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London Times October 22 1997
BY NIGEL HAWKES, SCIENCE EDITOR
SCIENTISTS in Scotland have urged caution in the introduction of genetically modified crops after discovering that they could harm ladybugs (called ladybirds in Europe).
Nick Birch and a team from the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee found that female ladybugs that ate aphids that had fed on genetically modified potatoes laid fewer eggs and lived only half as long as the average. The team tested a potato plant that had been modified to produce a natural insecticide that discouraged aphids from feeding on them.
The team found that the modified potatoes did indeed suffer reduced attack but the cut, of 50 per cent, was insufficient on its own, so it was important that ladybugs also did their work.
The team says in the institute's annual report that the ladybirds continued to eat the aphids but the effects suggested that such crops could have unexpected consequences.
==================** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for research and educational purposes. **
By Claire Gilbert, Ph.D. © 1997
HALF MOON BAY, California, October 24, 1997 -- Some ladybugs in Scotland have become very important this week because they may be the first proof that non-target species can be harmed by transgenic crops. Transgenic bio-engineering involves inserting genes into one species from another in order to gain some advantage.
Ladybugs -- or "ladybirds" if you are European -- have always been considered friendly insects in the garden and on the farm. They eat many insects that are harmful to crops and flowers. Ladybugs are part of the natural system.
The lifespan of ladybugs was reduced to half when they ate aphids that had fed on genetically altered potatoes in Scotland, according to a London Times article (10/22/97) by Science Editor, Nigel Hawkes. The ladybugs also laid fewer eggs.
Fears of genetic engineering critics were fanned by the news that ladybugs were damaged by eating insects feeding on altered potatoes.
Among the critics' concerns are: that non-target organisms may be affected by pesticide genes put into plants; that beneficial insects might be harmed; that unknown consequences may occur; and that ecosystems may be damaged.
Richard Wolfson, Ph.D., of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, says that genetically engineered potatoes and corn produce their own pesticide. These vegetables, now on the market, contain a bacterial gene normally found in soil, called "bacillus thuringiensis," or Bt. In altered potatoes and corn, Bt creates a toxin in the plant itself to kill insects.
Agronomists are concerned that by making Bt an integral part of plants, the evolution of Bt resistant insects will speed up enormously. When used alone, as it occurs in nature, Bt is considered among the safest insect controllers.
The effects on humans of eating altered crops which contain Bt is unknown. The companies which have pioneered in inserting foreign genes into plants have successfully made the claim to regulatory agencies that the food plants are substantially equivalent to unaltered ones. The companies have been able to fast track their products to market, bypassing lengthy safety testing.
Scientists in Scotland now urge caution in the introduction of genetically modified crops after discovering that they could harm ladybugs. Nick Birch and a team from the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee are responsible for discovering the reduced fertility and lifespan of the ladybugs.
The potato plant in question had been altered to produce a natural insecticide that deterred aphids from eating them. Non-potato genetic material is inserted into potatoes. While this did indeed discourage aphids, the reduction was not complete. The number of aphids on the potatoes was reduced by only 50% so that ladybugs were needed to eat the remaining aphids.
With the large number of transgentic crops being planted in the U.S. and the rest of the world, many unforseen consequences may be released. In the annual report of the Institute, the team that worked on the ladybug research said the deleterious effects on the ladybugs suggested that genetically altered crops could have unexpected consequences.
Claire Gilbert may be contacted at email@example.com
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London Sunday Times October 26 1997
by Lois Rogers Medical Correspondent
[forwarded from MichaelP firstname.lastname@example.org via email@example.com genetic engineering newsgroup]
DOCTORS are using genetically engineered animal organs to keep humans alive. Twenty people are to be connected to pig livers despite fears that they could be infected by unpredictable animal viruses.
The experiments are being conducted by three American hospitals that are competing to perfect the introduction of human genes into pigs so that their hearts, kidneys and livers can be used in humans.
