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Why Labelling of Genetically Modified Organisms is Pointless
Thought this might interest you - P. Dines
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From: INTERNET:firstname.lastname@example.org, INTERNET:email@example.com
To: Patricia Dines, 73652,1202
Date: Thu, Feb 20, 1997, 12:00 PM
Subject: Why Labelling of Genetically Modified Organisms is Pointless.
Date: Feb 13, 1997
From: Reclaim The Streets (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 1997
From: Andy <email@example.com>
Subject: Why Labelling of Genetically Modified Organisms is Pointless.
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
What appears below is not speculation to be argued about politely with
the representatives of corporations, but things that have actually
happened. (conclusion at the end if you find this too boring)
1.GMOS CANNOT BE KEPT APART FROM THEIR WILD AND CULTIVATED RELATIVES
TRANSFER OF GENE TO NON-GMO CROPS 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.).
TRANSFER VIA HUMAN SYSTEMS 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).
TRANSFER OF FOREIGN GENE TO MICRO-ORGANISM 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).
3. DANGERS INHERENT IN THE PROCESS ITSELF
THE USE OF CAULIFLOWER MOSAIC VIRUS 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 diseases.
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 react?
Andy -- http://www.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/campaigns/ef/earthfirst.html
South Downs EF!, Prior House 6, Tilbury Place, Brighton BN2 2GY, UK
U.S. McLibel Support Campaign Press Office
802-586-9628 PO Box 62, Craftsbury VT 05826-0062 USA
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