GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Re: Why Labelling of Genetically Modified Organisms is Pointless.

Based on numerous consumer surveys, food labelled as genetically engineered
will not be purchased if there is an alternative. Thus, labelling is a
tactical politic. But it is based on the fundamental values of consumer
soverignty, right to know, free speech.
>Why Labelling of Genetically Modified Organisms is Pointless.
>I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert in these matters,
>but I believe the evidence presented below shows that GMOs have and will
>cross with non gm crops and wild relatives. This will make it impossible
>to have any foods that will be free of the modified genes, and any other
>dangerous bits and pieces that have been inserted into the organisms.
>Other evidence shows that the vectors used are also dangerous, and this
>means that the whole process must be stopped until such time as the
>scientists themselves (free of the constraints imposed on them by greedy
>self-interested corporations) can prove conclusively that they have
>reached a level of expertise and knowledge that is needed to be sure of
>no danger.
>What appears below is not speculation to be argued about politely with
>the representatives of corporations, but things that have actually
>(conclusion at the end if you find this too boring)
>Field tests with genetically engineered potatoes have demonstrated both
>the high frequency and wide range of gene flow. When normal potato
>plants were planted in distances up to 1100 metres from genetically
>engineered potatoes, and the seeds of the normal potatoes were collected
>afterwards, 72% of the plants in the immediate neighbourhood of the
>transgenic potatoes contained the transgene. At greater distances an
>almost constant 35% of seeds contained the transgene (Skogsmyr I (1994)
>Gene dispersal from transgenic potatoes to conspecifics: A field trial.
>Theor. Appl. Genet 88: 770-774.).
>Scientists at the Scottish Crop Research Institute have shown that much
>more pollen escapes from large fields of genetically engineered oilseed
>rape than is predicted from earlier experiments on smaller plots. They
>found that escaping pollen fertilised plants up to 2.5 kilometres away
>(Timmons AM, O'Brien BT, Charters YM & Wilkinson MJ (1994) Aspects of
>environmental risk assessment for genetically modified plants with
>special reference to oilseed rape. Scottish Crop Research Institute,
>Annual Report 1994. SCRI, Invergowrie, Dundee, Scotland.).
>Crop seeds travel hundreds of kilometres between seed merchant, farmer
>and processing factory, therefore spillage in transport is inevitable -
>and could be more worrying than threat through pollen spread (Crawley M
>(1996) 'The day of the triffids'. New Scientist 6 July pp 40-41 -this
>was further referenced).
>It was reported in 1994 that gene transfer can occur from plants to
>micro-organisms. Genetically engineered oilseed rape, black mustard,
>thorn-apple and sweet peas all containing an antibiotic-resistance gene
>were grown together with the fungus Aspergillus niger or their leaves
>were added to the soil. The fungus was shown to have incorporated the
>antibiotic-resistance gene in all co-culture experiments (Hoffmann T,
>Golz C & Schieder O (1994) Foreign DNA sequences are received by a
>wild-type strain of Aspergillus niger after co-culture with transgenic
>higher plants. Curr. Genet. 27: 70-76.). It is worth noting that micro-
>organisms can transfer genes through several mechanisms to other
>unrelated micro-organisms.
>Genetically engineered soil bacteria Klebsiella: A common harmless
>variety of a bacteria Klebsiella planticola, inhabiting the root-zone of
>plants had been genetically engineered to transform plant residues like
>leaves into ethanol that farmers could readily use as a fuel. The
>genetically engineered bacteria not only survived and competed
>successfully with their parent strain in different soil types, it proved
>unexpectedly to inhibit growth or kill off grass in different soil types
>tested. In sandy soil, most of the grasses died from alcohol poisoning.
>In all soil types the population of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi in the
>soil decreased. These soil fungi are crucial for plant health and growth
>as they help plants to take up nutritions and to resist common diseases.
>In clay soils, the genetically engineered bacteria increased as well the
>number of root-feeding nematodes. (Holmes T M & Ingham E R (1995) The
>effects of genetically engineered microorganisms on soil foodwebs. in
>"Supplement to Bulletin of Ecological Society of America 75/2)
>The bacteria Pseudomonas putida was genetically engineered to degrade
>the herbicide 2,4-D. The engineered bacteria broke down the herbicide
>but degraded it to a substance that was highly toxic to fungi. These
>fungi - crucial to soil fertility and in protecting plants against
>diseases - were therefore destroyed (Doyle JD, Stotzky G, McClung G &
>Hendricks C W (1995) Effects of Genetically Engineered Microorganisms on
>Microbial Populations and Processes in Natural Habitats, Advances in
>Applied Microbiology, Vol. 40 (Academic Press)).
