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GE - mixed news 14th September



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1) DETR Press Release 10 September 1999  WELLCOME TRUST: HINXTON HALL PLANNING
APPLICATION 
2) 13/9/99 BBC ON-line Fears of genetic underclass unfounded  by News Online's
Damian Carrington 
3) From: "Webster, Stokely" <Stokely.webster@uk.greenpeace.org> 
The Rockefeller Foundation supported Professor Potrykus's vitamin A 
research as did FAIR, the European Commission's agricultural research 
program. 
4) THE GREENS/EFA GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT Press Release
Strasbourg, 13
September 1999 
Greens/EFA call on Romano Prodi to Clarify Demarcations in GMO Policy
Leave GMOs with Mrs Wallström, Greens Demand
5) Farmers face loss of markets for genetically engineered crops -Nando Media
Copyright © 1999 Associated Press
By PHILIP BRASHER  WASHINGTON (September 12, 1999 12:40 a.m. EDT
http://www.nandotimes.com) -
6) (The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) was founded in 1986 to serve
as a

national link for grassroots organizations working on family farm issues in 
the US. 
7) Date Posted: 09/13/1999  Posted by: blilliston@uswest.net  Source: Cornell
University (<http://www.cornell.edu/>http://www.cornell.edu) 
Two Leading Researchers Take Issue With Three Recent Studies - On The Effects
Of Genetically Engineered Crops 
8) from BBC News Online 14 September 1999 A potato genetically-modified with
jellyfish genes 
9)  The Jimmy Young R2 show 
10) Cloned Back to Life? by Stewart Taggart from Wired News

1) DETR Press Release 10 September 1999  WELLCOME TRUST: HINXTON HALL PLANNING
APPLICATION 
> In the light of recent comment on the Wellcome Trust's application 
> for planning permission at Hinxton Hall, South Cambridgeshire, the 
> Department of Environment Transport and the Regions today issued the 
> following statement: 
> 
> "The Government wants to see further strengthening of the UK's world 
> beating expertise in genomics in the national interest. The 
> Cambridge high tech cluster is a very important part of this. The 
> Government will look at all applications for further development on 
> their merits. 
> 
> "As regards the Wellcome Trust's Hinxton Hall development, in 
> accepting the independent planning inspector's conclusions, the 
> Deputy Prime Minister made clear that the proposed development of 
> Hinxton Hall was in the national interest and that he would have been 
> prepared to grant permission for a 24,000 sq. m development. 
> 
> "The Government understands that the Wellcome Trust have confirmed 
> that the options they are looking at still include Hinxton and that 
> they will respond positively to the recent invitation from South 
> Cambridgeshire District Council to discuss this issue. 
> 
> "The Government welcomes this and very much hopes that there will be 
> constructive and positive discussion between the Wellcome Trust and 
> South Cambridgeshire District Council to find a satisfactory 
> outcome." 
> 
> On the same day that he made the Hinxton Hall announcement, the 
> Deputy Prime Minister gave a boost to Cambridge high tech development 
> firstly by allowing an appeal by Scientific Generics to double its 
> research facility to 8,200 sq. m at Harston Mill and secondly by 
> allowing South Cambridgeshire District Council to go ahead as they 
> wished and grant permission to the Babraham Institute to expand its 
> high tech site by 13,000 sq. m. 
> 
> <http://www.detr.gov.uk/>http://www.detr.gov.uk
======================
2) 13/9/99 BBC ON-line Fears of genetic underclass unfounded  by News Online's
Damian Carrington 
> 
> Fears that genetic testing will create a new underclass of uninsurable 
> people are unfounded, according to an expert in the field. 
> 
> The extra health care costs of many genes are less than other risks 
> which insurance companies ignore, such as playing sport, claimed Dr 
> Angus McDonald from the Department of Actuarial Mathematics at 
> Heriot-Watt University. 
> 
> He has done the first mathematical research on the additional expense 
> facing people carrying a gene which gives an increased risk of 
> Alzheimer's disease. The extra cost was only between 10 and 30%. 
> 
> Small impact 
> 
> Dr McDonald: Genes will have less impact than sports He said: "Genetic 
> tests are likely to have a much smaller impact on insurance premiums 
> than is commonly believed: possibly no impact at all in most cases." 
