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[SANET-MG] GM Eucalyptus
I prepared the following reply to comments that showed up today, the
last day for comments, on the Eucalyptus EA review by APHIS.
21 May 2007
Prof. Joe Cummins
Reply to comments from an academic
One academic commenter made the following accusations: “Some opponents
claim that one of the traits utilized by ArborGen is being kept
confidential. Although the Federal Register Notice described one trait
as confidential, this was not the case for the EA itself, where all the
traits are described. This objection leads me to believe that these
commenters did not actually read the EA. The intent of publishing the EA
is to engage the public during the review process. Commenters are
encouraged to avail themselves of this opportunity.”
Reply to the comment: The normal definition of trait In genetics, a
trait refers to any genetically determined characteristic The commenter
somehow seems unaware that the characteristics such as cold tolerance
which are mentioned in the APHIS environmental assessment do not really
go into whether or not the characteristics are , indeed, genetic traits
Genetic traits should have been identified by their genetic
characteristics and certainly their transgenic origin. Gosh, academics
do seem to get arrogant!
“Many opponents called for full disclosure of the genes utilized by
ArborGen. While disclosure of genes should be encouraged, this must be
balanced against the need to protect intellectual property (IP). The
development of biotechnology- derived products is an expensive endeavor
(in part due to the need to meet rigorous regulatory requirements). As
such, it is of utmost importance that IP be protected in order to ensure
and encourage continued investment in the technology”
Reply to the comment; Intellectual property is normally protected by
patents and patent applications and ArborGen has previously disclosed
their genes in their patent and patent applications. Patent applications
and Patents must be public in order for the system to work. APHIS seems
silly in colluding with corporations to hide information that is
publicly available in patent applications, patents or publications. At
any rate, many if not most undergraduate laboratories and certainly
corporate laboratories can easily read the crops genetic code to uncover
the genetic modification. Indeed, the traceability of the transgenes in
the environment is aborted by the careless use of the CBI designation.
The CBI designations seem to be political tools and pretenses to avoid
“? Opponents also called for disclosure of the field-trial location.
There are many examples of tests that have been vandalized, resulting in
the loss of years of hard work and valuable data. Hence, site security
is an important consideration, and is justified.”
The public deserves to know locations in their neighborhood where things
that may hurt them are located. Corporations should deal with any
possible vandalism by providing on site security on their test plots.
Site secrecy is not for vandalism, I believe, but to protect
corporations from lawsuits from injured neighbors.
“? In a couple of comments, Barnase is described as a toxin. There is no
information in the EA that indicates whether or not barnase is one of
the genes being studied. Even if Barnase is in the ArborGen trees, it
has been included in other products that have been deregulated by APHIS,
as well as being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration on
numerous occasions (for use in corn, oilseed rape, and chicory).”
Reply to the comment; Barnase does appear in one patent application by
ArborGen for control of flowering in Eucalyptus, as indicated in my
earlier comment. Any claim by APHIS, or for that matter, from FDA that
barnase is not toxic to human cells fails to acknowledge a large body of
publications where, for example, barnase is used in the targeted
ablation of human cancer cells. The point of my original comment was to
point out the danger to the public in failing to acknowledge to the
public that toxins were being employed or, even worse, to deny that the
toxins were being used. Unfortunately, APHIS , corporations and much of
science academia seem to regard the human public as being convenient
white mice for their experiments. Holding back the truth is essential to
maintaining a docile herd.
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