Surgeons involved in the research disclosed last week that the first operations have taken place. All patients suffer from liver failure that would otherwise have been fatal and most have lapsed into a final coma. Relatives had to give consent.
In each case, a tube is attached to a vein in the patient's leg. The blood is artificially oxygenated, pumped through the pig liver and back into the body through a neck vein. The freshly removed pig liver is stored in a plastic container beside the patient and remains functioning because of the regular supply of human blood.
The livers come from herds which have been bred to contain two human genes which prevent the organs being recognised as foreign tissue.
A key indicator of whether a pig liver is working will be its ability to manufacture bile. Humans need up to two pints a day of this vital liver product to keep the digestive system functioning. The livers will also have to manufacture new blood cells.
"The project is principally a way of our helping to keep these people alive, but it also gives us more information about the rejection process," said Jeffrey Platt, professor of experimental surgery at Duke University in North Carolina, who is leading one of the groups conducting the research.
Platt was partly prompted to experiment with transgenic pig organs after surgeons at the university successfully used normal pig livers to save Eric Thomas, a 22-year-old student. In his case, doctors used five successive pig livers in an experiment to filter his blood. Each was rejected within hours, but they provided sufficient time for a human organ to be found.
In Britain, at least 6,000 people are waiting for organ transplants. Thousands die while on the waiting list, but British doctors have resisted pressure to conduct human experiments with genetically engineered animal organs. There are fears that viruses in animal organs could jump the species barrier and infect patients.
Last week British scientists announced in Nature, the scientific journal, that they had found two pig viruses capable of infecting human cells.
"We are taking a cautious approach and trying to answer as many questions as we can about safety before we move on to man," said Corinne Savill, chief executive of Imutran, a Cambridge-based company trying to develop safe transgenic organs. Imutran is confident it will eventually be able to breed virus-free pigs.
Safety is not the only ethical dilemma facing scientists. "Obviously the liver technique is a potential life-saving therapy," said Savill. "But there is a question of whether the patients can give informed consent when they are unconscious and don't know what the procedure is, or its potential risks and benefits."
Claire Corps, 29, from Ripon, North Yorkshire, was an immunologist researching liver failure when she discovered she had the condition herself.
She has already been waiting eight months for a transplant organ. "I would say not enough is known about pig livers. Things are getting worse for me and the liver is gradually going down," she said. "If I were nearer the end, I might think differently."
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for research and educational purposes. **
The Irish Times October 28, 1997
The mainstream food culture is morally bankrupt and unconcerned with the health of its customers, according to a leading food writer, Mr John McKenna.
At the annual meeting of the Association of Health Stores in Limerick yesterday, Mr McKenna said the introduction of genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) represented a departure from a holistic and humane approach to food.
GMOs are microbes, plants or animals in which genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally through mating or natural recombination.
Mr McKenna said that the use of GMOs represented the "most extreme example" of adulteration in the food production process, a process which it was the role of the Government to police. Last week a conference in Dublin on the regulation of GMOs heard that EU directives were currently being strengthened to improve risk assessment and a better labelling of foods containing GMOs.
Mr McKenna also accused supermarkets of being unconcerned about the sources of their food or how it got onto their shelves and said that mulinational producers were more concerned about profit than issues of public concern, such as the treatment of food with artificial preservatives and the impact of extensive farming practices on the environment.
(Biotech stocks are worst investment) (UK)
The Daily Telegraph October 28, 1997, Tuesday BYLINE: Edited by Nils Pratley
ALONG with football clubs, biotechnology stocks share the award for the worst investments of the year. Wild enthusiasm has given way to deep scepticism and, to hammer the point home, British Biotech, the biggest of the biotech babes, sank to a 12-month low yesterday. It has now fallen from 326p to 113 1/2 p in a little over 15 months.
For investors, the question is whether optimism could return as quickly, offering a chance to pick up some bargains. Do not believe it. The big four - British Biotech, Biocompatibles, Celltech and Scotia Holdings - have all made disappointing announcements this year, which looks nothing more than the arrival of reality.