> 
> "The debate so far has been characterised more by heat than light but 
> mathematical models can give hard information for policy makers." 
> 
> However, speaking at the British Association's Festival of Science in 
> Sheffield on Monday, he warned that the information would not make 
> policy decisions any easier. 
> 
> Who pays? 
> 
> There are two possible scenarios for the impact of genetic testing in 
> insurance. 
> 
> Who will pay for the impact of genetic testing on insurance? If tests 
> results are not used to calculate premiums then people with the risk 
> would be able to buy the insurance, seeing it as a relatively cheap 
> option, which would then hit the insurance company with higher costs 
> when they require health care. Some insurance companies see this as 
> the most likely scenario, which could have catastrophic consequences 
> for the viability of the industry. 
> 
> Alternatively, if test results are used, some people with high risk 
> may be uninsurable and the government may have to provide protection 
> paid for from general taxation. 
> 
> Choosing a course of action is a policy decision but Dr McDonald 
> believes that hard data from mathematical models can help the policy 
> makers towards a better choice. 
> 
> Alzheimer's gene 
> 
> The gene Dr McDonald considered is called ApoE e4 and people carrying 
> it have an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in their sixties. His 
> mathematical modelling shows that for around 2% of the population 
> which carries this gene the result will be an increase in their 
> healthcare costs of between 10 and 30%. 
> 
> This extra risk only puts people on the borderline of having to pay 
> increased premiums. Many other factors in people's lives not 
> considered by insurance companies can carry equal risk. 
> 
> Dr McDonald said some people are already discriminated against because 
> of their genes, through questions about their family history of, for 
> example, breast cancer or Huntingdon's disease. But he said the advent 
> of genetic testing would not create new groups of these people. 
> Indeed, if the tests meant that medical care would boost the health of 
> the patient, their long-term health care costs could be reduced. 
> 
> British insurers currently have a voluntary code of practice which 
> prohibits requesting applicants to have genetic tests. They also have 
> a moratorium on asking for the results of tests already carried out. 
> 
> But the situation in the US could be very different, said Dr McDonald, 
> because there is no free National Health Service. As insurance pays 
> for nearly all medical care, those companies were much more likely to 
> be sensitive to the risks implied by adverse gene test results. 
=========================
3) From: "Webster, Stokely" <Stokely.webster@uk.greenpeace.org> 
The Rockefeller Foundation supported Professor Potrykus's vitamin A 
research as did FAIR, the European Commission's agricultural research 
program. 

PRESS RELEASE 
New rices may help address vitamin A- and iron deficiency, major causes 
of death in the developing world 


*Genetically modified grain able to improve supply of iron and vitamin A 
in human diet -- lack of these nutrients is a major contributor to 
maternal and childhood death, disease and blindness in developing 
countries 


St. Louis, MO, August 3, 1999 - Researchers announced today that they 
have genetically modified rice grains to improve the supply of iron and 
vitamin A in the human diet. The genetically modified rices may help to 
reduce global rates of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and vitamin A 
deficiency (VAD), especially in developing countries where the major 
staple food is rice. IDA and VAD are major contributors to childhood and 
maternal mortality and morbidity primarily in developing countries. 
The research results were announced by Professor Ingo Potrykus at the 
XVI International Botanical Congress where more than 4,000 scientists 
from 100 countries are meeting to discuss the latest results of research 
on plants for human survival and improved quality of life. Professor 
Potrykus is a researcher with the Swiss Federal Institute of 
Technology's Institute for Plant Sciences. Professor Potrykus was the 
principal investigator for the two separate research teams conducting 
the vitamin A and iron research. The Rockefeller Foundation supported 
Professor Potrykus's vitamin A research as did FAIR, the European 
Commission's agricultural research program. 
IDA, the most common nutritional disorder in the world, impairs immunity 
and reduces the physical and mental capacities of people of all ages. In 
infants and young children, even mild anemia can impair intellectual 
development. Anemia in pregnancy is an important cause of maternal 
mortality, increasing the risk of hemorrhage and sepsis during 
childbirth. Infants born to anemic mothers often suffer from low birth 
weight and anemia themselves. An inadequate dietary intake of iron is 
the main cause of IDA. 
