AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
* Enough food and land?
* Galinstan Expansion Femtosyringe used in Microinjections
* Technology and the Economists
* Local City, Protesters Ready For Biotech Meeting
* Yielding Results: Crop Engineering Is Improving Yields And Cutting
* Congressman blasts eco-terror
* Public attitude to GM food is changing in UK
* SIRC: The role of science in sustainable agriculture
* The r-DNA debate is too clever by half
* Agricultural Biotechnology In The Philippines: Current Trends And
* Local Wine Industry Debates Biotechnology
Date: 19 Jun 2001 06:01:24 -0000
To: P.A.Lund@bham.ac.uk, AgBioViewfirstname.lastname@example.org
From: David Tribe Subject: enough food? - enough
Date: Jun 15 2001 07:04:38 EDT
From: "Pete Lund" <
Subject: enough food?
There are two related serious agricultural policy issues to recognise-
food supply and land use - not just one.
The fact that globally enough food might be produced does not ensure
large areas of forest and wilderness will not be sacrified to meeet
demands of a growing population over the coming decades.
Studies such as Tilman et al (below) reinforce the urgent need to
manage consumption of land, and gene technology to provide better
yields and reduce losses to pests is an important option for doing
this, especiallilly since the very latest UN population statistics
revise the global population numbers quoted by Lund up by about 1
billion. Similar points about the trade-off between land use and
agricultural efficiency have also been made very convincingly by I.
Goklany, for example on the AgBioview Listserver.
Tilman et al. Forecasting Agriculturally Driven Global Environmental
Science , Volume 292, Number 5515, Issue of 13 Apr 2001, pp. 281-284.
Quote from paper
"During the next 50 years, which is likely to be the final period of rapid
agricultural expansion, demand for food by a wealthier and 50% larger
global population will be a major driver of global environmental change.
Should past dependences of the global environmental impacts of agriculture
on human population and consumption continue, 10 power 9 hectares of
natural ecosystems would be converted to agriculture by 2050."
David Tilman,1* Joseph Fargione,1 Brian Wolff,1 Carla D'Antonio,2
Andrew Dobson,3 Robert Howarth,4 David Schindler,5
William H. Schlesinger,6 Daniel Simberloff,7 Deborah Swackhamer8
Date: Jun 18 2001 22:37:13 EDT
From: "terry hopkin"
There seems very little to discuss about 0.5% when most infections occur
at rates of 1 in a 1000 or less ie 1 in 10,000, or even 1 in a 1,000,000,
also we don't know whether the tests were carried out through out the
year, etc. as some infections spread best in the summer.
Further there is very little indication of the quality of the search for
sources, was it general? enhanced? specific to expected vectors?
In a hospital such residues are normally taken as indication of possible
presence of infection, and in within public health in regard to
restaurants cafes pubs etc such residues would not be accepted.
Further infections from food have a tendency to cluster both in time and
source and seem to indicate that only the very highest hygienic standards
escape a visit from one or another of the food related sicknesses. So not
finding anything today isn't any proof that it will not happen tomorrow.
E coli has been found in well water before now and nothing also was done
in the tests to see what effect there was on ground water.
Case not proven one way or the other, I would advise washing organic
vegetables just as much as any other vegetable. I don't trust anyone
Date: Jun 19 2001 00:47:29 EDT
From: "prakash nijsure"
Subject: Dr Prakash
Dear All AgBioView writers and readers
I want to know about the Galinstan Expansion Femtosyringe used in
Microinjections. How I can have more information about the purchase of the
Please let me know the above things.
Thanks and regards to all
Dr Prakash (India)
From: Ian Castles
Subject: Technology and the Economists
Thank you for sending me Matt Ridley's address, which I've read with almost
total agreement. I hope that Prince Charles learned something from it (dare
I say that he has a good deal to learn?).
I say 'almost' total agreement because I believe that Ridley and Schumpeter
are very wrong about Malthus, Mill and Ricardo. Here's Ridley'sclaim:
'Joseph Schumpeter once pointed out that in the early 19th century, those
giants of economics Malthus, Mill and Ricardo were all agreed that economic
stagnation was imminent and that the law of diminishing returns was about
to cramp economic progress forever. Yet in fact, as we now know, they stood
on the threshold of a wave of progress that has generated ten times the
population, twice the life expectancy and a hundred times the wealth yet
with pollution getting better not worse. Do we have to repeat their
Of course it is true that, for purposes of exposition, the great economists
assumed [underline] that technology was 'constant'. But only for purposes
of exposition. The point they wanted to get across was that the
possibilities of gain from trade and specialisation of labour do not depend
on technological advance. Since many of those whom Ridley was criticising
still do not understand elementary economic theorems such as the principle
of comparative advantage 200 years later, the economists can hardly be
blamed for developing simplified arguments to demonstrate that economic
progress could be achieved even without advances in technology.
But they took for granted that technological advance would occur. For
example, here is Ricardo arguing for free trade in the House of Commons in
1821: 'If corn were exported and imported ... without restraint, this
country, possessing the greatest skill, the greatest industry, the best
machinery and every other advantage in the highest degree, its prosperity
and happiness would be incomparably, and almost inconceivably, great.' Far
from making a 'complacent mistake', Ricardo argued in the same speech
against the complacency of others: 'If the argument of the honourable
member were to be considered as valid, there was an end to all hopes of
future improvement. The present generation had invented steam-engines and
gas-lights and ... other useful and beneficial discoveries, and he trusted
that they would never be stopped in their progress by being told of the
wisdom of their ancestors.' This doesn't sound like a forecast of imminent
stagnation to me.
The early Malthus was certainly pessimistic (not without reason), but he
became more of an optimist later. No one who has read his evidence to the
Select Committee on Emigration from the United Kingdom in 1827 could hold
that Malthus believed that economic progress was about to be cramped
forever. Again, far from being complacent, he was concerned that threats to
progress came from the complacency of others. In that context, he held that
the habits of the Irish people were 'very unfavourable as to their own
condition, because they are inclined to be satisfied with the very lowest
degree of comfort, and to marry with little other prospect than that of
being able to get potatoes for themselves and their children'. He
contrasted this with 'labouring classes living well off and comfortably ...
as to clothing, houses and other domestic comforts and conveniences' and
said that 'habits of that kind must create a great demand for commodities
and labour'. This recognition of the prospect of a virtuous circle - people
improving themselves, and thereby establishing the conditions under which
they could become still better off - is the antithesis of what has come to
be called 'Malthusianism'.