The fact of life in drug development is that only about 20pc of the compounds that enter clinical trials make it to the market. The proportion rises as the drugs progress through the labs but the risk of outright failure (as with Celltech's septic shock drug) remains. At some point, the potential rewards will mean that the risk is worth taking. But British Biotech, for example, is still worth pounds 750m. The only thing that would move its share price in the short-term would be positive results from the final stage of clinical trials on marimastat - but that is over a year away.
In the background is another worry. Biotech stocks usually underperform at the end of the year as big investors try to lock in any profits from these high-risk stocks. The profits are obviously scarcer this year but there may well be venture capitalists, who were there in the early days, still looking to sell their rump holdings. The sector should still be avoided.
© 1997 Telegraph Group Limited
By Matthew Gledhill and Peter McGrath
The public image of genetically engineered crops--which are already viewed with deep suspicion in many European countries--may be about to get worse.
Agricultural botanists in France have now shown that genes for herbicide resistance engineered into oilseed rape can persist for several generations in hybrids between the transgenic rape and wild radishes. Meanwhile, British researchers have found that potatoes engineered to resist attack by aphids can also harm ladybirds, the pests' natural predators.
While experts stress that neither finding poses a major environmental threat, industry sources fear that the new results will further undermine public acceptance of genetically engineered crops.
The escape of genes into wild plants has always been the main worry surrounding transgenic crops. To study this, Anne-Marie ChŠvre and her colleagues at INRA, France's national agricultural research agency, based near Rennes, planted plots of wild radish, Raphanus raphanistrum, next to transgenic oilseed rape, Brassica napus. The rape was engineered to carry a gene for resistance to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium and did not produce pollen.
The researchers had found previously that the rape produced hybrids carrying 28 chromosomes, 19 from the rape, 9 from the radish. In this week's Nature (vol 389, p 924), they describe experiments in which the hybrids were planted surrounded by wild radishes, and followed through four generations.
Subsequent generations of the hybrids had variable numbers of chromosomes--anywhere between 20 and 60. "We never found a stable variety," says Frédèrique Eber, the team's chromosome specialist. Even in the fourth generation, however, 20 per cent of the hybrids retained the gene for herbicide resistance.
Although the results suggest that the gene might be lost eventually, botanists note that the hybrids studied by the French team are more persistent than many crosses between different species, which frequently don't survive beyond the first generation. "Often things will die out at that stage," says Philip Dale of the John Innes Centre in Norwich.
John Beringer of the University of Bristol, who chairs Britain's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, believes that there is no cause for public alarm. But hybrid weeds could remain in fields and sprout despite herbicide spraying. "It is more of a problem for farmers than an environmental problem."
There is already a climate of public opposition in Europe to imports of American soya beans and maize engineered to produce the bacterial insecticide Bt. Industry sources fear the French findings could delay approval for transgenic crops currently awaiting the green light in Europe, which include five separate strains of herbicide-resistant oilseed rape. "We've had a whole spate of bad news recently," says David Bennett of the European Federation of Biotechnology, based in The Hague. "I can only assume the European Commission will react badly."
More bad news for plant biotechnologists comes from Nick Birch of the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee and Mike Majerus of the University of Cambridge. They fed two-spot ladybirds, Adalia bipunctata, for two weeks on peach-potato aphids, Myzus persicae, that had fed on sap from potatoes engineered to carry a lectin from snowdrops--a protein that interferes with insect digestion.
The engineered potatoes were made by John and Angharad Gatehouse of the University of Durham, and in greenhouse tests they killed off significant numbers of the aphid pests. But in experiments to be reported in a future issue of Molecular Breeding, Birch and Majerus found that female ladybirds fed with aphids from the engineered potatoes lived half as long as those fed on aphids from normal potatoes. Males given lectin-containing aphids lived for an average of 46 days, 5 days less than those in the control group.
In mating studies, up to 30 per cent fewer viable eggs were laid when one of the parent ladybirds was fed aphids from lectin-transformed potatoes. "But these effects on ladybird reproduction wear off after three to four weeks," says Birch.