According to UNICEF, nearly 2 billion people are estimated to be anemic 
and about double that number, or 3.7 billion, are iron deficient, the 
vast majority of them women. Between 40 and 50 per cent of children 
under five in developing countries - and over 50 per cent of pregnant 
women - are iron deficient. In Africa and Asia UNICEF estimates that IDA 
contributes to approximately 20 per cent of all maternal deaths. 
Each year more than one million VAD-associated childhood deaths occur. 
And, according to the World Health Organization, as many as 230 million 
children are at risk of clinical or subclinical VAD, a condition that is 
largely preventable. 
VAD makes children especially vulnerable to infection and worsens the 
course of many infections. Supplementation with vitamin A is estimated 
by UNICEF to lower a child's risk of dying by approximately 23 percent. 
VAD is also the single most important cause of blindness among children 
in developing countries. 
The research into the new health-enhancing rice varieties received 
funding only from governments and not-for-profit organizations, 
including the Rockefeller Foundation, and will be freely available to 
national and international agricultural research centers. The 
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines, 
will be the researcher's immediate partner for further development of 
the transgenic material into publicly available rice breeding lines. 
Rice plants do produce carotenoid compounds that are converted to 
vitamin A, but only in the green parts of the plant and not in the 
component of rice grain consumed by humans. Consequently VAD often 
occurs where rice is the major staple food. The millions of children who 
are weaned on rice gruels are particularly prone to VAD since they 
consume little else. And children in rural areas are seldom reached by 
vitamin A supplementation programs. 
The amount of bioavailable iron is dependent both on the level of 
dietary iron consumption and on iron absorption during the digestive 
process. Dietary iron in developing countries consists primarily of 
non-heme iron of vegetable origin (e.g., unrefined cereals including 
rice, nuts, dark leafy vegetables), whose poor absorption is considered 
a major factor in the etiology of iron deficiency anemia. Also legume 
staples and grains, including rice, are high in phytic acid, which is a 
potent inhibitor of iron absorption. Foods that enhance non-heme 
absorption such as fruits and vegetables rich in ascorbic acid, are 
often limited in developing countries. Heme iron, which is relatively 
well absorbed by the human intestine, is found primarily in foods 
containing blood and muscle. Due to their expense and lack of 
availability, heme iron-rich foods are often only a negligible part of a 
typical developing country diet. 
Dr. Potrykus and his collaborators achieved beta-carotene production in 
rice grain by adding three genes to rice plants, two from daffodil and 
one from the bacterium Erwina uredovora. The resulting transgenic rice 
plants produce sufficient beta-carotene -- converted to vitamin A in 
humans -- in the grain to meet total vitamin A requirements in a typical 
Asian diet. (see attached scientific abstract) 
To increase the bioavailability of iron in the rice grain, the 
Swiss-based researchers increased the iron content and enhanced iron 
absorption. To double the iron content in rice, the research team added 
a ferritin gene derived from French bean. Ferritin is an iron storage 
protein found in many animals, plants and bacteria. 
Iron absorption, which is inhibited by phytic acid found in the rice, 
was increased by introducing a phytase gene that degrades the phytic 
acid and by overexpressing the rice's own iron absorption-enhancing 
cysteine-containing proteins. 
Following careful tests to determine the impact, if any, on the 
environment and human health and after acceptance by national biosafety 
authorities, the novel varieties of rice will be distributed free of 
charge by IRRI and various national agricultural research centers in 
developing countries. Local rice breeders, using traditional breeding 
techniques, would then transfer the characters of the beta-carotene and 
iron enhanced rice into varieties adapted to local conditions. Once in 
the possession of the farmer and plant breeder, the novel varieties 
become their unrestricted property. The farmers may, if they choose, use 
a portion of their harvests for further sowing. 
The Rockefeller Foundation, founded in 1913, is a global foundation with 
a mandate and commitment to enrich and sustain the lives of the poor and 
excluded throughout the world. The work of the Rockefeller Foundation 
falls under four themes: food security, employment, health equity, 
creativity and innovation. The Foundation's president, Professor Gordon 
Conway, is a noted authority on agriculture in the developing world and 
author of The Doubly Green Revolution: Food for All in the 21st Century, 
a recently published book on global food security. Prof. Conway is the 
former vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex. 
As part of its broader mission the Rockefeller Foundation has supported 
research into increasing crop yields of poor, smallholder farmers in 
developing countries profitably and without degrading natural resources. 
