Genetically Manipulated Food News

17 October 1997

Table of Contents

Japan Rejects GE-Modified Tomato
Giant Potato Produced in Germany
Scientists Identify Gene to Force Flowering in Plants
Growing Medicine on Trees
Firefly Genes Light Up Stanford Research Mice
GE Animals to produce donour organs for transplants
Pig viruses may transfer with organs

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"Japan Firm Squashes Gene-Altered Tomatoes," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, August 15, 1997; Andy Coghlan

Kagome Co. of Japan, in response to criticisms from retailers and consumer groups, has agreed to stop the marketing of processed foods manufactured with genetically engineered tomatoes. Although the company has the technology to engineer tomatoes with more dietary fiber than traditional varieties, it has put off applying for permits from the Japanese Health Ministry because of consumer concerns about the safety of GMOs. Genetically engineered tomatoes have been utilized in processed foods in the U.S. since 1994. [Thanks for Jim Mcnulty for forwarding this message]


"Scientists Create Monster Potatoes," AGWEEK, August 11, 1997.

Scientists in Germany have engineered a potato large enough to feed a family of six. The largest of the engineered potatoes, which on an average were two to three times as big as normal ones, weighed two kilograms. Lothar Willmitzer, head of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology, and his colleagues, created the giant potato by transferring a yeast gene into the plant.

The scientists discovered that if the gene is made to produce the enzyme invertase in between the plant cells, the potato draws in more sugar and the tubers subsequently grow larger. The engineered potatoes are unlikely to be used in the manufacture of chips, according to Mike Storey from the British Potato Council, because they contain more water than normal and would soak up more fat and turn out greasier. [Thanks for Jim Mcnulty for forwarding this message]


Simon Reeve, "Spray Tricks Plants Into Flowering on Demand," ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH, August 31, 1997.

Scientists at the John Innes Center in Norwich, England have discovered a gene that controls flowering. The scientists made the discovery using the common wall cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). After modifying the gene, and then spraying the plant with a mixture of chemicals, the scientists forced the plant to bloom virtually overnight.

The work has attracted the attention of numerous pharmaceutical companies who feel that the potential for commercial application is great. At present, the chemical that the scientist's are using to force flowering, contains genes that >are extracted from rats. [Thanks for Jim Mcnulty for forwarding this message]


New Straits Times (Malaysia) October 10, 1997

If money can grow on trees, well, this would be close to it: a rubber tree in which a foreign gene has been introduced (transgenic) can produce thousands of ringgit [currency] worth of valuable medical drugs each time it is tapped while the latex would be a mere byproduct. A transgenic rubber plant is one carrying a gene that scientists have introduced. By putting specific new genes into rubber trees, scientists can turn them into solar- powered "factories", producing medical drugs such as antibiotics, vaccines and hormones which are easily harvested through tapping the trees and separating out the latex in a simple centrifuge. [From Biotechnology News 10/12, put out by Reclaim The Streets ]

Firefly Genes Light Up Stanford Research Mice

San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, October 11, 1997 Page A1 Charles Petit, Chronicle Science Writer

Scientists at Stanford University are using mice and rats that glow faintly in the dark -- thanks to firefly genes inserted into their cells -- as potent new tools for medical science.

The oddly luminous rodents -- one mouse was treated so just its ears lit up -- could shed new light on how some diseases, including AIDS, spread through a living organism. ``They're cute as can be, but this is good science too,'' said research associate Stan Spillman at Stanford's Molecular Biophotonics Laboratory.

By using genes that give cells the power to glow, researchers can more easily tell whether transplanted DNA is functioning in living cells selected for therapy or study.

The firefly genes enable cells to make an enzyme called luciferase. It occurs naturally in fireflies. Named for Lucifer, mythical ruler of the underworld and its hellish flames, it emits a pale yellowish green light when combined with a substance with a similar name, luciferin.

For scientists, it literally puts a beacon on some biological processes that they previously could only guess about. In the past decade, many research groups have used luciferase genes as labels on transplanted DNA. Many kinds of plants, as well as some kinds of small fish, have been made to glow faintly.

The work with glowing rats and mice is supervised by Christopher Contag, acting assistant professor of pediatrics and director of bioluminescence research at Stanford's School of Medicine. He said the animals are the first living, intact mammals in which the glow of the luciferase gene has been detected. A report on the work is published in this month's issue of the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology.

By combining the firefly genes with other genes in which they are interested and inserting the new genetic packages into the animals, researchers can learn when the genes are actually active. For instance, some of the mice now at Stanford have firefly genes combined with a gene normally found in HIV, the AIDS virus. Studying conditions under which the HIV gene is active may help lead to new techniques against AIDS.

GE Animals to produce donour organs for transplants


Pigs are being genetically engineered with human genes, so that the hearts from these pig-human hybrids can be used for human heart transplants.

However, scientists are concerned that viruses from pigs will be transfered into humans, creating new and potentially very dangerous virus diseases for humans. The two following articles provide more details:



extracted from Press Release of Genetics Forum in London, UK email:

At Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, in concert with the biotechnology company Imutran, scientists are using genetic engineering techniques to attempt to breed pigs which have a human gene in every cell. Imutran has filed a patent application on the process they intend to use ultimately to place the heart from a genetically engineered pig into a human, a process known as xenotransplantation. Multi-million pound profits lie at the end of this particular genetic rainbow.

But just this week, yet another scientific study warns that pig viruses may transfer into human cells. Xenotransplants increase the risk of infection, according to Jonathan Stoye of the National Institute for Medical Research in London. Stoye and his colleagues have identified two different classes of endogenous proviruses from a kidney cell line of a pig. Endogenous viruses are passed on in the germ-line as proviruses and so are very difficult to remove when producing animals for organ transplants. These resulting viruses may infect human cells, causing potentially pathogenic viruses for pig organ recipients.


Pig viruses may transfer with organs


WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (UPI) _ Researchers in Great Britain say they have found two viruses in pigs that could infect a human who received a heart, liver, or other organ transplant from the animals. The report is published today in the British journal Nature.

However, co-author Jonathan Stoye told United Press International that just because the pig viruses can infect human cells in a test tube does not automatically mean the viruses are harmful.

Stoye, a geneticist at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, says he and his colleagues have found the DNA of two viruses buried in the genetic code of every cell type and every breed of pig they have examined so far.

That evidence, he says, suggests a strong likelihood the viruses will be carried along with any organ transplant.

What the group does not yet know is whether the viruses will do anything once they get there.

Stoye says this kind of virus, called a retrovirus, has been known to cause tumors years after infection.

That risk is acceptable in patients who would otherwise be facing death. Stoye's concern is the tiny risk, if the viruses do indeed activate in humans, that the organisms could then spread to the general population.

Using animal organs to replace failing human ones, or xenotransplantation, could save the lives of thousands of patients who die before a human donor becomes available. Transplant surgeons consider pig organs because they are similar in size to those of humans.

Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods

Natural Law Party, 500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2, Tel. 613-565-8517 Fax. 613-565-1596, email: Our website, contains more information on genetic engineering. To receive regular news on genetic engineering and this campaign, please send an email message with 'subscribe GE' in the subject line to To unsubscribe, please send the message 'unsubscribe GE'

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