If by 'Mill', Schumpeter and Ridley are speaking of the younger and more
famous Mill, they are wrong again. Far from supposing that economic
stagnation was imminent, John Stuart Mill's response to Carlyle's jibe
against the dismal science included the comment that 'the progress of
science, and the increasing ascendancy of justice and good sense' would
'reduce very greatly the quantity of work required to carry on existence'
('Fraser's Magazine, 1850).
Thanks again for drawing my attention to Matt Ridley's excellent address.
With best wishes - Ian Castles, Vice President, Academy of the Social
Sciences in Australia, Canberra
Local City, Protesters Ready For Biotech Meeting | Police Training For The
Worst; Businesses Boosting Security
San Diego Union Tribune
June 17, 2001
The world's largest biotechnology convention is a week away, and police
are preparing for the worst.
For four days, San Diego could become the stage for a backlash against
bioengineered food and other efforts to manipulate genes. Police estimate
4,000 to 8,000 demonstrators will be in the city next weekend, when 15,000
industry leaders gather for the Bio2001 conference at the San Diego
Convention Center. Though protest groups have promised to be peaceful,
law enforcement is not taking any chances.
Squads of officers from nearly every agency, including the San Diego
Harbor Police and the California Highway Patrol, have joined San Diego
police in crowd-control drills that have been going on since the fall.
County agencies have dusted off emergency plans. Even the Coast Guard
will be on hand, offering protection from the bay.
Everything from riot shields to rubber bullets has been stockpiled, though
officials declined to be specific. Nor are they letting anyone watch
their tactical drills too closely.
"We don't want to let the other side know exactly what we're planning to
do or how we're planning to do it," said assistant San Diego police Chief
John Welter, for whom 12-hour workdays have become the norm as he directs
public safety arrangements for the event.
The training and rehearsing are expected to go on right up to the
"In preparing for direct-action demonstrations, we considered every
possibility," Welter said. "Will they try to do something to the (San
Diego) Trolley? To the roads? You name it, we've thought of it."
Getting ready has cost an estimated $2.5 million, officials said.
"I've spoken with the chief of police and with several tactical officers,
and they've assured me that they're prepared for the worst type of
protests," said Joseph Melluso, co-owner of the Tin Fish restaurant, at
the southern end of the Gaslamp Quarter near the convention center.
Last year's biotech conference took place in Boston. There, police
mounted a massive show of force, and about 1,500 to 2,500 demonstrators
picketed without incident.
But that's no guarantee San Diego will be spared trouble.
"I hope we're surprised when only 1,500 instead of 8,000 protesters show
up," Welter said. "(But) I would think San Diego in June would probably
draw more people than Boston in March."
It's more than San Diego's climate that drew Bio2001 here. Nearly 40
percent of San Diego County's 400 health care technology firms and
organizations focus on biotechnology and pharmaceutical research, making
this region a major center.
Along with the convention will come demonstrators concerned about the
safety and ethics of manipulating genes in foods, medicines and even the
unborn -- and perhaps anarchists looking for a chance to create mayhem.
Officials at local biotech companies said they have hired additional
security guards and will take other measures to safeguard property and
employees while protesters are in town.
Companies involved in agriculture biotechnology, which involves the
genetic engineering of plants for food or other products, are particularly
wary. Some fear that they might be targeted for disruptive protests or
acts of vandalism during the industry conference.
One local company, a subsidiary of agbiotech Syngenta, said employees have
noticed "unusual activity" in recent days, including people in vans taking
photographs of the facility.
"We are taking appropriate precautions to increase security and safety,"
said David Hwang, director of environmental health and safety for
Syngenta's Torrey Mesa Research Institute.
The buzzword is "Seattle."
Nineteen months ago, well-rehearsed activists bent on disrupting the World
Trade Organization meeting there trashed downtown Seattle businesses and
bombarded the city's overwhelmed 1,800-member police force with everything
from chunks of concrete to soda cans filled with gasoline and squirt guns
loaded with urine. By the time the last clouds of tear gas had drifted
away and the National Guard had left town, the rioting had cost the city
$3 million in damage, led to some 500 arrests and dealt the Emerald City a
major public-relations black eye.
The biggest casualty was Seattle police Chief Norm Stamper. A former
assistant chief in San Diego, Stamper resigned as top cop in Seattle under
a hailstorm of criticism, much of it from within his department.
After Stamper left, one post-mortem on the riots said police had not
planned well enough for the WTO gathering, were undermanned and under
funded. The report also said police mistakenly had counted on Seattle's
long history of peaceful protest and had tried to negotiate with
demonstrators determined to wreak havoc.
Police in San Diego are taking no chances, Welter said. "We have been
preparing for the worst, because it would be foolish not to."
At the same time, police don't want to unduly interfere with peaceful,
legitimate protest, he said. "As long as they're not blocking traffic,
doing drugs or (being) violent, people have the right to move freely
anywhere in the downtown area. I don't want to shut San Diego down
because of rumors of what happened in (Seattle) two years ago."
Three organizations have applied for parade permits to demonstrate during
Bio2001. City Hall is reviewing the applications, said Carolyn Wormser,
special events director for the city.
One group, Biodevastation, has had talks with San Diego police and is
promising strictly peaceful protest, Welter said.
But it's the anti-biotech protesters who aren't talking to the police that
have them wary.
"Some of these protests draw a specific element of people who are just
anarchists and want to violate the law," Welter said.
The preparation isn't limited to police. Law enforcement and City Hall
representatives have made the rounds of downtown businesses, briefing them
on how the police intend to handle trouble and giving owners advice on how
to protect their premises.
That advice includes 11 precautions, ranging from storing away unused
trash cans and locking trash bins to making sure rooftop access to
businesses is locked tight and regularly checking doors for tampering
designed to leave a business unlocked -- and vulnerable -- after hours.
Yielding Results: Crop Engineering Is Improving Yields And Cutting Disease
The Guardian (UK)
By Claire Cockcroft
June 14, 2001
By 2020 there will be another two billion people, mainly in the
poorest parts of the world. With population growth outpacing the
capacity to produce food, agriculture has reached a crossroads.
Biotechnology has been around since mankind first experienced the
joys of home brewing. Science has sidestepped the species constraints
of conventional reproduction to find more useful offspring such as
the mule or hybrid crops. Horticulturalists have been modifying the
genetic make-up of plants for years, in the hope of creating bigger
and better crops. Genetic modification is a more specific way of
doing this. Faced with drought, rising temperature and soil
infertility, in the years ahead success depends on contemporary
science intermingling with traditional methods, to enhance
productivity without jeopardising ecological security.