During the past 15 years, the Rockefeller Foundation has funded over 
$100 million of plant biotechnology research and trained over four 
hundred scientists from Asia, Africa and Latin America. At several 
locations in Asia there is now a critical mass of talent applying the 
new tools of biotechnology to rice improvement. 
The Rockefeller Foundation's support of work in biotechnology builds on 
previous Foundation support of agricultural development in poor 
countries. For example, in 1970 the Nobel Peace prize was awarded to 
Rockefeller Foundation field scientist Norman E. Borlaug. Borlaug 
received the Nobel prize for his pivotal role in helping modernize 
agriculture in the developing world, an effort that became know as the 
"Green Revolution." 
The European Commission's FAIR program supports research and 
demonstration programs in agro-industry, food technologies, forestry, 
aquaculture and rural development. 
# # # 

Research abstract: Contributions to food security by genetic engineering 
with rice 
Ingo Potrykus, Paola Lucca, Xudong Ye, Salim Al-Babili, Richard F. 
Hurrel and Peter Beyer. 
Institute of Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH 
Centre, LFW E 32.1, CH 8092 Zürich. / Institute for Human Nutrition, 
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zürich, RUE D 15, CH 8092 
Zürich. / Institute for Biology II, University of Freiburg, 
Schänzlestrasse1, D-79104 Freiburg. 
The research team at the Institute of Plant Sciences led by Dr. Potrykus 
focuses on rice, wheat, sorghum and cassava and is using genetic 
engineering to contribute to the stabilization and increase of yield and 
to improvements in food quality. Two food quality examples with rice in 
the area of micronutrient deficiency exemplify the teams' research 
approach, which involves the Consultative Group on International 
Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system and free transfer of results to 
developing countries. 
The major micronutrient deficiencies worldwide concern iron, with 24 
percent of the world's population (up to 60 percent in developing 
countries) or 1.4 billion women suffering from iron deficiency anemia, 
and vitamin A-deficiency, affecting approximately 400 million children, 
or seven percent of the world population. The deficiencies are 
especially severe in developing countries where the major staple food is 
rice. To contribute to a solution of the problem, the research team set 
out to genetically engineer rice towards an improvement in supply of 
vitamin A and of iron to the diet. Iron-deficiency is the consequence of 
a) a very low amount of iron in the endosperm, b) a high concentration 
of phytate (the major cause for inhibition of iron resorption in the 
intestine), and c) lack of high sulfur-containing proteins enhancing 
iron resorption. Consequently Potrykus et. al aimed to a) an increase 
the iron content with a ferritin transgene from Phaseolus vulgare, b) 
reduce phytate in the cooked diet with a transgene for a heat-stable 
phytase from Aspergillus fumigatus and c) increase the 
resorption-enhancing effect from a transgenic sulfur-rich 
metallothionin-like protein from Oryza sativa. All transgenes are under 
endosperm-specific regulation. The researchers analyzed a series of 
transgenic rice plants for all genes mentioned and have achieved, so 
far, a twofold increase in iron content, and a high activity of the A. 
fumigatus phytase, reducing phytate completely after one hour of 
cooking. Expression of the metallothionin-like protein led to an 
increase in cystein of approximately 25 percent above control. 
(Paola Lucca, in collaboration with Professor Richard F. Hurrell, ETH 
Zurich and Hoffmann LaRoche, Basel). 
Vitamin A-deficiency is often the consequence of rice being the 
predominant food in the diet. Rice endosperm does not contain any 
provitamin A. The latest precursor to the pathway in endosperm is GGPP. 
Four transgenes offer the potential to complete the pathway towards 
beta-carotene. These are phytoene synthase, phytoene desaturase, 
x-carotene desaturase and lycopene cyclase (all from Narcissus), or a 
double-desaturase from Erwinia catalysing both desaturation steps. The 
research team has generated a large series of transgenic plants which 
produce grain with yellow-colored endosperm. Biochemical analysis 
confirmed that the color represents beta-carotene (provitamin A) and 
other terpenoids of dietary interest. Some lines produce provitamin-A in 
high enough concentrations to supply the daily requirement with 300 
grams of cooked rice. Genetic and molecular data demonstrate the 
transgenic nature of the phenotype. (Xudong Ye, Peter Burkhardt, Andreas 
Klöti, in collaboration with Peter Beyer and Salim Al-Babili, Freiburg).
