GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Re: Gene Transfer/FOEE Mailout

Dear Friends,

The following may be of use in clarifying some recent questions about the
transfer of genes, particularly antibiotic resistance genes, from and
between microbes.

The UK Advisory Committee on Novel Food Processes, a 20 member expert
panel, published a report in July 1994 entitled "The Use of Antibiotic
Resistance Markers in Genetically Modified Food Organisms". It has no
reference number, but is available from the Ministry of Ag, Fisheries and
Food, Ergon House c/- Nobel House, 17 Smith Sq, London SW1P 3JR. The
telephone and fax numbers I have are by now long out of date.

The expert committee took a lot of evidence and (briefly) recommended:

"1. Genetically modified food micro-organisms which are intended to be
ingested live in human foods, such as lactic acid bacteria, should not be
permitted to contain antibiotic resistance marker genes. Alternative
markers and procedures for the removal of antibiotic resistance markers
have been dveloped and should be used.

2. The use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in foods from genetically
modified plants and from non-viable genetically modified micro-organisms
should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Safety evaluation of the food
GMO would include among other considerations, assessment of:

- the clinical use of the antibiotic;
- the liklihood of transfer of the antibiotic resistance gene into, and
expression in,
  gut micro-organisms; and
- toxicity of the gene product.

3. The research community should be reminded of the extent of antibiotic
resistance present in micro-organisms and should be made aware of the
implications that this has for human health and safety, as well as for
veterinary medical practice.

4. Researchers developing food GMOs should be encouraged to develop and use
alternatives to antibiotic resistance markers and/or methods to jettison
those used."

Not precautionary enough but better than nothing, if implemented.

Industry should also be required to lodge in advance of commercialisation a
bond to cover the costs of a worst case outcome. The 'external' and
longterm costs of 'misjudgements' by scientists, industry and regulators,
proceeding on the 'best information available at the time' must henceforth
be borne by them, not their victims!

Keep talking ...


Bob Phelps
Australian GeneEthics Network
c/- ACF 340 Gore Street, Fitzroy. 3065 Australia
Tel: (03) 9416.2222 Fax: (03) 9416.0767 {Int Code (613)}
WWW:  (under construction)