This was the issue for researchers gathered at Global Agriculture
2020 at the John Innes Centre in Norwich in April this year.
There are many success stories. Dr Luis Herrera-Estrella from
Cinvestav, Mexico, is engineering crops to combat climate change and
environmental stresses. Plants are being engineered with
'drought-proofing' genes or to tolerate salinity by making
'osmoprotectant' molecules such as trehalose.
Others use nutrients more efficiently, reducing fertiliser usage, by
excreting organic acids that release phosphorus from metal complexes
in infertile acidic soils. Access to new technologies and software
tools, can speed up the search for genes involved with stress
adaptation, offering novel approaches for crop design.
Agriculture provides a livelihood for 55% of Indians but crops like
urd and green gram frequently suffer losses of 70%. Transgenic
technology offers a solution. In Mexico, virus-resistant potatoes
boosted yields on small-scale farms by 46%, and income by 141%, at no
extra cost because the technology was given by industry. And in
Kenya, yields were up by 20-25% using sweet potatoes resistant to
viruses or insects.
Eight million hectares of cotton are cultivated in India, requiring
50% of the country's total pesticide consumption with dire
consequences for the environment, biodiversity and human health.
Despite this, rampant pests and diseases reduce yields to half the
worldwide average. But, field trials of cotton engineered with a
bacterial protein that protects against insect invaders, raised
yields by 40-70% and needed fewer pesticides.
At Professor Swaminathan's research institute in Madras, organic
farming flourishes alongside modern methods. A 'designer potato' with
enhanced amino acid composition has been engineered to improve its
nutritional value. Tobacco that tolerates salinity is a precautionary
measure against the rising tides a changing climate will bring. This
trait can be engineered into food crops. Biological control methods,
such as naturally occurring plant chemicals or the predator-eats-pest
scenario, are also used to protect crops.
Swaminathan is also encouraging rural communities to embrace new
practices to improve farming. But the technological explosion has
seen a digital divide develop between those who have access to
information technology and the billions in rural regions of
developing countries that do not, a kind of 'technological apartheid'
as he calls it.
The 'green revolution' of the late 1960s avoided widespread famine,
largely by introducing high-yielding, modern semi-dwarf varieties of
rice and wheat - shorter, stockier plants support the heads of grain
better than their lankier relatives. Swaminathan advocates a new,
'evergreen revolution' through the use of technology, to provide a
sustainable global agriculture and a perennial green revolution in
which everyone can share, right down to the poorest farmer in the
poorest part of the world.
Malnutrition affects about 800 million worldwide - in India, 53%
children aged under four are underweight, 47-90% are anaemic and
millions suffer from vitamin A deficiency. 'Golden rice' engineered
with vitamin A precursors was developed through public funding, not
industry, to help reduce blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency.
With the sup port of Syngenta, free licences for 'humanitarian use'
were granted for all intellectual property rights and the rice is
free for farmers earning less than Dollars 10,000.
Widely grown, especially by peasant women, bananas provide 25% of the
energy needs for most Kenyans. Declining yields, due to environmental
stresses, pests and diseases, threatened food security and income for
the 80% of small-scale farmers in Kenya who provide 90% of the
country's food. This prompted scientists from the ISAAA AfriCentre,
Nairobi, to work with local farmers to offer culturally acceptable
solutions. Propagating 'clean' seedlings in tissue culture, sterile
glass pots until they are hardy enough to transplant to the field has
Esther Gacaugu is one farmer reaping the rewards - she has ploughed
her increased income back into her farm, expanding her orchard. She
is now a group leader and distributor of tissue culture-grown
plantlets and can afford to educate her children.
Progress has always been driven by myriad technological innovations
and agriculture faces tough decisions if it is to supply nutritional
food to feed eight billion.
Together with traditional practices, the advent of genetic
engineering and a wealth of knowledge from genomics resources herald
a new renaissance, allowing more food to be produced from less land
using less water and fewer chemicals.
To the eco-terrorists brandishing their banners shouting 'Save the
world', isn't that what science is in a position to do?
But as Professor Alan Gray, from the Centre for Ecology and
Hydrology, said: 'The future of agriculture may actually depend on
the ability of the persuaders.'
- Dr Claire Cockcroft is at the Institute of Biotechnology,
University of Cambridge.
Congressman blasts eco-terror
Environmental News Network
Monday, June 18, 2001
WASHINGTON ? Congressman George Nethercutt, R-Wash., detailed his plans
Wednesday for a full-out legal assault on so-called "eco-terrorism,"
including a bill that would convey mandatory prison sentences for violence
against environmental and life-sciences research.
Nethercutt spoke to legislative aides, reporters and other participants at
an eco-terrorismmeeting sponsored by the Frontiers of Freedom Foundation.
The Washington-based public policy think tank was founded by retired
Republican Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming.
"These environmental terror groups are getting more aggressive ? much more
aggressive ? and I think we need a strong response," Nethercutt told United
Press International after the conference. "The three largest organizations,
including the Earth Liberation Front, have launched an all-out assault
against researchers and scientists in the environmental field, using bombs
and other terrorist-style tactics. My greatest fear is that someone is
going to get killed."
Nethercutt said he is introducing the Agro-Terrorism Prevention Act of 2001
(HR 2060) to counteract what he called the latest threat to domestic
"They plan to get more active," Nethercutt said. "I introduced the act on
or around June 7 and right now it's in the House Judiciary Committee, where
its criminal sanctions are under review."
Three weeks ago, the Earth Liberation Front burned the corporate offices of
commercial tree farm Greenwood Resources in Portland, Oregon and the
University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle. The UW
horticulture school was engaged in genetic research with poplar trees.
"Any person involved in an act of eco-terrorism is looking at a mandatory
one-to-five year prison sentence under this bill," Nethercutt said. "If the
crime involves firebombing, the sentence increases to a range of five to 20
years. An act of eco-terrorism that results in murder brings a mandatory
death sentence. We also have a RICO provision to strip these organizations
of their funding and assets, if they can be located."
Locating eco-terrorists is problematic, however, Nethercutt said.
"We don't really know how many groups exist, or how many people belong to
them," he explained. "I've heard estimates of as few as three groups and as
many as 15."