===================
4) THE GREENS/EFA GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT Press Release
Strasbourg, 13
September 1999 
Greens/EFA call on Romano Prodi to Clarify Demarcations in GMO Policy
Leave GMOs with Mrs Wallström, Greens Demand

Before the vote of confirmation of the new College of Commissioners, the
Greens/European Free Alliance are demanding clarification of just who will be
in charge of GMO policy. 
"At least four prospective Commissioners appear to have a stake in GMO
regulation and none of them could give a definitive answer in the public
hearings as to who was to be in charge, " said Alexander de Roo,
Vice-President
of the Environment Committee. "The Greens propose to give the main
responsibility for GMOs to the Commissioner for Environment, Margot
Wallström."
Gene food, regulated by the Novel Food Regulation, is presently in Mr
Liikanen's care even though this is a consumer protection measure. Mr
Byrne, at
the Consumer Protection Directorate, will oversee the Scientific Committee
structure which advises on GMO safety and will probably be given
responsibility
for new food and animal feed laws including the use of GM feed crops. Mrs
Wallstrom's Environment Directorate is responsible for the "parent" Directive
90/220 governing the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment, together
with the renewed Biosafety Protocol negotiations. Mr Fischler will handle the
new Seed and Organic Regulations at Agriculture. Just for good measure Mr Lamy
will have to deal with the GMO issue in Seattle at the next WTO Ministerial
Conference.
Swedish Green MEP Inger Schörling said "We need to know, before the Commission
is confirmed, whether any of these portfolios will be re-distributed and where
the primary responsibility will lie. The environmental impact of GMOs is just
as big an issue as food safety and it is vital in our view that Mrs Wallstrom
maintains responsibility for the release of GMOs. She demonstrated in the
hearings a much greater appreciation of the public concerns surrounding
genetic
engineering and it is important that precaution comes before trade."
Hiltrud Breyer MEP (Germany) also criticised the lack of coherence on GMO
labelling and traceability. "GM seeds now have to be labelled, Novel Foods
have
to be labelled, GMOs released into the environment have to be labelled yet
there is no-where a common set of criteria. We need one set of rules for all
these pieces of legislation and one Commissioner in charge."
Patricia McKenna MEP (Ireland) doubted Mr Byrne's understanding of the
precautionary principle. "In the hearings he appeared to suggest that this was
an optional extra and not a guiding rule. He sounds as though he will place
absolute faith in his scientific advisors and avoid making any policy
decisions
of his own." she said.
*************************************************** 
Press Service of the Greens/EFA Group 
in the European Parliament
Helmut Weixler (press officer)
phone: 0032-2-284.4683 
fax: 0032-2-284.4944 
mobile phone: 0032-75-67 13 40 
e-mail: hweixler@europarl.eu.int 
website: <http://www.europarl.eu.int/greens>www.europarl.eu.int/greens
=========================
5) Farmers face loss of markets for genetically engineered crops -Nando Media
Copyright © 1999 Associated Press
By PHILIP BRASHER  WASHINGTON (September 12, 1999 12:40 a.m. EDT
http://www.nandotimes.com) -

Already battered by low corn 
and soybean prices, farmers now fear the loss of overseas 
markets for their genetically altered crops.
Europeans were the first to balk at buying biotech crops, 
which wary Britons have dubbed "Frankenfoods." Now the 
baby-food makers Gerber and H.J. Heinz are turning them 
down, as are two Japanese brewers. In Mexico, a major 
tortilla maker is avoiding altered corn.
One U.S. processor has announced plans to pay a premium 
for conventional grain, while another company has told its 
suppliers to start separately storing conventional and biotech 
grain. Some growers and analysts fear the moves will lead 
to price cuts on biotech grain, if not this fall then next year, 
and a shortage of conventional seed next spring.
"Farmers are in real despair right now," said Nebraska farmer 
Keith Dittrich, who grows 1,300 acres of soybean, most of 
them genetically modified. "Issues like this can just infuriate 
them."
Half the soybeans that U.S. farmers are growing this year 
were engineered to withstand a popular weedkiller, and a 
third of the corn crop is biotech, having been altered to 
produce its own pesticide. There are also genetically 
modified tomatoes, melons and potatoes, though in much 
smaller amounts.
