Tell it like it is!
In the article "New technique challenges GM definition" (12 July) Tony Conner says "We're only using genes which are already available to traditional plant breeders. But we can transfer those genes responsible for a particular characteristic into a new plant very precisely, in one step."
Firstly, the genes are not "precisely" transferred, ending up anywhere in the recipient plant's DNA. Secondly, the insertion of these genes is not problem-free.
Researchers (1) have documented that a large fraction of even apparently simple (trans)gene insertion events result in large-scale DNA rearrangement or deletion and superfluous DNA insertion (2). This >occurs when transgenic DNA is inserted into plant cell DNA using the bacterial vector Agrobacterium.
These authors (1) speculate that widespread use of transgenic crops carrying insertion-site mutations of this magnitude could lead to harmful consequences. Mutations such as these would almost certainly pass unnoticed through both the molecular and phenotypic characterization stages of the current regulatory systems of both the EU and the US.
These scientists are but some of many whose concerns about GM techniques have been aired. Not all scientists share Tony Conner's enthusiasm.
He also says, "It is difficult to test for GM in these plants because all the genetic (DNA) material is already there. So it compromises the concept of GM testing."
How then does he determine that his potatoes have in fact been genetically modified?
Elvira Dommisse (Dr)
1. Wilson, A., Latham, J. & Steinbrecher, R. Genome Scrambling-Myth or Reality? Transformation-induced Mutations in Transgenic Crop Plants. (Econexus, Brighton, UK, 2004). http://www.econexus.info
2. Forsbach, A., Schubert, D., Lechtenberg, B.,
Gils, M. & Schmidt, R. Plant Mol. Biol. 52, 161-176 (2003).
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DISILLUSIONED GE SCIENTIST EXPRESSES FEAR OVER TECHNOLOGY