Nethercutt said his bill gets its teeth from mandatory minimums, which may
not be imposed if authorities prosecute eco-terrorists under existing state
and local laws. He also said the new law would provide $5 million for
security systems in ecological and agricultural research facilities.
"My bill is designed to give relief to institutions and their researchers,"
Senator Orrin Hatch tried to introduce similar legislation in 1999 that
failed, Nethercutt told UPI, because it was attached as an amendment to a
controversial juvenile justice bill.
"I decided to reintroduce the issue because Washington and Oregon recently
got hit with eco-terrorist crimes," Nethercutt said.
Speaking at the same conference, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told attendees he
regretted the failure of his first attempt to quell eco-terrorism.
"I was disappointed when my measure did not pass the full Congress," Hatch
said. "It became bogged down in an omnibus juvenile justice bill and a
contentious gun control debate."
Hatch, however, does not presently have new legislation of his own
proposed, his legislative aide who handles environmental and agricultural
issues told UPI.
"We would like to see what can be done with the Nethercutt legislation, but
right now we don't have our own bill nor do we have any strategy on this
issue," said the Hatch aide, who asked not to be named. "The senate's
change of hands has made several things uncertain for us."
Nethercutt was more upbeat.
"There is tremendous support for this across the board," Nethercutt told
UPI. "My hope is that we will get this done and signed by the president by
Nethercutt told UPI he is frustrated by the irony of eco-terrorism.
"One group stole 250 baby ducklings from a research lab and set them loose
without food or shelter, who knows where," Nethercutt said. "If you're
trying to protect animals and then you blow up a lab full of animals ? tell
me how that makes sense."
Public attitude to GM food is changing
By Vic Robertson
June 20, 2001
A SIGNIFICANT change in the public?s attitude to genetically modified food
has been detected by the director of a public food watchdog body.
Professor Robert Pickard, director of the British Nutrition Foundation,
suggests this may be down to more balanced television documentaries on the
subject and its likely benefits.
"There is a pretty standard sort of appreciation among scientists of
genetic engineering influencing every aspect of agriculture and human
life. I don?t know if the general public fully appreciated that, but I
would have thought they would have got the gist having watched the various
documentaries on television," he said.
"When the Frankenstein food furore was running we got several hundred
enquiries a week from people who were concerned but now we don?t get any.
So there has obviously been a change in the interest but this may be
because no one is talking about it in the media.
"It is still a live issue and I am sure that when individual initiatives
are taken and new foods appear that will spark off the debate again. But
in the scientific community, virtually every biological laboratory studies
genetic engineering and all the major crops and major animals used in
livestock production are being investigated experimentally all over the
"Our view is that we have to do the research in genetic engineering to
find out what the relationships are between genes and health, both in
animals and humans. But when it comes to applied research and using this
information we have got to be very selective about it and we have got to
tread very carefully.
"We have to sort out the good relationships from the bad. We certainly
don?t advocate taking out the existing control systems, such as releases
to the environment.
"We are aware of the promise of the technology. At the same time we think
you have to take each application on its merits and study it very
carefully. While we think it is inevitable, the timescale has yet to be
Set up around 30 years ago, the BNF is funded by national and EU state
agencies, the food industry and various charities to study scientific
literature and to sort out the good and the bad.
The role of science in sustainable agriculture
Social Issues Research Centre
20 June 2001
SIRC Editorial - Science and agriculture in Africa.
We are delighted to publish an article (
http://www.sirc.org/articles/sustainable_agriculture.shtml ) by Boru
Douthwaite of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in
Ibadan, Nigeria. Boru is the Impact and Adoption Specialist for IITA and
is part of a team whose mission is to enhance the food security, income
and well-being of resource-poor people - primarily in the humid and
subhumid zones of sub-Saharan Africa. The institute conducts research on
methods of increasing agricultural production and improving food systems,
and on the sustainable management of natural resources. It works in close
partnership with national and international stakeholders.
Boru's paper specifically addresses the role that biotechnology can play
in meeting these objectives, arguing that it is one of many tools that can
and should be employed to bring hope to some of the poorest farmers in the
world. He also views it has having the potential to contribute
significantly to increasing biodiversity on our planet, something which
conventional approaches and the 'Green Revolution' have inadvertently
The paper is both balaned and persuasive. It identifies the real issues at
stake - ones which are rarely addressed by groups such as Greenpeace and
their allies who are prepared to "smash" biotechnology "whatever the
cost." The cost, of course, is not one which will be borne by the members
of Greenpeace themselves, but by those most vulnerable to insecurities in
food production and supply and to the vagaries of climate and geography.
Boru ends concludes with the comment:
"There is nothing inherently evil or Frankenstein-like about genetically
modified plants. However, if humankind does not concern itself with who
controls this novelty generation and who decides which novelties to
disseminate to farmers, then there is a real danger that large
multinational companies may gain control over the food chain, driven by
the economic logic of delivering higher returns to their shareholders, not
the environmental health or sustainability of the planet."
This is where the debate must now be focused - not on fanciful,
anti-science dogmas but on frameworks for the governance of new
technologies. At the heart of many irrational attacks on genetic
modification lie antipathies towards multi-national corporations and their
sometimes less than benign motives, rather than towards the process
itself. This may be understandable, but it does nothing to alleviate the
plight of those who stand to gain most from biotechnology. It is also the
case that the investment required to advance such technology is unlikely
to be found entirely fom the coffers of NGOs and research institutes, even
with the support of the World Bank and other international organisations.
As in the case of medicine and pharmacology, major advances have often
come from large corporations with an eye firmly on a return on investment
and shareholder dividends. The pragmatist recognises this and looks for
the solution which will provide suitable returns for the seed companies,
but more importantly ensures the essential protections and safeguards in
which sustainable benefits can be realised without exploitation or damage
to fragile ecosystems.
We need to move on to a stage where real dialogue along these lines is
possible. And already there are some small signs of promise. The 'think
tank' on OneWorld's web site, for example, is a genuine invitation to such
debate that should not be passed up. Louk Box, Professor of International
Cooperation at Maastricht University, writes in the introduction to this
"The battle lines are being drawn, alliances are formed. "All those in
favour of introducing genetically modified organisms (GMO's), please stand
on that side of the fence. And all those against doing so, please remain
on this side." A middle ground seems to become even smaller, especially in
Europe and the US. But what is in it for poor countries, especially those
in Africa? Where could they stand? That is the question being asked in
this Think Tank.