This is the first time that such a knock-on effect on a beneficial predator species has been seen. While it adds to the concerns about the safety of transgenic crops, Birch notes that the engineered potatoes should require less insecticides. "It may become a question of balancing the risks of transgenic plants with the risks of chemical applications," he says.
By Kurt Kleiner, Washington DC
farmers in mississippi could lose millions of dollars following the partial failure of a new genetically engineered cotton crop.
The cotton, produced by Monsanto, contains a gene for resistance to the company's herbicide glyphosate, sold as Roundup. It should simplify weed control by allowing farmers to apply the herbicide directly to their fields without harming the cotton.
Some 320 000 hectares across the US were planted with the cotton this season, its first on the market. Most farmers are happy with the results. But in Mississippi, and to some extent in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana, entire fields have shed their bolls--the fluffy part harvested for fibre--or have developed small, malformed bolls.
Robert McCarty, director of Mississippi's Bureau of Plant Industry in Starkville, says that only Monsanto plants seem to have failed, over an area totalling 12 000 hectares. "Cotton right across the road of a different variety was not affected," he says.
Monsanto maintains that only a few thousand hectares are involved, and argues that malformed bolls have also been seen with other varieties. But Lisa Drake, a spokeswoman at Monsanto's headquarters in St Louis, Missouri, accepts that plants that have dropped bolls look similar to those damaged in tests involving very large doses of herbicide. She speculates that an abnormally cold, wet spring in Mississippi stressed some plants and reduced their herbicide tolerance.
Charles Merkel, a Mississippi lawyer representing about a dozen cotton farmers, accuses Monsanto of trying to play down the problem. He claims that his clients' losses alone may total millions of dollars. From New Scientist, 1 November 1997 © Copyright New Scientist, IPC Magazines Limited 1997 see http://www.newscientist.com/cgi-bin/pageserver.cgi?/ns/971101/ncrops.html
The first full length documentary on British television covering the genetically engineered (GE) foods issue is to be aired by BBC2 Bristol on 13th November 1997 at 7.30pm as part of their "Close Up West" series. The programme will be entitled "Frankinstein's Food". Those living in the BBC South (Gloucester, Wiltshire, Devon, Somerset...) area please look in and record the programme
Nikkei English News via Individual Inc. : TOKYO (Nikkei)--The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration will send a delegation to Japan to assuage concerns about bioengineered agricultural products by holding seminars in Tokyo, Sapporo and Fukuoka in December.
The move follows rising concerns about the safety of such food and calls for clear labelling. Some in Japan and Europe want to ban imports. U.S. acreage devoted to such products is expanding yearly, and it is a major exporter.
==============** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for research and educational purposes. **
by Miguel Altieri, PhD University of California at Berkeley
[distributed by Ricarda Steinbrecher firstname.lastname@example.org through Reclaim The Streets email@example.com
But the Reality is ...
Biotechnology seeks to "industrialize agriculture" even further, converting agriculture into a branch of industry
Biotechnology is capital intensive and increases concentration of agriculture production in the hands of large - corporate farms
As with other labor saving technology, by increasing productivity biotechnology tends to reduce commodity prices and set in motion a technology treadmill that forces out of business a significant number of farmers, especially small scale.
Given that time and labor saving technology have been substituted for farmers and farm workers for over 200 years, the most probable outcome is that US farmers will be displaced by biotechnology.
Removal of constraints to growing the same crop in the same field every year and eliminating need for mechanical weed control will enable a given number of people to farm more acres and thereby facilitate a system of bigger and fewer farms.
Biotechnology will further concentrate power in the hands of few MNCs, which in turn will enhance farmers dependence and force them to pay inflated prices for seed-chemical packages
But the Reality is ...
If green revolution technology bypassed small and resource-poor farmers, biotechnology will exacerbate marginalization even more as such technologies are under corporate control and protected by patents, are expensive and inappropriate to the needs and circumstance of indigenous people.
