GENTECH archive


funnel web spider toxin patent

 This reminds me of the work with scorpion toxin. What about the dangers of
horizontal transfer?

 Ron Epstein

           Poison patent alarms aid charity

                                            Andy Coghlan
                              ENVIRONMENTALISTS in the
                              US worry about the effects of crops
                              engineered to produce insecticides,
                              Britain's largest agricultural biotech
                              company holds a patent that would allow
                              it to produce plants making some of the
                              most potent natural poisons known to
                              science--those from the funnel web
                              spider (Atrax robustus). Zeneca says it
                              will only use the toxin for research,

                              The funnel web patent is described in a
                              report from the British development
                              charity ActionAid. It argues that Zeneca's
                              activities in agricultural biotechnology
                              offer no benefits to subsistence farmers
                              in developing countries and could pose
                              environmental hazards. 

                              Zeneca, which is merging with the
                              Swedish pharmaceuticals company Astra,
                              rejects both charges, claiming the toxins
                              will only be used to help design more
                              effective insecticides. "We will not be
                              putting them in plants," says Nigel Poole,
                              head of external and regulatory affairs
                              with Zeneca Plant Science in Berkshire.
                              He adds that the company would use its
                              patent to prevent anyone else from doing

                                       From New Scientist, 22 May 1999
                                      Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited