Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

January 15, 2002

Subject:

Barry Commoner Attacks GM Crops Based on Dubious

 

Today in 'AgBioView Special' on Barry Commoner

* Dubious Arguments and Bad Science
* New Report Challenges Fundamentals of Genetic Engineering;
Study Questions Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods
* Rebuttal from Wayne Parrott
* Comments from Malcolm Livingtstone, Henry Miller, Bob Goldberg, Cindy Richards,
Val Giddings and Andrew Apel
* Barry Commoner Bio
* Beating Up On Agribusiness At Biodevastation 2000
* On The Menu: Modified Genes
* Genetic Engineering: Are The Risks Worth Taking?


Bary Commoner Attacks Genetically Modified Crops: Questions the Safety Based on Dubious Arguments and Bad Science

Barry Commoner (b.1917), an elder of the environmental movement and an academic, is publishing an attack on agricultural biotechnology in the Harper's Magazine (http://www.harpers.org/) February 2002 issue. See below for the press release on this.


AgBioView readers may recall that I posted a commentary by Barry Commoner a few months ago and asked others including Wayne Parrott to examine it. See their earlier comments reproduced below. See also comments of Issac Assimov on Commoner forwarded earlier by Henry Miller who says - "Commoner was widely ridiculed throughout American science in the 1960s for his continued insistence that protein, not DNA was the genetic material". See some wonderful arguments further on that by Bob Goldberg below.


Commoner has done no new RESEARCH here, only reviewed the work of others. So, to claim he's done something scientific or revealing is misleading at best. Commoner has not offered his opinions and "reviews" of others research to any peer review group or scientific journal, rather he's chosen the least credible way of presenting his information.


And most of what he says he can be simply dismissed as "So What?" and "Is it unique to transgenic crops?". Any question on the fidelity of the gene transcription and nature of proteins in transgenic crops is moot because the developers and regulators ensure that there are no surprises. And it is in the commercial and legal interest to do so. An occasional variant line that does not express the required protein (perhaps one in a million plant) is of no consequence, biotech or not. Our wise friend Klaus Ammann has rightly proposed a marraige between Commoner and Mae Wan Ho.


He keeps harping back to 'Central Dogma' of molecular biology questioning the role of DNA in heredity and then goes on to questioning the safety of biotech crops and says that results could be catastrophic. This is so irresponsible. Why not stop cross breeding until we understand the molecular basis of chromosome recombination completely? Andrew Kimbrell joins the chorus chipping in that biotech crops are not safe because we have incomplete knowledge. Aspirin has been in use for a century and only recently we figured out how it works. Should we have stopped taking this medicine all along because we did not know how it worked?


Commoner's fight throughout the 1960's demanding that protein, not DNA, was the genetic material and Commoner's participation in events like Biodevastation protests as suggestive evidence that he's a) got a history of wrong science, and b) an activist and not a scientist when it comes to this issue. (See below).


It's hard to take Barry Commoner seriously given his past history of bad scientific judgment and active participation in the Biodevastation protests where direct action against scientific research groups is plotted, planned and executed. His sitting side by side with presenters offering the best way to assault elected officials and scientists with pies and training seminars on how to avoid arrest while destroying research laboratories and field trials unfortunately leaves Mr. Commoner lacking in the credibility field.


Some recent protest events he's participated in include:


* Genetic Engineering, Are The Risks Worth Taking (New York); Organized by the Genetic Engineering Action Network (GEAN); With support from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, GEFA, IATP and various organic industry associations. October 2000


* Beyond Pesticides: Solving A Public Health Crisis (New York) April 2000; Organized by PANNA and Environmental Defense


* Biodevastation (Boston); February 2000; Organized by Brian Tokar and the Northeast RAGE (resistance against genetic engineering)

More on Commoner: http://www.geocities.com/combusem/BS-COMM.HTM


- Prakash


+++++++++++++++


New Report Challenges Fundamentals of Genetic Engineering; Study Questions Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods


- U.S. Newswire January 15, 2002


NEW YORK -- A study released today reveals a critical, long-overlooked flaw in the science behind the multi-billion dollar genetic engineering industry, raising serious questions about the safety of genetically engineered foods.

In a new review of scientific literature reported in the February issue of Harper's Magazine, Dr. Barry Commoner, a prominent biologist demonstrates that the bioengineering industry, which now accounts for 25-50 percent of the U.S. corn and soybean crop, relies on a 40-year- old theory that DNA genes are in total control of inheritance in all forms of life. According to this theory -- the "central dogma" -- the outcome of transferring a gene from one organism to another is always "specific, precise and predictable," and therefore safe.

Taking issue with this view, Commoner summarizes a series of scientific reports that directly contradict the established theory. For example, last year the $3 billion Human Genome Project found there are too few human genes to account for the vast inherited differences between people and lower animals or plants, indicating that agents other than DNA must contribute to genetic complexity.

The central dogma claims a one-to-one correspondence between a gene's chemical composition and the structure of the particular protein that engenders an inherited trait. But Dr. Commoner notes that under the influence of specialized proteins that carry out "alternative splicing," a single gene can give rise to a variety of different proteins, resulting in more than a single inherited trait per gene. As a result, the gene's effect on inheritance cannot be predicted simply from its chemical composition -- frustrating one of the main purposes of both the Human Genome Project and biotechnology.

Commoner's research sounds a public alarm concerning the processes by which agricultural biotechnology companies genetically modify food crops. Scientists simply assume the genes they insert into these plants always produce only the desired effect with no other impact on the plant's genetics. However, recent studies show that the plant's own genes can be disrupted in transgenic plants. Such outcomes are undetected because there is little or no governmental regulation of the industry. "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable," Commoner concludes. "The results could be catastrophic."

Dr. Commoner cites a number of recent studies that have broken the DNA gene's exclusive franchise on the molecular explanation of inheritance. He warns that "experimental data, shorn of dogmatic theories, point to the irreducible complexity of the living cell, which suggests that any artificially altered genetic system must sooner or later give rise to unintended, potentially disastrous consequences."

Commoner charges that the central dogma, a seductively simple explanation of heredity, has led most molecular geneticists to believe it was "too good not to be true." As a result, the central dogma has been immune to the revisions called for by the growing array of contradictory data, allowing the biotechnology industry to unwittingly impose massive, scientifically unsound practices on agriculture.

"Dr. Commoner's work challenges the legitimacy of the agricultural biotechnology industry," said Andrew Kimbrell, Director of the Center on Food Safety. "For years, multibillion dollar biotech companies have been selling the American people and our government on the safety of their products. We now see their claims of safety are based on faulty assumptions that don't hold up to rigorous scientific review."


The study reported in Harper's Magazine is the initial publication of a new initiative called The Critical Genetics Project directed by Dr. Commoner in collaboration with molecular geneticist Dr. Andreas Athanasiou, at the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College, City University of New York. Contact: Dr. Barry Commoner of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, 718-670-4182


+++++++++++++++++


Response From: Wayne Parrott
Re: Dr. Commoner's attack the science of biotech (To an earlier posting.
Aug 22, 2001. Agbioview. http://www.agbioworld.org/listarchive/view.php?id=1238

Overall, a lot of distortions, half-truths, non-sequiturs,

1. The number of genes in the human genome is still an open question. The only issue which is clear right now is that the software which is used to count genes still is not where it needs to be. Nevertheless, it does appear that the human genome may resort to alternate splice sites. This does not negate that there is still one DNA sequence for each gene. Based on limited data, the use of alternate splice sites may be more a feature of virus and vertebrates than of plants.

2. There are several genes that can result from shuffling of DNA, particularly for immune related genes. Nevertheless, after the shuffling, there is still one DNA sequence per protein.

3. I am not sure what the issue with protein folding is. There are more than enough transgenics available now to suggest that folding is not a universal problem-- if at all. If transgenic proteins folded incorrectly, they would not be active in their new hosts. Overall, many if not most of the most basic cell biochemical processes are highly conserved throughout evolution.

4. "a given gene is not in exclusive control of an inherited trait." This statement generalizes way too much. Genes differ in what traditionally has been called "expressivity"-- the extent to which an individual with the gene expresses its trait. Some genes have extremely high expressivity. Other genes do not, and instead contribute to quantitative traits. Obviously, genetic engineers work with the former type.

5. Prions do not replicate directly. One prion can change the conformation of another protein to convert it into a prion, but a gene is still necessary for the formation of the target protein in first place.

6. Given that the arguments against the Central Dogma are themselves flawed, the author has done nothing to disprove the Central Dogma.

7. The existing data base of existing transgenic plants makes it clear that lack of co-evolution of transproteins and protein folding machinery. The "numerous experimental failures" have more to do with gene copy number and gene silencing--thus for every transgenes, there are successfully expressed events along with events which are not successful. I am not aware of any genes which have never been successful.

8. "by genetic defects that occur even when the gene is successfully transferred" The author is going to have to come up with some examples, as I am not aware of any genetic defects. Interestingly enough, the cellular machinery that translates genes into proteins is not universal, and genes may have to be codon-optimized prior to transformation. No insurmountable problem here.

9. "Thus, a recent study has shown that in transgenic bacteria the new host's code-repair system fails to correct the faulty replication of the alien gene, a necessary repair process that does occur in the original host. This means that in the new transgenic host, random uncorrected errors in gene replication can persist, giving rise to unforeseeable genetic changes." I have no idea which study he was talking about. Perhaps a DNA repair-deficient mutant? In the end, DNA is DNA-- it doesn't matter where the enzymes come from. DNA repair does not discriminate between DNA of different species.

10. Lack of GFP statement in monkeys. The author is mixing up statement with genetic defects. In the case of plants, multiple transgenics are screened for to identify those with stable statement. Multiple field trials are conducted between the time the original transgenic plant is recovered, all the intervening breeding process, and the final variety release.

11. "The degree to which such disruptions do occur in genetically modified crops is not known at present, for the biotechnology industry is not required to provide even the most basic information about the actual composition of the transgenic plants to the regulatory agencies." Outright false.

12. "in the case of corn plants that carry a bacterial gene for a specific insecticidal protein, no tests are required to show that the plant actually produces a protein with the same amino acid sequence as the original bacterial protein" So this guy feels a company would market a protein that may or not work? The ultimate parameter is that the protein must be safe, and it must be functional.

13. "Moreover, there are no reported studies to investigate the long-term, multi-generational consequences of the gene transfer. This would require, for example, detailed analysis of the molecular structure and biochemical activity of the alien gene's protein product not only in laboratory test plants, but in the transgenic commercial crop as well." There are many examples where wide gene transfer has been used in plant breeding over the decades, and thus far, there is no indication such tranfers lead to problems. I cannot see what can possibly be gained by "analysis of the molecular structure and biochemical activity of the alien gene's protein"

14. "Since some unexpected effects may appear in only a fraction of the commercial crop plants" These unexpected effects are equally, if not more, likely to arise from traditional breeding. Yet, the probability has been so low that society has not considered it worth its while.

15. "The genetically engineered crops now being grown represent a huge uncontrolled experiment; its outcome is inherently unpredictable. Our project is designed to help develop effective public understanding of the dangerous implications of this critical predicament." When conventional breeding is done, new toxin pathways may be activated; transposons may be unleashed, etc. In essence, each of the varieties bred over the past century represents "a huge uncontrolled experiment" but its outcome is inherently *predictable*.


++++++++++++++++++


Date: 23 Aug 2001 00:05:09 -0000
From: Malcolm Livingstone

Wayne Parrott's comments about Barry Commoner's article are absolutely correct. However Commoner also claims that;

"The likelihood, in genetically engineered crops, of some instances of even exceedingly rare, disruptive effects of gene transfer is greatly amplified by the billions of individual transgenic plants that are already being grown in the United States."

Barry Commoner makes the fairly important mistake here of thinking that all the transgenic crops grown are individual transformation events. It is true that somaclonal variation is a common consequence of extended periods of tissue culture and that many transformants will have lethal or detrimental mutations. However the final transformed LINE is one that is free of silencing etc. From this line all the billions are derived. In other words they are CLONES. So if there is a very slim chance of creating a mutant that is harmful in some way (and I don't know what this could be) it is in no way enhanced by the huge numbers of crops being grown.

Malcolm Livingstone

++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "Henry I. Miller"
RE: Commoner

Before one takes an analysis of any scientific subject by Barry Commoner too seriously, it might be useful to recall that Commoner was widely ridiculed throughout American science in the 1960s for his continued insistence that protein, not DNA, was the material that mediated the transference of genetic characteristics. This tenacious wrong-headedness, bordering on the delusional, led writer and scientist Isaac Asimov to make this observation in 1961: "If Commoner disapproves of the incoming tide and wishes to amuse himself by standing on the shore and commanding it to stop, he may "He may also quote as many authorities as he likes to impress the waves. But he will get his feet wet just the same"

Commoner's NOVEMBER 1966 article (four years after Watson, Crick and Wilkins received the Nobel Prize) "The Elusive Code of Life: Is DNA Really the Master Key to Heredity" ranks historically with attacks on Galileo's view of the movement of the planets, and with Lysenko's version of evolutionary biology.

Would we care what Lysenko might have to say about gene-spliced plants?

- Henry Miller , The Hoover Institution

++++++++++++++


From: Bob Goldberg
Subject: Re: Barry Commoner:

Barry Commoner is not a serious scientist. He worked on TMV many, many years ago but has never been involved in contemporary plant molecular biology or plant biotechnology research. He a wrote an article in 1968 for Nature that challenged the Central Dogma of DNA to RNA to Protein (Commoner B.,1968 Nature, Oct 26;220(165),334-40, Failure of the Watson-Crick theory as a chemical explanation of inheritance.)!!!


If you look this article up and think about it you will see that he really is not much of a critical or serious scientist. His Harper's article looks very much like a neocopy of his Nature article of 30-40 years ago; that is, something "other" than DNA guides the phenotype of a cell -- although he never specifies what that "other" is -- or did even ONE experiment to test his hypothesis. It was all words!!


he thesis in the Harper's piece, clearly wrong, is much the same the one Commoner made 35 years ago -- a specific piece of DNA doesn't lead to the production of a protein directly!! That is, Commoner never really believed in the concept of a gene directly specifying a protein. And there are now hundreds of examples -- thousands -- that show that a gene can be inserted in any organism and give a predicted phenotype! And even though we have learned about post-transcriptional and translational controls and alterations -- the basic fact remains that specific pieces of DNA can be inserted into cells and give specific phenotypes. How about the production of human insulin in bacteria cells, for example! Or the delayed ripening of a fruit by using specific segments of antisense DNA! And specifc segments of DNA can be altered and/or eliminated that give specific phenotypes. The examples apply to plants, flies, bacteria, and even humans.


Think about the children who were born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) that underwent gene therapy and had a "good" copy of the adenine deaminase gene inserted into their bone marrow cells -- these children are alive and well because a specific segment of DNA lead to the production of a specific enzyme that corrected a genetic disorder. Genetically engineered humans walk among us and are alive! Similarly, single "herbicide resistance" DNA segments lead to herbicide resistance. And the examples go on and on and on.


Clearly, Commoner's thesis didn't hold up to CRITICAL thinking 35 years ago and it certainly doesn't today -- that's why it is published in a popular magazine rather than a serious, peer-reviewed scientific journal.


--
Professor Bob Goldberg, Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, University of California, http://www.mcdb.ucla.edu/Research/Goldberg/


+++++++++++++++++


From: "L. Val Giddings"


Anybody who has ever studied molecular biology seriously should be able to clarify that Barry has misconstrued the central dogma entirely. Crick's 1958 paper, from which the term was derived, spoke to the fact that information moves in living systems from nucleic acid to protein, and that the reverse does not take place. It had nothing to do with the straw man of strict genetic determinism Barry tries to set up; a type of determinism scientists have known since at least the 30's was inadequate to explain the world we observe.

++++++++++++++++


Excerpts From: "Cindy Lynn Richard, CIH"


The media may cover the newswire item about a Harper's Magazine story (February edition - should be available on the newsstands now) in which Barry Commoner raises concerns about the safety of biotechnology-derived foods and challenges the Central Dogma of genetics. The Central Dogma is a concept describing the interrelations between DNA, RNA and protein; in essence, DNA serves as the template for the replication of RNA, which in turn is translated into protein.


When contacted by telephone, the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems stated that there is not a separate study - only the Harper's Magazine article.

As described in F.H.C. Crick's 1958 Society for Experimental Biology paper, The Central Dogma states that once the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or of amino acid residues in the protein, has passed into protein it is not changed - i.e. the transfer of information from nucleic acid to nucleic acid (transcription), or from nucleic acid to protein (translation) is possible; however, information is not transferable from protein to protein or from protein to nucleic acid.


++++++++++++++++


From: Andrew Apel


Barry Commoner has been described as a 'public interest lawyer.' See http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/10.31.96/cover/st-props-9644.html

He's also been described as an 'environmentalist' and even as a biologist. He's also known as the founder of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College, CUNY) See http://www.purefood.org/patent/gedanger090401.cfm

But here's something strange--the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems isn’t actually part of Queens College, CUNY. It rents space from the College instead!

G. Queens College: Lease Extension - The Center For The Biology Of Natural Systems:
Resolved, That the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York authorize the Secretary of the Board to execute a two-year lease extension, on behalf of Queens College, for space at 163-03 Horace Harding Boulevard, Flushing, until June 30, 1999. The agreement shall be subject to approval as to form by the University Office of General Counsel.
EXPLANATION: The College’s Center for the Biology of Natural Systems currently occupies approximately 7,200 square feet of space on the Fourth Floor of this building pursuant to a lease that expired on June 30,1997. The current annual rent is $180,000 ($25.00/S.F.). Due to continuing renovation work on campus, the College will need to occupy this space for another two years. Under a renewal agreement, the lease will be extended to June 30,1999 at the same base annual rent. The Landlord, at his cost, will provide all services including normal heat, air-conditioning, cleaning, electricity and parking facilities, Tenant will continue to reimburse the Landlord for its share of any increases in real estate taxes over the base year. (From: http://www.cuny.edu/abtcuny/trustees/thismnth/cal0198.html )

Where does it/Barry Commoner get the money? From foundations.

See: http://www.junkscience.com/dec99/jones.htm

W. Alton Jones Foundation: Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College of the City University of New York Flushing, NY $90,000 To apply the atrazine transport model to the task of generating information about the human and wildlife populations that may be significantly exposed to major airborne endocrine disruptors.

Center for the Biology of Natural Systems,Queens College of the City University of New York Flushing, NY $150,000 To analyze the human risk, especially to children, from long range air transport of toxic chemicals.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Barry Commoner Bio


http://library.thinkquest.org/26026/People/barry_commoner.html.
(Forwarded by Alex Avery )


Barry Commoner
Commoner was born in 1917. He attended Harvard University and received a doctorate in biology in 1941. In his work as a biologist, Commoner has focused especially on ozone layer depletion.


In the 1950s, Commoner began to push for atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, thereby bringing himself into public prominence. In the 1960s, he became involved in other environmental issues; these included pollution and energy sources. He gave speeches and wrote numerous books: Science and Survival (1967), The Closing Circle (1971), Energy and Human Welfare (1975), The Poverty of Power (1976), The Politics of Energy (1979), and Making Peace with the Planet (1990).


Among his views, Commoner believes that industrial methods, especially those involving fossil fuels, are causing environmental pollution. He feels strongly that the quest for maximum profit currently takes priority over environmental reasoning. Commoner also believes that it is pointless to try to undo the environmental damage we have caused; this is a losing battle. We should instead focus on preventing future destruction; for the most part, the solution to environmental problems lies in not destroying the environment in the first place.


Commoner's solutions for many problems are considered radical. He is a strong advocate of renewable energy sources, specifically solar energy, which would decentralize electric utilities and use sunlight as an alternative power source for most energy consumers. To make the transition from one to the other, Commoner suggests that we use moderates such as methane and make the switch a little at a time.


Commoner also has strong views on social causes of the present environmental situation. He argues, for example, that eliminating Third World debt payments would lesson the economic gap between developed and less developed countries and end the desperation that usually results in overpopulation. This debt forgiveness could also compensate for previous decades of damage inflicted on such countries. Commoner also calls for redistribution of the world's wealth.


Commoner combined his socialist and environmental beliefs in a brief Citizen's Party presidential campaign in 1980. For the past nearly twenty years, he has directed the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College in New York City.


An interview with Barry Commoner


Quotations from Barry Commoner

This project was created by Caroline Camic, David Mericle, Michael Muelly, Mindy Taranto, Neil Franklin, and Vikas Sonak for the ThinkQuest Internet contest in 1999.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Beating Up On Agribusiness At Biodevastation 2000


- Dorothy C. Wertz, PhD


http://www.geneletter.org/07-05-00/lig/whatshappening/recent/biodevastation.html

There's a lot of energy out there spent looking for good causes that could change the world. Some of this energy is directed at "genetic engineering." Most people support genetic research that could lead to cures for diseases, but environments altered by the new molecular biology draw a very different response.

About 500 environmentally concerned individuals gathered at the March " Biodevastation 2000" conference at Northeastern University in Boston. The conference took place immediately before BIO 2000, the annual business-oriented meeting of biotech companies.

Conference sessions had the atmosphere of political organizing rallies, with loud shouts of approval every time a speaker denounced the evils of corporate capitalism or rape of the environment. Some talks were largely drowned in applause, cheers, and boos (for agribusiness giants). This audience had made up its mind and had little interest in discussion. In all, there was little new information.

BIODEVASTATION 2000: Who went?
About 500 people attended the conference. Most were in their early twenties, dressed in student attire, with a sprinkling of grey hairs. Some of the latter had been protesters in the 1960s. One speaker, by way of demonstrating his credentials, held up a tear-gas cannister from a Black Panther march in the1970's (he was white).

The audience at Biodevastation appeared to be even "whiter" than BIO, but had an even gender balance. Two people from the disability community attended; one complained that the anti-biotech movement had ignored people with disabilities.

The audience was not from the local Boston era. A show of hands found two people from Boston proper, one from Cambridge, MA, a few from the Boston suburbs, and large contingents from Vermont and New Hampshire. The Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states were also well represented, and a few had come from the West Coast. Although some speakers had scientific backgrounds or had formerly worked in human or plant genetics, the overall level of scientific knowledge at the conference left much to be desired. Two of the better-known speakers, Barry Commoner and Ruth Hubbard, spent much of their time explaining what DNA was.

