Why Labeling 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

no danger.

What appears below is not speculation to be argued about politely with

the representatives of corporations, but things that have actually


(conclusion at the end if you find this too boring)






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.).


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).


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).





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


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





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6, Tilbury Place, Brighton BN2 2GY, UK