Biotech ingredients are all over the grocery store, in 
everything from tortilla chips to baby formula and drink 
mixes, according to a study in this month's issue of 
Consumer Reports.
For farmers, the crops mean higher yields, which are badly 
needed at a time when profit margins are thin or 
nonexistent. Dittrich figures the high-tech soybeans save 
him $10 an acre.
U.S. regulators say there is no scientific evidence that the 
crops pose any danger to humans or livestock, and 
American consumers have so far indicated little concern 
about them. In Europe, however, the crops have become a 
symbol of globalization and growing American dominance 
in food production.
In Great Britain, some supermarkets are refusing to carry 
food with biotech ingredients, and activists repeatedly have 
destroyed seed test plots. The European Union's approval 
process for new hybrids has come to a virtual standstill this 
year, according to industry officials, and labeling 
requirements for food are under consideration.
"There's no question we're more cautious than the United 
States," said EU spokeswoman Ella Krukoff.
Gerber and Heinz announced this summer they would rid 
their baby food of genetically modified ingredients, though 
they believe they are safe, and then Japanese brewers Kirin 
and Sapporo said they would switch to traditional corn.
Japan also is requiring labels on biotech foods, and U.S. 
farmers are signing contracts with Japanese buyers to 
guarantee them a supply of conventional soybeans. Japan is 
expected to purchase 700,000 metric tons of conventional 
American soybeans this year, twice as much as in 1998 and 
about 17 percent of its total U.S. soybean imports.
The anti-biotech momentum forced Archer Daniels Midland 
Inc. to announce Aug. 31 that its suppliers needed to start 
separating conventional and genetically modified crops. A 
day later Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. announced that 
it would start paying premium prices for traditional crops.
"Clearly the firestorm of controversy in Europe has spread 
around the world," said biotech analyst Sano Shimoda, 
president of BioScience Securities Inc. of Orinda, Calif. 
"The sparks of the firestorm have landed in the U.S. The 
problem is that the production of major crops is a global 
business."
Farmers eventually could be forced to sell biotech crops at a 
discount, he said.
Industry optimists play down the impact of the 
developments in Europe and Japan and say it is going to 
mean higher prices for farmers who grew conventional crops 
this year. The American Soybean Association expects 
traditional soybeans to fetch as much as 40 cents a bushel 
more than the biotech variety.
A key question is whether the Europeans, who buy a fourth 
of the U.S. soybean crop each year, can be induced to pay 
more for the conventional variety. "We don't want to give 
up that market," said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for the 
soybean group.
At best, the recent developments have introduced new 
uncertainty into the farm economy.
The American Corn Growers Association, in an informal 
survey of 250 grain elevators, found few planned to heed 
ADM's suggestion for separate storage of conventional and 
biotech crops, primarily because they are not equipped to do 
it. At least one Illinois elevator is advising farmers not to 
plant genetically engineered crops at all next year.
Iowa farmer Ed Wiederstein, who grows both altered corn 
and soybeans, says he is not concerned about finding a place 
to sell them - this year, at least - but he is watching the 
markets.
"If nobody wants it, I'll definitely change. There is going to 
be a real scramble for seed if that does occur," he said.
======================
From: "NLP Wessex" <nlpwessex@bigfoot.com> 

6) (The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) was founded in 1986 to serve
as a

national link for grassroots organizations working on family farm issues in 
the US. The organization currently consists of 33 grassroots farm, resource 
conservation, and rural advocacy groups from 33 states. 
<http://www.nffc.net/>http://www.nffc.net/ )
=========================
7) Date Posted: 09/13/1999  Posted by: blilliston@uswest.net  Source: Cornell
University (<http://www.cornell.edu/>http://www.cornell.edu) 
Two Leading Researchers Take Issue With Three Recent Studies - On The Effects
Of Genetically Engineered Crops 
> 
> ITHACA, N.Y. -- Two prominent entomologists, one from 
> Cornell University, warn that three recent studies on the 
> effects of genetically engineered crops have distorted the 
> debate about engineered crops and that this could have 
> "profound consequences" for science and public policy. 
> 
> The article, "False reports and the ears of men," in the 
> latest issue of Nature Biotechnology, is authored by Anthony 
> M. Shelton, professor of entomology at Cornell's New York 
> State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Richard 
> T. Roush of the University of Adelaide, Australia. They urge 
> that the public should not be swayed "by laboratory reports 
> that, when looked at with a critical eye, may not have any 
> reality in the field or even in the laboratory." 
