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7-Misc: World ScientistsΠStatement on genetic engineering

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TITLE:  World ScientistsŒ Statement
SOURCE: Mae-Wan Ho & Angela Ryan, Open University, UK
DATE:   July 18, 1999

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World Scientists' Statement

Calling on all Governments to:

- Impose an immediate moratorium on further environmental
  releases oftransgenic crops, food and animal-feed products for
  at least 5 yers.
- Ban patents on living organisms, cell lines and genes.
- Support a comprehensive, independent public enquiry into the
  future of agriculture and food security for all.

-----     -----

First Update of Concerns - July 15th 1999

Prepared by
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho & Angela Ryan
Open University, UK


The article on TRIPS is now under review at the WTO. It is an
opportunity to exclude the new biotech patents from TRIPS. A
scientific briefing was produced for the Third World Network and
circulated at WTO, by two of our signatories, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and
Dr. Terje Traavik. The full document can be found on our website:
<>. It provides a glossary and
detailed analysis of the relevant article in TRIPS as well as
corresponding articles in the EU Directive. The briefing conludes

All classes of the new biotech patents should be rejected from
inclusion in TRIPS on the following grounds: All involve
biological processes not under the direct control of the
scientist. They cannot be regarded as inventions but
expropriations from life. The hit or mis technologies associated
with many of the inventions are inherently hasardous to health
and biodiversity. There is no scientific basis to support the
patenting of genes and genomes, which are discoveries at best.
Many patents are unethical; they destroy livelihoods, contravene
basic human rights, create unnecessary suffering in animals or
are otherwise contrary to public order and morality. Many patents
involve acts of plagiarism of indigenous knowledge and biopiracy
of plants (and animals) bred and used by local communities for


1. Researchers at Cornell University published a study in Nature
which found that pollen from GM Bt corn could have lethal effects
on the larvae of monarch butterflies if it lands on milkweed, the
plant upon which they feed. Forty-four percent of the larvae were
killed after 4 days, whereas no mortality occurred in larvae fed
nontransgenic pollen. The Cornell University researchers say
their results "have potentially Ýprofound implications for the
conservation of monarch butterflies" and believe more research on
the environmental risks of biotechnology in agriculture is

Reference: Losey, J.E. et al (1999). Transgenic pollen harms
monarch larvae. Nature 399, 214.

2. A recent study on transgenic rice carried out at the John
Innes Institute supports previous evidence that there is a
recombination hotspot in the CaMV 35S promoter. Furthermore, most
of the recombination events analyzed were 'illegitimate' or
nonhomologous and do not require substantial similarity in
nucleic acid base sequence. The recombination events were also
found to occur independently, in the absence of other viral

Our comment: Transgenic lines containing the CaMV promoter, which
includes practically all that have been released, are therefore
prone to instability due to rearrangements, and also have the
potential to create new viruses or other invasive genetic
elements. The continued release of such transgenic lines is
unwarranted in light of the new findings.

Reference; Kohli, A. et al 1999. Molecular characterization of
transforming plasmid rearrangement in transgenic rice reveals a
recombination hotspot in the CaMV promoter and confirms the
predominance of microhomology mediated recombination. The Plant
Journal 17(6), pp 591-601.

3. A new study reviews 8,200 university based trials of
transgenic soya varieties. It reveals that Roundup Ready Soybeans
produce lower yields compared to their non GM counterparts. The
average yield drag in RR soybeans was 6.7% and in some areas of
the midwest the average yeild in conventional varieties was 10%
higher compared to Roundup Ready varieties. Furthermore the
analysis shows that farmers use 2 to 5 times more herbicide
measured in pounds applied per acre on RR soybeans compared with
other weed management systems. RR herbicide use exceeds the
levels on many farms using multi-tactic weed management systems
by a factor of 10 or more.

Reference: Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the
Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal
Trials in 1998 by U.S. agronomist Dr. Charles Benbrook, author of
Pest Management at the Crossroads and former Executive Director
of the Board on Agriculture for the US National Academy of
Sciences. ÝAg Biotech Infonet Technical Paper Number 1 July 13
1999. website <>

4. A recent population-based study conducted in Sweden between
1987-1990 and including follow-up interviews clearly links
exposure to Roundup Ready herbicide (glyphosate) to non-Hodgkinís
lymphoma and strongly suggests glyphosate deserves further
epidemiological studies.

Reference: Hardell, H. & Eriksson, M. (1999). A Case-Control
Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides. Cancer
5, No 6.

5. A new paper reports chaotic gene silencing in GM plants and
reveals that each transformed plant expressed a different and
specific instability profile. Both transcriptional and post
transcriptional gene silencing mechanisms were operating in a
chaotic manner and demonstrates that epigenetic (position)
effects are responsible for transgene instability in GM plants.
These results indicate that transgene silencing and instability
will continue to hinder the economic exploitation of GM plants.

Reference; Dr. Neve M et al. (1999) Gene Silencing results in
instability of antibody production in transgenic plants.
Molecular and General Genetics 260:580-592.

6. Successful transfers of a kanamycin resistance marker gene to
the soil bacterium Acinetobacter were obtained using DNA
extracted from homogenized plant leaf from a range of transgenic
plants: Solanum tuberosum (potato), Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco),
Beta vulgaris (sugar beet), Brassica napus (oil-seed rape) and
Lycopersicon esculentum (tomato). It is estimated that about 2500
copies of the kanamycin resistance genes (from the same number of
plant cells) is sufficient to successfully transform one
bacterium, despite the fact that there is six million-fold excess
of plant DNA present.

Our comment: A single plant with say, 2.5 trillion cells, would
be sufficient to transform one billion bacteria.

Reference: De Vries, J. and Wackernagel, W. (1998). Detection of
nptII (kanamycin resistance) genes in genomes of transgenic
plants by marker-rescue transformation. Mol. Gen. Genet. 257,

7. Horizontal gene transfer between bacteria can occur in the gut
at high frequencies. This has been demonstrated in the gut of
germ-free mice. The Œgerm-free¹ gut-environment can result from
taking antibiotics. In one experiment, tetracycline increases the
frequency of horizontal gene transfer by 20-fold. And vancomycin
resistant Enterococcus faecium is found to colonise the gut when
the mice were treated with antibiotic.

Our comments: Antibiotic resistance marker genes can spread from
GMOs to bacteria and between bacteria, including those associated
with infectious diseases. Furthermore, the use of antibiotics
will make resistance spread more readily.

References: Persson et al (1996). Enetrococcus faecium in ex
germfree mice. Microecology and Therapy, 24, 169-173. Doucet
Populaire, F. et al (1991). Inducible transfer of conjugative
transposon Tn/545 from Enterocococcus faecalis to Listeria
monocytogenes in the digestive tracts of gnotobiotic mice.
Antimicrob. Agents Chemother., 35, 185-7. Whitman, M.S. et al
(1996). Gastrointestional tract colonization with vancomycin
resistant Enterococcus faecium in an animal model. Antimicrob.
Agents Chemother. 40, 1526-30.

8. Pathogenic bacteria capable of invading cells can act as
vectors for transferring genes into mammalian cells.

Our comment: Dangerous transgenic DNA can end up in the genome of
our cells, with the potential of causing a lot of genetic
disturbance including cancer.

Reference: Grillot-Courvalin, et al. (1998). Functional gene
transfer from intracellular bacteria to mammalian cells. Nature
Biotechnology 16, 1-5.

-----     -----

Other relevant papers on our website:
Special Safety Concerns of Transgenic Agriculture and Related
Briefing Paper for Minister of State for the Environment, The Rt
Hon Michael Meacher. (Prepared 7.4.99)
Report on meeting of scientists in Michael Meacher¹s Office
(Prepared 10.4.99)
One-bird ten thousand treasures - How ducklings in the paddy
field can feed the world.
Principle of substantial equivalence - excerpt from a full
critique of the FAO/WHO joint report on safety of GM foods.

Sign on at our website:

-----     -----

Signatories on the World Scientists¹ Statement

July 15th 1999 (Total = 85)