It is this 'middle ground' that is now so vital to establish. Without it
the polarised and destructive rhetorics of extremists on both sides will
continue to obscure the real issues and inhibit the fair distribution of
scientific knowledge and its beneficial applications around our planet.
The full text of Boru Douthwaite's article can be found at
The r-DNA debate is too clever by half
By Dr. GURUMURTI NATARAJAN
June 20, 2001
GENETIC MODIFICATION of crops through recombinant DNA (r-DNA) technology
has been a remarkable outcome of technological innovations in plant
breeding, a facet of human development ardently practised since the days
prehistoric man turned a settler from the nomadic hunter-gather-scavenger
that he was. Without a doubt, r-DNA technology has improved the quality of
human and animal life, has a positive impact on the environment and helps
sustain the biodiversity.
Yet, as with any technological innovation it has its share of detractors
and sceptics who prefer to cling to things they are familiar with perhaps
because they are ignorant of the new developments in science and
technology or are just plainly scared of venturing out of the beaten path.
Often such reservations give forth in the form of doomsday predictions,
scare mongering and undue haste in bundling every innovation and discovery
as unworthy. It leads to many myths and canards, which have a tendency of
self- perpetuation, based on non-science, half-truths and
When a plant breeder wants to introduce resistance to a particular fungal
pathogen to a crop species, he would scout for a variety that inherently
carried the resistance to the pathogen. Usually such donors are found in
the wild or from distant relatives that do not carry any other intrinsic
qualities of yield attributes about them. Then he would go through the
arduous process of transferring this desired trait onto the cultivated
species through crossing once with the donor and then repeated
back-crossing of the progeny generations with the cultivated species in an
effort to capture the desired trait without dragging down the other
favourable attributes of the cultivated species already present in it.
This translates into a numbers game: the more the crosses made and the
more the progeny screened the better the opportunity of striking the
desired combination of disease resistance plus favourable attributes
already present in the cultivated species.
What is happening here is that the genes of the two species are mixed up
during the process of sexual reproduction and they get reassorted in the
progeny in a myriad of permutations and combinations. The trick is to be
able to pick one winner among a million or more! Recombinant DNA
technology assists in identifying the specific gene(s) conferring the
resistance trait and helps splice it onto the genome of the recipient with
clinical precision and without having to rehash the whole genome of the
recipient. What is more, unlike classical breeding which circumscribes to
barriers to gene transfer, r-DNA circumvents it and facilitates transfer
of genes across kingdoms. In either event, genes have been shuffled into
genomes of cultivated species, save that in classical breeding there are
many operational constraints, besides being a very drawn out process and
progress is slow whereas the modern method is more precise, obviates the
familiar barriers but is more expensive besides being now hemmed in by
restrictions imposed by intellectual property rights.
A natural phenomenon
In nature genes have been transferred from and between organisms without
discrimination and this has been happening over epochs. There are
innumerable studies that show similarities between natural horizontal gene
transfer (HGT) and natural DNA rearrangements and those used in laboratory
experiments. It is common knowledge that genes move around many microbes.
Microbial gene transfer is a well-documented means of exchange of loci
among many prokaryotes and some eukaryotes (Paul, JH, 1999, J. Mol
Microbiol Biotechnol). A transduction-like mechanism of transfer from
viral-like particles produced by marine bacteria and thermal spring
bacteria to Escherichia coli has been documented indicating that broad
host range transduction may be occurring in aquatic environments. The
sequencing of complete microbial genomes has further shown them to be a
mosaic tapestry comprising ancestral chromosomal genes interspersed with
recently transferred operons that encode for peripheral functions. Genomes
of ancient species include genes for replication, transcription and
translation that are eukaryotic in complexity while the genes for
intermediary metabolism are bacterial in nature. Moreover, in eukaryotes,
bacterial genes, believed to have been derived from food sources, have
replaced many ancestral eukaryotic genes. Together, these results indicate
that microbial sex results in the dispersal of loci in contemporary
Gene movements in insects has been comprehensively reviewed documenting
extensive similarities of nature to lab genetic engineering by Robertson
and Lampe (1995, Ann Rev Ent).
Likewise in plants, R. A. Emerson was the first to document red- white
segments in `Calico' corn (Emerson, 1914, Am Nat) which was later shown by
Brink and Nilan (1952, Genetics) to be the phenomenon established by
Barbara McClintock as ``Controlling Elements'' (1945, Carnegie Inst Wash
Year Book). Since then, ``Controlling Elements'', ``Mobile Elements'' or
``Transposable Elements'' as they are called have been researched
extensively for their genetics and characterised at the molecular level by
numerous researchers including this author (Natarajan, 1987, Iowa State
University). These mobile transposable elements (TEs) have been shown to
exist in multiple families with autonomous and non- autonomous members,
move within and between chromosomes, disrupt gene function, cause target
site duplications and multiply. TEs can exist in a genome in a quiescent
state and can be activated by biotic or abiotic stresses that have been
collectively termed as ``genomic stress''. What is more, TEs have been
found in every plant taxon investigated thus far.
There are two recent publications that have raised the horizon of our
understanding of the dynamic role of these TEs in the plasticity of
eukaryotic genomes. SanMiguel and his collegues have reported (1998, Nat
Genet) evidence of retrotransposon activity in doubling the size of the
maize genome within the past 3 million years, demonstrating the active
role of such elements in restructing a genome. The other, Kalendar et al
(2000, PNAS, USA) illustrate a genome size variation due to
retrotransposon amplification and intra-element deletion.
At another plane, horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in nature into plants
from a soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens is well documented (Fraley
et al, 1983, PNAS, USA) and is a popular technique adopted by scientists
to introduce many desired genes into plants. In fact, 17 human disease
genes ranging from hyper- insularism to heredity deafness, fam cardiac
myopathy, myotonic dystrophy have high levels of similarity to the genes
discovered in Arabidopsis thaliana, a crucifer. In addition, 37 per cent
of the human genome is composed of virus-like foreign DNA!
Thus, in all three kingdoms - microbe, plant and animal - a whole range of
changes such as additions, duplications, deletions, mutations,
modification, activation and silencing of genetic material has been
regularly occurring in a random manner and in a ``foreign'' environment
over the millennia mediated by and actively engaged in by viruses,
retroviruses, bacteria, plasmids, phages, transposable elements and
The plasticity of the genome has been established in every organism
examined. In fact, it would seem that the genome's integrity is indeed
sustained, aided and enhanced by such dynamism in a changing milieu
spanning different epochs.