> 
> The first of the three studies they comment on was led by 
> John E. Losey, Cornell assistant professor of entomology. 
> This study of the effect of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) corn 
> on the monarch butterfly "can only be considered a 
> preliminary laboratory study," they write. 
> 
> In the May 20 issue of Nature, Losey and his colleagues 
> reported that pollen from commercial corn, genetically 
> engineered to produce a bacterial toxin to protect it 
> against European corn borers, kills monarch butterfly larvae 
> in laboratory tests. While Shelton and Roush note that this 
> result was expected under such laboratory test conditions, 
> they question whether this test was realistic. 
> 
> "If I went to a movie and bought a hundred pounds of salted 
> popcorn, because I like salted popcorn, and then I ate those 
> the salted popcorn all at once, I'd probably die. Eating 
> that much salted popcorn simply is not a real-world 
> situation, but if I died it may be reported that salted 
> popcorn was lethal," Shelton said in an interview. "The same 
> thing holds true for monarch butterflies and pollen. 
> Scientists have a duty to be incredibly responsible for 
> developing realistic studies. Scientists need to make 
> assessments that are pertinent to the real world." 
> 
> In the second study discussed in the article, researchers at 
> Kansas State University reported in Science that they had 
> discovered corn borer resistance to Bt toxins. Shelton and 
> Roush question the methodology used in the study, "including 
> that the authors did not demonstrate that resistance was 
> actually to the same Bt toxin as in the plant or that the 
> insects could survive on the Bt plant." Even so, they write, 
> "this questionable laboratory study has generated 
> considerable debate over whether the present resistance 
> management policy should be overturned." 
> 
> In another recent issue of Nature, a University of Arizona 
> study showed that the pink bollworm's resistance to 
> Bt-cotton was recessive in inheritance, but the paper 
> questioned whether resistant bollworms developed more slowly 
> than susceptible bollworms. This could possibly knock out 
> random mating and dilute the insect's resistance in the 
> field. "We hope that the take-home message won't be 
> converted to another premature claim that Bt crops are 
> doomed," Shelton and Roush say in their commentary. 
> 
> Since the release of the monarch butterfly study, write 
> Shelton and Roush, companies that make the genetically 
> engineered agricultural seed have been confronted by freezes 
> on the approval process for Bt transgenic corn by the 
> European Commission and by "possible trade restrictions by 
> Japan." In the United States, there have been calls for a 
> moratorium on the further planting of Bt-corn. 
> 
> In discussing the Cornell monarch butterfly report, Shelton 
> and Roush voice their surprise that a "previous and more 
> relevant and realistic study has been largely overlooked." 
> While the Cornell laboratory study showed high mortality 
> among monarch larvae that ingested genetically engineered 
> pollen, an Iowa 
> State University study by Laura Hansen and John Obrycki 
> showed low mortality even when Monarch larvae were fed 
> milkweed that had the highest levels of Bt pollen that would 
> be encountered in the field. Shelton and Roush note that it 
> is unlikely that these high Bt pollen levels would be 
> encountered by the insects in the field, and they say that 
> "few entomologists or weed scientists familiar with the 
> butterflies or corn production give credence to the Nature 
> article." 
> 
> Crops are genetically engineered with Bt to control pests 
> without the use of broad spectrum insecticides, which may 
> cause environmental and human health problems. For example, 
> the European corn borer is the most notorious pest that corn 
> farmers face and causes an estimated $1.2 billion in crop 
> losses annually. To combat this pest, an estimated 24 to 28 
> million acres of Bt-corn were planted in the United States 
> in 1999. 
=======================
8) from BBC News Online 14 September 1999 
A potato genetically-modified with jellyfish genes which glows when it needs
watering is created by Edinburgh scientists. 
The team believes the genetically-modified (GM) plant will prevent
overwatering
at time when the world's water resources are being more and more heavily
used. 
The fluoresence is produced by a gene taken originally from a jellyfish. 
This activated in the plant by the production of abscisic acid, which the
plants uses to rearrange its cells to prepare for a shortage of water. 
However, Professor Tony Trewavas from the University of Edinburgh, is aware of
some people's concern about GM crops. 