>The toxin-producing gene of the bacteria Bacillus thurigiensis, for
>instance, is commonly engineered into crops to provide them with a
>built-in insecticide. However, the toxin produced is known to resist
>degradation by binding itself to small soil particles whilst continuing
>its toxic activity. The long term impact of this toxin on soil organisms
>and soil fertility is unknown (summarised in Doyle et al., 1995).
>35S Promoter (CaMV) in Calgene's Flavr Savr Tomato Creates Hazard
>Joseph E. Cummins Associate Professor (Genetics) Dept. of Plant Sciences
>University of Western Ontario London, Ontario N6A 5B7 Telephone: (519)
>679-2111 Ext. 6478 Answering Machine: (519) 681-5477 FAX: (519) 661-3935
>June 3, 1994
>"Feel free to reprint this article in unalterated form"
>The majority of crop plant constructions for herbicide or disease
>resistance employ a Promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV).
>Regardless of the gene transferred, all transfers require a promoter,
>which is like a motor driving production of the genes' message. Without
>a promoter, the gene is inactive, but replicated, CaMV is used because
>it is a powerful motor which drives replication of the retrovirus and is
>active in both angiosperms and gymnosperms. The CaMV pararetrovirus
>replication cycle involves production vegetative virus containing RNA
>which is reverse transcribed to make DNA similar to HIV, Human Leukemia
>Virus and Human hepatitis B. (Bonneville et al. RNA Genetics Vo.11,
>Retroviruses, Viroids and RNA Recombination pp. 23-42, 1988). CaMV is
>closely related to hepatitis B and is closely related to HIV (Doolittle
>et al. Quart.Rev.Biol. 64,2, 1989; Xiong and Eickbush, EMBO Joumal 9,
>3353, 1990). The CaMV promoter is preferred above other potential
>promoters because it is a more powerful promoter than others and is not
>greatly influenced by environmental conditions or tissue types. CaMV has
>two Promoters 19S and 35S, of these two the 35S promoter is most
>frequently used in biotechnology because it is most powerful. The 35S
>promoter is a DNA (or RNA) sequence about 400 base pairs in length. The
>use of the CaMV promoter in plants is analogous to the use of retrovirus
>LTR promoters in retrovirus vectors used in human gene therapy. The
>majority of human gene therapy trials employ LTR promoters to provide
>motors to activate genes.
>Antisense genes are genes constructed to have a complementary sequence
>to a target gene, thus producing a product that combines with a gene
>message to inactivate it. Antisense is analogous to an antibody which
>combines with an antigen like a key fitting a lock. Antisense is being
>used to treat human cancer and HIV infection. Antisense is used to
>prevent spoilage in tomatos, either by targeting an enzyme degrading
>cell walls (polygalacturonase), or production of ethylene a hormone
>promoting ripening (P. Oeller et al. Genetic Engineering 49, 1989; R.
>Fray and D. Grierson, Trends Genetics 9, 438, 1993). Most frequently
>antisense targets production of a chemical metabolite producing
>ethylene. The antisense gene also influenced polyamines spermine and
>spermidine production through S-adenosylmethionine. The implication is
>that the plant antisense gene product should be tested in animals to
>ensure that critical functions including gene replication, sperm
>activity and gene imprinting are not disrupted.
>The perceived hazards of CaMV in crop plants include the consequences of
>recombination and pseudo recombination. Recombination is the exchanges
>of parts of genes or blocks of genes between chromosomes.
>Pseudorecombination is a situation in which gene components of one virus
>are exchanged with the protein coats of another. Frequently viruses may
>incorporate cellular genes by recombination or pseudorecombination, it
>has been noted that such recombinants have selective advantages (Lai,
>Micro. Rev. 56, 61, 1992).
