GENTECH archive


antibiotic-resistance genes

I sit as NGO-representative to the National Biosafety Committee of the
Philippines (NCBP, the national body that regulates all local GMO
experiments -- which are now moving towards field-release).

I just came from an NCBP meeting in which I questioned the use of
antibiotic-resistance genes (kanamycin and neomycin) and suggested
that local GMO experiments include testing for horizontal gene
transfer of antibiotic-resistance.

I found the representative of our Department of Health (a
veterinarian) somewhat sympathetic, because he is himself engaged in a
campaign against the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in

He acknowledged bacteria-to-bacteria horizontal gene flow, but said
that plant-to-bacteria transfer has not been shown at all. So he said
that while he understood my concerns, he believed that we could not
justify requiring proponents to include in their experiments tests for
plant-to-bacteria transfer of antibiotic-resistance, because
scientific literature indicated that such transfer was not a concern.
Then he produced a copy of a study published in Nutrition Reviews,
Vo. 54, No. 11, entitled "The Safety Assurance of Functional Foods" by
Huggett (of the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland) and Verschuren
(of Unilever Research Lab in the Netherlands).

(This is most sympathetic response I got. The rest simply basically
said "no way".) I pointed out that the two were corporate researchers,
but the others then asked me if I could produce a peer-reviewed study
which indicated that such a transfer could be a source of concern.

By the way, I cited the recent French decision recalling the permit
for transgenic maize with ampicillin-resistance marker gene, but they
wanted scientific literature, saying that some anti-GMO European
decisions were actually motivated by trade competition than by

Later on, the Dept. of Health rep also told me privately that even if
the tests were done, they will be questioned internationally because
none of our local laboratories met international standards for such

I would be very thankful for citations as well as actual studies that
I can use in this debate about antibiotic-resistance marker genes.

I would also like to know if Nutrition Reviews is a scientific journal
or an industry journal.


Roberto Verzola