He told BBC News Online: "People are worried, but these potatoes will never
enter the food chain. They are sentinels and would be put in separately and
harvested separately." 
Speaking at the British Association's Festival of Science in Sheffield, UK,
Professor Trewavas said that just sowing eight plants per hectare would
allow a
farmer to monitor the whole field. 
Potatoes are often over-watered 
The potatoes will not glow to the human eye however. The light is produced by
absorbing a narrow wavelength of blue light, which is re-emitted as yellow. 
A small detector, built by the Scottish Agricultural College, spots the yellow
light and sets off a green signal which says "water me". If no signal is
showing, then the plants have enough water. 
"The problem at the moment is that farmers don't know how much water is needed
- they just pour it on," said Professor Trewavas. 
Six-year wait 
"We believe our system would save farmers about £270 per hectare in terms of
reduced water use and reduced fertiliser applied. 
"You don't have to put as much nitrate on if you don't over-water and run off
lots of your minerals." 
Experiments so far have been confined to greenhouses and it will be about six
years before the glowing potatoes go on sale. 
Future plans are to include slightly different fluorescent proteins which will
report on the plants' nitrate, phosphate and sucrose status. 
=============
9)  The Jimmy Young R2 show is trailing next week's show and inviting 
> people to call Peter Melchett who will be their guest next week. 
> Today's programme will be discussing restaurant labelling requirements 
> and the secrecy issues that have arisen out of the BAAS festival this 
> week.
=============================
10) Cloned Back to Life? by Stewart Taggart from Wired News

A 133-year-old pickled Tasmanian Tiger has found itself at the center of a 
cat fight involving cloners and conservationists.
Earlier this week, the state government of New South Wales announced the 
formation of a special government/private trust aimed at spurring research 
on how the extinct species might be resurrected using DNA from the pup, 
bottled in alcohol since 1866.
The hope is the animal's DNA could be extracted by geneticists and 
eventually used to fertilize one of its closest living relatives, perhaps 
the Numbat or Tasmanian Devil.
It's a tall order.
But clearly everyone's been raising their sights since the Dolly the Sheep 
crowd made their big splash.
"The benefit of returning the tiger to a viable population would be 
incalculable," said Don Colgan, head of the evolutionary biology department 
of the Australian Museum, which owns the pickled tiger. "It would be a 
triumph for Australian science."
Like much of Australia's other fauna, the Tasmanian Tiger was an odd beast.
Looking more like a hungry alley dog than a tiger, its most remarkable 
feature was a series of vertical stripes over its hindquarters. Researchers 
generally call it the Thylacine, a term derived from the scientific name 
Thylacinus cynocephalus. It is the only member of the Family Thylacinidae.
Whatever it's called, it had a tough time. The last known living specimen 
died in a Tasmanian Zoo in 1936, after a century of relentless hunting by 
early Australian settlers who saw it as a threat to livestock.
Therefore, if the cloning project succeeds, it should go down in history as 
the world's first effort to resurrect a species made extinct by man.
But then what?
In addition to marking a giant new stride in the area of cloning, the 
project could one day result in reintroduction of the animals to the wild, 
backers say. With at least six Tasmanian Tigers swimming in alcohol in 
museums around the world, a fledgling gene pool might be created that could 
eventually prove self-sustaining, Colgan said.
But the effort won't be cheap. Achieving the birth of a cloned Tasmanian 
Tiger -- if it can be done at all -- could cost upwards of US$20-30 million, 
possibly more.
It's lunacy, say conservationists.
"This is just boys playing with genetic toys," said Michael Lynch, manager 
of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust in Hobart. "We could better take that 
money and put it into saving the species we humans already are driving to 
extinction every year."
Nick Mooney, manager of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife department, agreed. 
He said the project takes away from what should be a focus on conservation.
But Colgan says that even $30 million wouldn't be nearly enough to fund all 
the land purchases necessary to sustain viable long-term populations of 
currently endangered species.
Indeed, much of the work needed for the Thylacine cloning project will 
involve research on the reproductive genetics and biology of living 
creatures, and the outcomes should lead directly to related breakthroughs in 
conservation efforts for species such as the Numbat and the Tasmanian Devil.
"From an evolutionary biologist's point of view, we should be looking at the 
longer term, such as 200-300 years out," Colgan said. "And this whole 
research area is where you should be looking if you really want to save 
species."