Dr. Ted Steele, Molecular Immunologist, U. Wollengong, Australia
Angela Fehringer, Antropology Student, Austria
Prof. David Suzuki, Geneticist, U.B.C., Canada
Prof. Joe Cummins, Geneticist, University of Western Ontario,
Dr. Ruth Goseth, Dermatologist, ISDE, China
Dr. Tewolde Egziabher, Agronomist, Min. of the Environment,
Dr. Christine von Weisaeker, Ecoropa, Germany
Prof. Ervin Laszlo, President, The Club of Buddapest, Hungary
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Research Institute for Science and Ecology,
Dr. Muhua Achary, Environmentalist, St Josephs College,
  Bangalore, India
Dr. Bruno D¹Udine, Behaviour Ecologist, University of Udine,
Dr. Giorgio Cingolani, Agricultural Economist, Italy
Prof. Atuhiro Sibatani, Molecular Biologist, Osaka, Japan
Dr. Shiron Sugita, Plant Geneticist, Nagoya U., Japan
Dr. Noeoru Tagishita, Plant Geneticist, Japanese Assoc. of Agro
  Nature, Tokyo, Japan
Dr. Shing Shibata, Biosafty and Environmental Sociologist, The
  Civil Rights Against Japan, Japan
Dr. Farhad Mazhar, Ecologist, New Agricultural Movement, Japan
Dr. Robert Mann, Physician, New Zealand
Prof. Terje Traavik, Virologist, University of Tromso, Norway
Prof Oscar B. Zamora, Agronomist, U. of Philippines Los Banos,
Dr. Gregorio Alvar, Biotechnologist, Molecular Biology Dept.
  Computense U. Madrid, Spain
Dr. Javier Blasco, Aragonese Ctr Rural European Information,
Dr. Katarina Leppanen, History of Ideas, Gothenburg Uni, Sweden
Dr. Florianne Koechlin, Biologist, World Wildlife Fund,
Verena Soldati, Biotechnologist, Basler Appell, Switzerland
Daniel Amman, Cell Biologist, Tech., Switzerland
Yves Schatzle, Agronomist and Economist, Switzerland
Prof. Arpad Pusztai, Biochemist, Formerly from Rowett Institute,
Dr. Susan Bardocz, Geneticist, Aberdeen, UK
Prof. Richard Lacey, Microbiologist, Leeds, UK
Dr. Michael Antoniou, Molecular Geneticist, Guy¹s Hospital, UK
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Geneticist and Biophysicist, Open University, UK
Dr. J. M. Kerr, Bioethics, Winchester College: Oxford U., UK
Dr. Tom Wakeford, Biologist, U. of East London, UK
Prof. Brian Goodwin, Biologist, Schumacher College, UK
Dr. Patrick Holden Director Soil Association, UK
Dr. Eva Novotny, U. of Cambridge (Retired), UK
Prof. Ian Stuart, Biomathematics, U. Warwick, UK
Dr. Vyvyan Howard, Toxipathologist, U. Liverpool, UK
Prof. Peter Saunders, Biomathematician, U. London, UK
Prof. Tim Ingold, Anthropologist, U. Manchester, UK
Dr. Robert C. Poller, Organic Chemist, U. London, UK
Gordon Daly Ph.D. student, Gene Therapist, Kennedy Inst. London,
Stuart Daly Ph.D. student, Transgenic group, Charing Cross Hosp.,
Peter Preston-Jones, M.Sc. Environmentalist, UK
Dr. John E. Hammond, Engineer, Highfeild, UK
Dr. Philip Kilner, Cardiologist, Royal Brompton & Harefield, UK
Dani Kaye M.Sc. Scientists for Global Responsibility London, UK
David Kaye M.Sc. Scientists for Global Responsibility, London, UK
Angela Ryan, Molecular biologist, Open Univ. UK
Prof. David Packham, Material Scientist, U. Bath, UK
Dr. David J Heaf, Biochemist, Wales, UK
Dr. Alan Currier, Taxonomist, IRBV, UK
Dr. Gesa Staats de Yanes, Veterinarian Toxicologist, U. of
  Liverpool, UK
Barbara Wood-Kaczmar M.Sc. Science Writer, UK
Dr. Gene S. Thomas, Agriculturalist, UK
Prof. Martha Crouch, Biologist, Indiana University, USA
Prof. Ruth Hubbard, Biologist, Harvard University, USA
Prof. Phil Bereano, Union of Concerned Scientists, U. Washington,
Prof. Martha Herbert, Pediatric Neurologist, Mass. Gen. Hosp.,
Prof. David Schartzman, Biologist, Howard U. Washington DC, USA
Prof. John Garderineer, Biologist, U. Michigan, USA
Dr. Walter Bortz, Physician, Palo Alto, USA
Dr. Mahua Acharya, Biologist, USA
Dr. Catherine Badley, Biologist, University of Michigan, USA
Dr. Gerald Smith, Zoologist, U. Michigan, USA
Vuejuin McKersen M.Sc, Natural Resource Manager U. Michigan, USA
Dr. John Soluri, Historian of Science, Carnegie Mellon U, USA
Juiet S Erazo Ph.D. student U. of Michigan, USA
Dr. Juette Peufecto, Biologist, U of Michigan, USA
U.V. Kutzli Ph.D. Candidate, U of Michigan, USA
Kristin Cobelius M.Sc. Student, U. Michigan, USA
Lena S Nicolai Ph.D. Student University of Michigan, USA
Marial Peelle, Biol./Anthropologist Undergrad. Swarthmors
  College, USA
Dr. Ty Fitzmorris, Ecologist, Hampshire College, USA
Dr. Caros R Ramirez, Biologist, St Lawrance University, USA
Rosa Vazquez Student in Biology, Ohio State University, USA
Sean Lyman Student Gettysbury College, USA
Ryan White Student St Lawrence University, USA
Dr. Nancy A Schult, Entomologist, U of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Dr. Brian Schultz, Ecologist, Hampshire College, USA
Dr. Douglas H Boucher, Ecologist, Hood College, USA
Dr. Timothy Mann, Geographer, Hampshire College, USA
Chris Picone M.Sc. Soil Microbiologist, U. Michigan, USA
Dr. Peter M. Rosset, Ins. for Food and Development Policy, USA

In summary, we call upon our Governments to:

- Impose an immediate moratorium on further environmental
  releases of transgenic crops, food and animal-feed products for
  at least 5 years.
- Ban patents on living organisms, cell lines and genes.
- Support a comprehensive, independent public enquiry into the
  future of agriculture and food security for all, taking account
  of the full range of scientific findings as well as
  socioeconomic and ethical implications.

-----     -----








Area of Expertise:

Are you willing to act as spokesperson for the moratorium? yes/no


Send to:

Angela Ryan
Institute of Science in Society
42 Manor Road
High Barnet EN5 2JJ
tel. 44-181-441-6480

Or, sign on at website: <>

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