One of the many myths floating around is that some of the products of
r-DNA technology as the glyphosate-based herbicide is toxic to animals and
humans. The science of the matter is that glyphosate is non-toxic to
mammals and fishes. In fact it gets bound on contact with soil components
and is rapidly degraded by soil microorganisms, leaving little or no
residue (Wilkins, 2000, Critical Rev Plant Sci); what is more, there is no
known case of reported herbicide resistance to this product. Likewise,
that Bt- mediated resistance to insects conferred upon corn and cotton are
destructive to monarch butterflies that feed on the pollen of genetically
engineered plants. Nothing can be farther from the truth and empirical
data in peer-reviewed publications have shown that r-DNA technology does
not harm the environment or cause risk to the biodiversity but on the
contrary, aids and promotes the reduction of toxic wastes that would
otherwise be generated from massive application of pesticides and
herbicides to protect the crops.
The use of marker genes of r-DNA work has been marauded by the ignorant
with claims that they are antibiotic-resistant genes and that this creates
the spread of antibiotic resistance to all organisms that come in contact
with the transgene. There is no scientific evidence for the occurrence of
direct gene transfer of DNA present in the transgenic crop or food to
humans, animals or microbes including those from the gastrointestinal
tracts of animals to its microflora. This is so because, the half-life of
plant genomic DNA is extremely short. In the case of genetically
engineered corn leaf fed to a cow, the low pH and degradative enzymes in
the ensilation process would result in rapid DNA degradation. DNA not
degraded to single strands prior to consumption would be subject to the
harsh degradative environment in the gut and rumen. It has been clearly
established (Ausubel, 1987, Wiley and Sons) that plant cells inherently
have an abundance of highly active nucleuses that will digest plant DNA
upon cell lysis during mastication and the process of digestion. In lab
experiments to isolate plant DNA, the integrity of plant DNA can be
ensured only through adding protein denaturing agents, without which all
DNA will be degraded to fragments of less than 500 base pairs. Neither
ruminants nor humans produce such stabilising agents in their stomachs.
Few, if any, DNA that escape the above steps of degradation would be
subject to digestion by the extra-cellular nucleuses from ruminal and gut
bacteria (McAllan, 1980, Brit J of Nutrition). The action of intracellular
restriction endonucleases which are common in ruminal bacteria would be a
further deterrent to intact DNA (Morrison, 1996).
Frequently concerns are expressed in the popular press about food security
and the propriety in adopting r-DNA technology to address these issues. A
brief review of some of the fundamental approaches adopted by researchers
that help us feed a hungry world comprising over 6 billion inhabitants
today would be pertinent here. The fact is that from among a pool of
250,000 flowering plants, only a hundred or so are intensely cultivated
and a limited number among them provide all the energy and nutrients. From
prehistoric days until today, plants have been transformed and rendered
useful through a process of selection from among the variants. Along the
way several transformations took place, prominent ones being determinate
growth habit, elimination of shattering of grains/seeds, reduced growing
cycle, uniform maturity, enhanced fruit size, increased grain output,
resistance to pests, diseases and drought/flooding and so on.
Consider the ancestral marble sized, terribly bitter and poisonous
Lycopersicon that has given rise to the now familiar dainty and succulent
tomato and the transformations that this species has undergone through
human intervention to get a perspective of the processes involved in
creating a useful plant product. The narrow pool of native genetic
diversity is perpetually augmented in nature by mutations (brought about
by horizontal gene transfer), hybridisations and selections. Plant
breeders add to these variations by using ionising radiation, mutagenic
chemicals or cell culture. The more the variations, the better the
prospects of pyramiding useful traits into a cultivated variety. Since no
single plant carries all the desirable traits, in traditional plant
breeding, crosses are made between two parents to bring about useful
traits in the progeny followed by selection. However, the process meant
mixing of thousands of genes, as it were, between the two parents.
However, modern r-DNA technology achieves the same in a very precise
manner by inserting only one or two genes at a time. Thus, the new
technology is no different from the classical one save that it is more
precise, more accurate and importantly, puts together more traits in a
desired plant than was hitherto possible due to restrictions imposed by
sexual incompatibility of species or intransigence of cells and tissues
It is further well documented that integration of genes and whole genomes
have taken place in nature to result in useful plant species, prominent
examples being the modern bread wheat, Triticale, nectarine and so on. In
agriculture, plant breeders have been moving genes from one species to
another for a very a long time through sexual crosses, often using
``bridging'' species. In wheat and rice, for example, many disease
resistance traits were introduced from ``alien'' species (Khush and
Toenniessen, 1991, Biotechnology in Agriculture, Wallingford). Using modem
biotechnology, plants have been made more resistant to insects, bacteria,
fungi, and viruses, all of which lead to global production losses of well
over 35 per cent estimated at over US$ 200 billions annually (Krattiger
1997, ISAAA Briefs 2). Food quality enhancement by reducing certain
enzymes in fruits and perishable vegetables reduces their perishability
and significantly cuts post-harvest losses (Neupane et al 1998, in: Acta
Horticulturae, Brisbane, Ed. R. A. Drew). Further, certain naturally
occurring substances in plants can be increased such as anticancer
compounds naturally found in soybeans (Wang and Wixon 1999, INFORM),
vitamin A in rice (Burkhardt et al 1997, Pl Journal), iron content in
cereals (Theil et al 1997, Eur J Cli Nutr), or more non-saturated fatty
acids in canola (Kramer and Sauer 1993, Scan J Nutr), and other oil crops.
Plants can also be used to deliver edible vaccines, which would have a
tremendous impact in developing countries.
In the past 15 years of intensive governmental, academic and commercial
scrutiny, not a single incidence of actual harm to human or animal health,
safety or the environment has ever been documented concerning the approved
crops or the health-care products on the market today. Does this
tantamount to a zero risk situation? Absolutely not. Zero does not exist
in terms of risk. But, what is the evidence of adverse effects? Absolutely
Like any technology, r-DNA technology carries with it many advantages and
some perceived risks. The challenge would be to manage the risks in order
to maximise the advantages. A judicious combination of the best of science
and due caution, tempered by transparency and enabling systems are key
ingredients to harnessing the benefits of this technology for the large
good of mankind.