Biotechnology products will undermine exports from Third World countries especially from small-scale producers.
70,000 farmers in Madagascar growing vanilla were ruined when a Texas farm produced vanilla in biotech labs.
Fructose produced by biotechnology captured over 10% of the world sugar market and caused sugar price to fall, throwing tens of thousands of sugar workers in the Third World out of work
Nearly 10 million sugar farmers in the Third World may face a loss of livelihood as laboratory-produced sweeteners begin invading world markets.
Expansion of Unilever cloned oil palms will substantially increase palm-oil production with dramatic consequences for farmers producing other vegetable oils (groundnut in Senegal and coconut in Philippines)
The Third World should worry that the massive penetration of transgenic crops will not only pose environmental risks and foreclose rural employment opportunities, but will doom traditional agriculture and its native genetic diversity.
But the Reality is ...
Biotechnology is profit driven rather than science and need driven.
Biotechnology research serves the desires of the rich rather than the needs of humanity, especially the poor
Biotechnology is primarily a commercial activity, a reality that determines priorities of what is investigated, how it is applied and who is to benefit. While the world may lack food and suffer pesticide pollution, the focus of MCNs is profit, not philanthropy.
Investors design GMOs for new marketable quality or for import substitution, rather then for greater food production.
Biotechnology companies are emphasizing a limited range of crops for which there are large and secure markets, targeted to relatively capital-intensive production systems. It is difficult to conceive how such technology will be introduced in Third World countries to favor masses of poor farmers
The thrust of the biotech industry is not to solve agricultural problems as much as it to create profitability, Why HRCs are not being develop for parasitic weeds (Striga) in Africa? instead HRC corn and cotton is being produced although there is myriad herbicides available to control weeds in these crops.
Why isn't the scientific genius of biotechnology turned to develop varieties of crops more tolerant to weeds rather than herbicides? or why aren't more promising products of biotechnology, such as N fixing and tolerant plants being developed?
But the Reality is ...
The Third World is now witnessing a "gene rush" as governments and multinational corporation aggressively scour forests, crop fields and coasts in search of the new genetic gold
Indigenous people and their biodiversity are viewed as raw material for the MCNs
Corporations have made billions of dollars on seeds developed in US labs from germplasm that farmers in the Third World had carefully bred over generations.
Peasant farmers go unrewarded for their millenary knowledge of what to grow, while MNCs stand to harvest royalties from Third World countries estimated at billions of dollars
Patenting laws prevent farmers from freely reproducing patented livestock and seeds. Biotech companies offer no concrete provisions to pay Third World farmers for the seeds they take and use
Patenting of plants and animals means that farmers must pay royalties to the patent holder each time they breed their stock (saving seed is not possible with hybrid crops, farmers must buy fresh patented seed each year)
Indigenous farmers can lose rights to their own original seeds and not be allowed under GATT to market or use them.
As bans and regulations delay tests and marketing in the North, GMOs will increasingly be tested in the South to bypass public control (Vaccine application program in India). The Third World will evolve from chemical and nuclear waste disposal to genetic dump site.
But the Reality is ...
Although biotechnology has the capacity to create a greater variety of commercial plants and thus contribute to biodiversity, this is unlikely to happen. MNCs strategy is to create broad international markets for a single product. The tendency is towards uniform international seed markets.
The agricultural systems developed with transgenic crops will favor monocultures characterized by dangerously high levels of genetic homogeneity leading to higher vulnerability of agriculture to biotic and abiotic stresses.
As the new bioengineered seeds replace the old traditional varieties and their wild relatives, genetic erosion will accelerate in the Third World.
The push for uniformity will not only destroy the diversity of genetic resources, but will also disrupt the biological complexity that underlies the sustainability of traditional farming systems.
But the Reality is ...
We can be sure of the economic outcomes of biotechnology (especially for MNCs) than we can about its health or environmental comes.
There are many unanswered ecological questions regarding the impact of the release of transgenic plants and microbes into the environment. Approaches must be developed and employed for assessing and monitoring future predictable risks.
