can grind down APHIS by demanding fair and balanced reviews not just once but repeatedly..

Predictions of Biodiversity Response to Genetically Modified Herbicide-Tolerant Crops

A. R. Watkinson,1* R. P. Freckleton,1 R. A. Robinson,2 W. J. Sutherland1

We simulated the effects of the introduction of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) crops on weed populations and the consequences for seed-eating birds. We predict that weed populations might be reduced to low levels or practically eradicated, depending on the exact form of management. Consequent effects on the local use of fields by birds might be severe, because such reductions represent a major loss of food resources. The regional impacts of GMHT crops are shown to depend on whether the adoption of GMHT crops by farmers covaries with current weed levels.

1 Schools of Environmental and Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.
2 British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK.
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Related articles in Science: AGRICULTURE:

Genetically Modified Crops and Farmland Biodiversity.

Les G. Firbank and Frank Forcella
Science 2000 289: 1481-1482, Volume 289, Number 5484, Issue of 1 Sep 2000, pp. 1554-1557.