Dr. GURUMURTI NATARAJAN
A plant breeder and molecular biologist
Agricultural Biotechnology In The Philippines: Current Trends And
- Saturnina C. Halos, Ph.D. , Senior Project
Development Adviser, Bureau of Agricultural Research
What is biotechnology and why is it specially mentioned?
Biotechnology: is a collection of techniques or tools using live
cells, cell parts, tissues or information about the DNA and life
processes to make/improve a product/ process or to improve an
organism. Techniques are often classified traditional and modern.
Traditional biotechnology products are the result of microbial
activity. Examples include beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks,
vinegar, chemical feedstocks like butanol, the citric acid in your
softdrinks, antibiotics, enzymes, transformed products like cheese
and certain medical substances that makes them safer/more effective,
vaccines and soil inoculants. The earliest recorded history of
traditional biotechnology dates 6,000 BC.
Modern biotechnology products include tissue-cultured plants
(1970's), mammalian/animal cell lines - first report, 1945,
transgenics or genetically engineered organisms more notoriously
known as GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms that produce:
therapeutic human proteins, recombinant vaccines, recombinant
enzymes, diagnostic/analytical kits based on proteins and DNA
fragments, transgenic (GM) seeds. In 1982 the USFDA approved the
marketing of human insulin, first commercial application of GMOs, in
this case a genetically engineered bacteria.
There are several advantages of modern biotechnology. 1.It makes
products that cannot be produced using traditional techniques e.g.
Clones of tissue-cultured plants, therapeutic human proteins, Bt
corn, longer shelf-life carnation/tomato, papaya ringspot virus
resistant papaya 2. More rapid development of product such as
transgenic or GM varieties: development takes only one-half the time
compared with traditional breeding e.g. a new rice variety takes 12
years to develop using traditional breeding methods but takes only
5-6 years with genetic engineering. 3. More reliable and rapid
analytical kits can be produced. Analytical kits like diagnostic kits
are used to detect the presence of a particular species of a microbe
that causes a disease or one considered a pollutant. The tests are
based on the genetic material, the DNA or on a protein that is very
specific for that particular species or for a particular strain,
breed, variety or individual of the species. Some bacteria can now be
detected in less than an hour compared with the lengthy procedure of
growing them in culture , testing their activity and looking them
under the microscope which may take weeks or months. 4. More
effective and safer vaccines are produced. Traditionally, vaccines
are produced by growing lots of the pathogen or the disease-causing
bacteria or virus, weakening these and are then injected into people
or animals. If the injected individual is strong enough it will
become immune to the disease, however, when the injected individual
is weak, it succumbs to the disease. New vaccines developed through
modern biotechnology do not cause the disease because only a fragment
of the pathogen is injected into the body.
Biotechnology Applications In Agriculture Owing to the extensive R &
D in various countries, many products improving agricultural
production has emerged. Many of these products are imported into the
country and are now extensively used such as recombinant enzymes in
feeds. Examples of these products and their extent of use or study in
the country are given below
For livestock production: Diagnostic kits with DNA fragments/protein;
DNA tests for strain ID Feed Enzymes ( recombinant and non-recomb)
; Vaccines- recombinant ; non-recombinant
For crop production: Tissue-cultured plants - locally produced
banana, abaca, sugarcane, ornamentals sweet potato: R& D (many labs)
Diagnostic kits to ensure disease-free seeds- Import/R & D (BIOTECH/UPLB)
DNA tests for breeding work - Rice, coconut mungbean, corn at
Biotechnology Applications In Agriculture
Philippine experience Agencies
Inoculants N-fertilizer substitutes BIOTECH
limited commercial production
Biocontrol agents ( R & D) Many agencies
GM crops only R & D
2 (500sqm @) Bt corn trials Private/IPB
Xa21 rice for trials PhilRice
Vit A rice PhilRice
Insect resistant rice PhilRice
Fungus resistant rice PhilRice
PRSV-resistant papaya IPB/UPLB
Bunchy top virus resistant banana IPB/UPLB
long-shelf life mango & papaya IPB/UPLB
Fatty acid altered coconut IPB/UPLB
World Experience With GM Crops
In R & D, the first GM-plant was produced in 1982, that is, the world
has 19 years of R & D experience involving thousands of laboratories.
The first field tests done in 1986, that is, 15 years of field test
experience, with thousands of field tests carried out in 45
countries, with 56 different crops, transferred with 50 different
traits governed by hundreds of different genes.
GM crops are commercially planted in 13 countries in the world
including China with 500,000 has and increasing and Indonesia who is
planting 10,000 has of Bt cotton this year. A total of 44.2 Million
has were planted in Yr 2000. Major crops are herbicide resistant
soybean and Bt corn. Today, the soybean in the world market contains
about 50% GM soybean and the corn about 16% Bt corn. Both commodities
have always been imported by the Philippines earlier than 1996 when
these GM crops were first extensively planted by the USA where our
soybeans and corn come from .
In drafting the AFMA, the technical staff had been very much aware of
the problems confronting Philippine agriculture: A contracting land
area that is brought on by the conversion of rich irrigated
accessible agriculture land into industrial site, residential areas
or golf courses; Dwindling water supply where domestic needs compete
with agricultural needs; Declining soil fertility due to surface
run-off and other soil degrading conditions; Diminishing rates of
yield increases that indicates that current technological
interventions have reached the plateau of their effect on crop
production; Pollution of water bodies due to misuse of fertilizers
and Poor yields.
Compared with other countries our national average yields are very
low. For example in corn production, we have the lowest average
yields in the following selected countries.
Country Area planted(ha) Ave yield MT/ha
Philippines 2.1 Million 1.7
Indonesia 3.0 2.0
Thailand 1.5 3.5
USA 30 8.0
Our corn farmers thus, have difficulties in competing against
imported corn even within our own markets. Added to these problems is
a rapidly growing population that will soon reach 80 Million in 2010,
thereby necessitating that we adopt strategies that will increase
yields per unit area in a sustainable manner. The constraints to crop
production must be addressed if we are to achieve this aim.
*In corn, the Asiatic corn borer causes 30-100% loss in yield In
abaca, the bunchy top disease cause 50% reduction in fiber yield In
banana, the bunchy top disease cause 0 fruit yield
Biotechnology can thus help us develop solutions to these technical
problems plaguing crop production. However, to enable us to fully use
biotechnology, we also need to address the issues that prevent us in
using this technology.
