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2-Plants: No to PGS field test in Sweden



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No to field test of fungus-resistant rapeseed

On 4 May, the Swedish Board of Agriculture turned down an application from Plant
Genetic Systems to field test a number of rapeseed lines genetically modified to
withstand fungal infections.

The application is rejected because the genes in question (5 different ones) are
'not sufficiently characterised regarding molecular mechanisms'. It is noted that
the genes have a certain potential to spread to related wild species, and that it
is not possible from the information given in the application to judge what
ecological consequences this might have. A general lack of documentation, for
example regarding results from greenhouse tests, is also noted.

I can certify that the application lacked even the most basic information, and
that even the concept of ecological consequences seems unknown to PGS. At one
point there was a request from the Board of Agriculture for further information
regarding the possible side effects on herbivorous insects. The answer (direct
quotation):

"The 2 chitinases (Chi-I, Chi-G) have been shown to have antifungal activity in
vitro and in planta. Although there are no data available on insecticidal
activity of these proteins, it is very unlikely that they exhibit such
properties. In they would exhibit this activity, it would make these proteins
even more interesting for engineering."

Incidentally, this was the only place in the material released to me where it
transpired that introduction of chitinases (presumably to strengthen cell walls
and thus withstand infection better) was one of the resistance strategies
employed. In the application proper, all specific information on the
transformations was classified as CBI by the Board of Agriculture, at PGS's
request, to the point of not even mentioning what traits had been transferred. We
protested against this of course, but in vain.

In the end however, the decision was what we demanded, and for much the same
reasons. It can be noted that apart from Ekologiska Lantbrukarna, also the LRF
(Federation of Swedish Farmers) and the Department of Theoretical Ecology at Lund
University recommended not granting the permit.

It seems that these same lines were submitted and allowed a field test this year
in Belgium. I see there's a recent SNIF with the following heading:

    Notification number:
    B/BE/99/VW2

    Member State:
    Belgium

    Title of the project:
    Field evaluation of genetically modified, fungal disease resistant oilseed
rape.

I have not checked this one out, however.

For more information on the Swedish decision, please contact the person in charge
directly, Mr Staffan Eklöf at the Board of Agriculture (staffan.eklof@sjv.se or
direct phone +46-36 15 51 23).


/Peter Einarsson



EKOLOGISKA LANTBRUKARNA
  (Swedish Association of Ecological Farmers)
Peter Einarsson
Björkeryd
SE-360 13 Urshult
Sweden
Ph/fx +46-477 401 60
http://ekolantbruk.se


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