Biotechnology will exacerbate the problems of conventional agriculture and will also undermine ecological methods of farming such as rotation and polycultures.
Transgenic crops are likely to increase the use of pesticides and to accelerate the evolution of "superweeds" and resistant insect pest strains.
Major environmental risks associated with genetically engineered plants are the unintended transfer to plant relatives of the "trangenes" and the unpredictable ecological effects
But the Reality is ...
The demand for the new biotechnology has emerged out of the change in plant laws and the profit interests of chemical companies of linking seeds and pesticides. The supply emerged out of breakthroughs in molecular biology and the availability of venture capital as a result of favorable tax laws
Plant breeding research is shifting form the public to the private sector. As more universities enter into partnerships with corporations, serious ethical questions emerge about who owns the results of research and which research gets done.
A great deal of the basic knowledge underlying biotechnology was developed using public funding.
The trend to secrecy by public funded scientists in government and universities is not in the public interest.
A professor ability to attract private investments is often more important than academic qualifications. Applied and alternative agricultural sciences such as biological pest control which do not attract corporate sponsorship are being phased out.
The economic and political domination of the agricultural development agenda has thrived at the expense of interest of consumers, farm workers, small family farms, wildlife and the environment
Citizens should have earlier entry points and broader participation in technological decisions
The domination of scientific research by corporate interest must be dealt with more stringent public control.
It is not biotechnological science that needs scrutiny, it is its exploitation by narrow business interests.
CGIAR will have to carefully monitor and control the provision of applied non proprietary knowledge to the private sector so as to protect that such knowledge will continue in the public domain for the benefit of the rural poor.
Mechanisms should be in place to reverse the privatization of biotechnology and challenge the direction of current privately led research. The CGIAR could assume the historic and ethical responsibility in the development and deployment of socioeconomically and environmentally desirable biotechnologies.
But the Reality is ...
Biotechnology emerges in an area when there is widespread concern about the long-term sustainability of our food production systems. Many scientists raise questions about the growing dependence of farming on non -renewable resources, the depletion of soils through erosion and the heavy reliance on chemicals which are costly but also raise questions about food and environmental quality.
Agroindustrial's model reliance on monoculture and inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers impacts the environment and society: topsoil has been lost, biodiversity has eroded, and toxics have damaged wildlife, soil and water. As biotechnology requires reliance on monocultures these negative trends will become exacerbated.
Worldwide, 2.5 million tons of pesticides are applied each year with a purchase price of $20 billion.
In the US, 500,000 tons of 600 different types of pesticides are used annually at a cost of $4.1 billion.
The cost to Latin America of chemical pest control is expected to reach US $ 3.97 billion by the year 2000
An investment of $4 billion dollars in pesticide control saves approximately $16 billions in US crops. But indirect environmental and public health costs of pesticide use (reaching $8 billion each year) need to be balanced against these benefits.
By weight of active ingredients, herbicides now constitute 85% of all pesticides applied to field crops. Monsanto alone sold $1 billion worth in 1982.
Biotechnology treats agricultural problems as genetic deficiencies of organisms, and treats nature as a commodity.
Biotechnology is being used to pursue to patch up problems that have been caused by previous technologies (pest resistance, cost of pesticides, pollution, etc.) which were promoted by the same companies now leading the bio-revolution
Transgenic crops for pest control follow closely the pesticide paradigm of using a single control mechanism which has proven to fail with insects, pathogens and weeds. As such, they do not fit into the broad ideals of sustainable agriculture.
The "one gene - one pest" resistance approach is rather easy to be overcome by pests which are continuously adapting to new situations and evolving detoxification mechanisms.
As with pesticides, biotechnology companies will feel the impact of environmental, farm labor, animal rights and consumers lobbies
Miguel A. Altieri, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
ESPM-Division of Insect Biology
201 Wellman-3112 Berkeley, CA 94720-3112
Phone: 510-642-9802 FAX: 510-642-7428
Location: 129 Giannini, Berkeley campus
Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods
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