Constraints To Biotechnology Development
1.Inadequate and inconsistent funding Although this is a perennial
lament of scientists, it has reached a level of the ridiculous when a
biotechnology R & D project is maintained at P1,000 a month an amount
not even sufficient to buy a critical reagent in one's expriment. Or,
that the project which received sufficient funding was suddenly
cut-off this year due to anumber of ridiculous reasons.
2.Unsatisfactory R & D infrastructure The evaluation and approval
process of projects is sometimes politically motivated. Exchange of
information and collaboration among laboratories is not encouraged by
an incentive system that focuses on the individual.
3.Very modest number of scientists trained in modern biotechnology.
The few that we have are found in different laboratories each working
on a different problem.
4. Too rigid regulatory framework for research The NCBP guidelines
are similar to rigid guidelines adopted by more advanced countries in
1980's. With the extensive experience that the world now has in
biotechnology R & D, there is no reason to follow some of these rigid
requirements as they imply danger to the layman. The absence of a
regulatory framework for the commercial applications of GMOs prevents
the rapid transfer of appropriate technologies such as the Bt corn to
the Filipino farmer.
5. Strong misinformation campaign The campaign against GM crops is
well-funded by foreign interest groups as indicated by one Senate
hearing in the last Congress. The propaganda tactics have confused
many policy makers and the public about the real issues on GM crops.
The only option offered by this propaganda is outright rejection of a
very powerful and useful technology for agricultural modernization.
Handling The Issues Against Gm Crops Policy proposal: To adequately
address the issues leveled against GM crops we need to separate the
technical from ideological/political and trade issues. The technical
issues include food safety and environmental safety. To address these
issues we have to establish the regulatory framework that allows
science to settle them. The regulatory framework covering the
commercial planting of GM seeds must be put in place immediately to
identify the kind of experiments, the manner on which they must be
carried out, the people who can implement such experiments, etc. so
as to produce the data needed to address the issues of health and
environmental safety. These guidelines will facilitate the job of the
National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines.
The trade issues are quite complex and must include strategies on how
the country can cope up with globalization. It would be helpful to
enlist the expertise of economists as well as the foreign and trade
officers. The ideological and political issues such as multinationals
control of food supply and small farmers' lack of access to GM seeds
can be addressed with an appropriate biotechnology development
program. Although our hybrid corn experience indicates that
multinationals cannot control food supply since only 20-25% of our
total corn area is planted to hybrid seeds sold by multinationals.
Furthermore, multinationals are not addressing problems of
resource-poor farmers simply because these farmers cannot afford to
buy their seeds. Hence to enable resource-poor farmers to access the
GM technology, we must support public R & D institutions to develop
affordable biotech seeds targeting problems of small farmers of
limited water supply, need for expensive inputs like pesticide and
fertilizers and too much break-backing farm labor. These biotech
seeds may well compete with GM seeds offered by the multinationals
and hence preventing monopoly. China adopted this strategy and
locally developed GM seeds now compete with Monsanto seeds. Simply
ignoring a technology will not make the technology go away if our
neighbors are just as bent in using it wisely. It will make our
agriculture more vulnerable with the country more dependent on
imports and our farmers more non-competitive.
(Definition: Biotech variety - variety developed using genetic
engineering, marker-assisted selection (MAS) and other iotech
techniques) This policy direction has been adopted by China and South
Africa. Their experience shows that small farmers gained more than
the rich farmers from GM crops. In Bt cotton farming in South Africa,
small farmers' increase in profits was about 28% compared with that
of the big commercial farmers of about 18%. Note however that both
classes of farmers benefited from the technology. Also in the USA,
economic studies showed that the biggest gainers in the use of the GM
technology are the farmers.
Another advantage of GM crops already reported is the reduction in
insecticide use with Bt crops: Bt crops reduce the amount of
pesticides released into the environment as well as the incidence of
poisoning among farmers aside from reducing cost of production.
Variety Insecticide load Insecticide poisoning
kg/ha reported(%of farmers)
Only Bt 10.3 4.7
Bt + non-Bt 29.4 10.8
Only non-Bt 57.8 22.2
Conclusion: Biotechnology especially modern biotechnology which
offers novel approaches in solving problems is a powerful tool for
developing solutions to many technical problems in Philippine
agriculture. If we use BIOTECHNOLOGY with care, we can help increase
yields per unit area, increase farmers' incomes, reduce incidence of
pesticide poisoning, protect the environment; produce safe and
nutritious foods at affordable prices
In sum, A well-directed and fully supported biotechnology program can
help attain the AFMA goals of food security and reduce rural poverty
Local Wine Industry Debates Biotechnology
The Press Democrat
By Tim Tesconi
June 19, 2001
The California wine industry faces massive consumer rejection and
decreasing sales if it allows grapevines to be genetically engineered to
combat Pierce's disease, warns a report released Monday by Greenpeace, an
"Consumers at home and abroad say they don't want genetically engineered
wine," Jeanne Merrill of Greenpeace said Monday following release of the
report. The wine industry has taken no position on genetic enhancement
of foods and wine. Discussion continues within the industry on the use of
genetic engineering as a tool in improving grapevines' resistance to pests
"The wine industry should be allowed to explore the use of modern
biological techniques in winegrowing and winemaking," said Kari Birdseye,
director of communications for the Wine Institute, the trade association
of the state's wine industry.
She said the wine industry is committed to making quality wines that are
safe for consumers and the environment.
Greenpeace is opposed to genetic engineering of all plants, claiming that
conventional and organic crops will be contaminated by pollen from the
genetically altered plants. The seed that develops from this cross
pollination would be genetically modified, altering the purity of seed
Additionally, Monday's report cites the results of surveys of wine
retailers in the United Kingdom, indicating that some leading wine
retailers would not stock genetically modified wine. But specifics of the
survey, its questions or approach were not described.
Greenpeace is asking for an immediate halt to all research projects
related to genetic engineering of grapevines in the search for a cure for
Pierce's disease is a fatal and incurable bacterial disease that clogs the
water-carrying vessels in a grapevine. It is spread to vines by insects
like the native blue-green sharpshooter and exotic pests like the
"The wine and wine grape industries would be very discouraged if
scientists weren't able to study genetic engineering as one of the
possible options for dealing with Pierce's disease," said Patrick Gleeson,
executive director of the American Vineyard Foundation, a Napa-based
organization that collects and distributes money for wine and grape
Genetic engineering is a potential tool that should be researched," said
Genetic engineering or genetic modification is part of the new
biotechnology to make improvements in plants.
Many scientists insist biote