>It has been shown that the CaMV genes incorporated into the plant
>(canola) chromosome recombine with infecting virus to produce more
>virulent new virus diseases. The designers of the experiment questioned
>the safety of transgenic plants containing viral genes (S. Gal et al.,
>Virology 187: 525, 1992). Recombination between CaMV viruses involves
>the promoter (Vaden and Melcher, Virology 177: 717, 1992) and may take
>place either between DNA and DNA or RNA and RNA and frequently creates
>more severe Infections than either parent (Mol. Plant-Microbe
>Interactions 5, 48, 1992). Recently related experiments suggest altered
>plants may breed deadlier diseases (A. Green and R. Allison, Sciences
>263: 1423, 1994). DNA copies of RNA Viruses are frequently propagated
>using the CaMV 35S promoter to drive RNA virus production (J.Boyer and
>A. Haenni, Virology 198: 4l5, 1994 and J.Desuns and G.Lomonossoff, J.
>Gen. Vir. 74: 889, 1993). In conclusion CaMV promoters recombine with
>the infecting viruses to produce virulent new diseases. CaMV viruses and
>promoter may incorporate genes from the host creating virulent new
>CaMV can recombine with insect viruses and propagated in insect cells
>(D. Zuidema et al. J. Gen. Vir. 71: 312, 1990). Thus it is likely that
>as large numbers of humans consume CaMV modified tomatos recombination
>between CaMV and hepatitis B viruses will take place creating a
>supervirus propagated in plants, insects and humans.
>Plant biotechnology has grown out of recombinant DNA research that began
>in the early 1970's. The special nature of recombination has been
>debated since that time. In recent years, government regulators on the
>American and European continents, under pressure from well-funded lobby
>representing the biotechnology industry, have chosen to ignore the
>special nature of recombination. They have chosen instead to base
>regulations on existing frameworks for toxic chemicals and pathogenic
>organisms. Ignoring the special nature of recombination is likely to
>have costly, if not terminal, environmental consequences. A worst-case
>example includes the complete cloning of Human Immunodeficiency Virus
>(HIV) on an E. coli plasmid. When the plasmid is used to transform
>animal cells, intact HIV viruses are released from the cells. A careless
>(but legal) release of HIV bacteria to the environment would allow the
>plasmid to transfer to Salmonella as well as E. coli. Thus, numerous
>mammals and birds could contain HIV bacteria which could transform the
>animals, which would in turn produce HIV particles unable to target the
>animals T-cell receptors but easily transmitted to humans. When all the
>animals are HIV carriers, human survival would be marginal. The special
>concerns of recombination in plant biotechnology include the viruses and
>bacteria used in crop plant construction and gene flow between related
>crop plants and weeds in the field.
>Currently most experts agree that virus diseases such as influenza gain
>strength for epidemics by alternating between animal hosts (pigs and
>ducks) and man. Epidemics begin when rare combinations appear in large
>closely associated populations such as in asia. CaMV can propagate in
>plant and insect hosts following recombination. It may not be outlandish
>to predict that CaMV may recombine with related Hepatitis B or for that
>matter HIV to create a most powerful disease. The salient feature being
>large number of people or animals consuming large numbers of virus genes
>incorporated into crop plants making up a major part of human and animal
>The use of CaMV promoter is seldom an issue in reviews of safety of gene
>tinkered crops. Few people have raised the important issue and more
>often than not their concerns are ignored by government officials
>"protecting" public safety. This omission may be a fatal one because it
>has potentially the most damaging impact, and the one perceived at the
>beginning of gene splicing.
>  As Bill Mollison said; "the time for evidence is over, there is only
>time for action, or in the more eloquent words of Kant; "It is often
>necessary to take a decision on the basis of knowledge sufficient for
>action, but insufficient to satisfy the intellect." In this case I think
>we even have the latter.
>If we campaign wholeheartedly for a ban we are on solid scientific
>ground. We can appeal directly to people to help, and show them why it
>is important. The campaign for labelling is making the issue of a
>life-threatening technology appear to be merely an issue of civil
>rights. This is playing right into the hands of the biotech
>corporations. I would like to see a debate about how to stop them, not
>about how to allow them to carry on. No-one has the right to choose
>something that threatens the lives of others. These new organisms must
>be stopped. The democratic process is being subverted by powerful
>corporations who are taking direct action with no mandate. How should we
>South Downs EF!,  Prior House
>6, Tilbury Place, Brighton BN2 2GY,  UK
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Philip L. Bereano
Department of Technical Communication
University of Washington
14 Loew Hall, Box 352195
Seattle, WA 98195-2195

ph: (206) 543-9037
fx: (206) 543-8858