Some members of the audience had badly scrambled facts, like the woman who said Africans had something in their genes that made them get sickle cell anemia when they moved to the American environment. The major theme fueling audience protests was opposition to Big Business, especially agribusiness. Some speakers envisaged an ideal nation of small, family-run farms selling directly to consumers. Others feared that Big Science would foist unwanted technologies like cloning or germ-line gene therapy on consumers, but genetically modified foods drew the most emotional outbursts, largely because of their potential effects on the environment.
Speakers claimed that the production of GM foods in developing nations would disrupt the lives of native peoples, who were best off living the way they always had. For conference attendees, Big Agriculture, Big Science, and Big Biotech appeared to have become the equivalent of the "military-industrial complex" of the 1960s and 1970s. The aptly-named "Shoddy Puppet Company" showed five-foot high paper-maché corporate monsters devouring six-inch small farmers.

It's too bad that no one protests the military-industrial complex anymore; the danger of someone sending off a nuclear missile is probably as great as during the Cold War, but we've become used to this. Although the conference program listed 21 co-sponsors, including Greenpeace USA, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG), the Council for Responsible Genetics, People Against Corporate Takeover, and the Northeastern University Sociology Club and Women's Studies Department, it was not clear at the event who the main organizers were.


Food (all donated) was strictly vegetarian, and GM-free.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


On The Menu: Modified Genes


- The New York Times June 17, 2001 (Via Agnet)
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/17/opinion/L17BIOT.html
Re "As Biotech Crops Multiply, Consumers Get Little Choice" (front page,
June 10):

Barry Commoner of Flushing, Queens, director of the Critical Genetics Project, Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College, CUNY, writes that the biotechnology industry rests on a very shaky scientific foundation. Its claim that genetic engineering is specific, precise and predictable and therefore safe depends on the theory that a single gene, transferred from one species into a second, unrelated one, will produce in this alien host only the same singular protein that it did originally. This is an untenable theory. As recent reports on the Human Genome Project have acknowledged, "gene splicing" in higher organisms can produce numerous different proteins from a single gene. In plants, the kinds of proteins can vary with temperature. The risk of harm from transgenic crops is inherently unpredictable and, if it occurs, so difficult to remedy that it is a risk not worth taking.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genetic Engineering: Are The Risks Worth Taking?

October 2, 2000 http://www.geocities.com/gean_nyc/october_conference.html

A weekend forum on the risks of genetic engineering and the movement against
irresponsible biotechnology


Friday, October 13, 7pm - 9pm: Opening Panel and Exhibition; Saturday, October 14, 12pm - 8pm: Workshops, Exhibition, Films; At The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue @ 34th Street, Manhattan, New York

-- Food Safety Risks-Human Health Risks-Threats to Environment &
Biodiversity-Corporate Control of Agriculture & Life Forms-
Socio-Economic
Impacts-Ethical concerns-Alternatives & Activism
-- FRIDAY NIGHT PANEL -- 7:00pm - 9:00pm "Genetic Engineering: Are the Risks
Worth Taking?"
Bill Christison, National Family Farm Coalition
Barry Commoner, Center for the Biology of Natural Systems
Jean Halloran, Consumers Union
Andrew Kimbrell, International Center for Technology Assessment
Brian Tokar, Institute for Social Ecology & Northeast Resistance Against
Genetic Engineering
-- SATURDAY SCHEDULE -- 12:00pm - 8:00pm
VIDEO SCREENINGS AND INFORMATION DISPLAY, All Day
WORKSHOP SESSIONS
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm (SESSIONS 1 & 2)
Genetic Engineering: What It Is, The Risks and Alternatives
There Should Be A Law: Litigation, Legislation and Regulation
2:45pm - 4:15pm (SESSION 3) Sowing the Seeds of Empowerment: Current
Campaigns
& Opportunities for Action
4:30pm - 6:00pm (SESSIONS 4, 5 & 6)
Getting the Message Out: Media Training, Internet Organizing & Actions
Human Genetics
6:15pm - 7:30pm (SESSION 6)
On the Horizon: Latest Developments in Genetic Engineering and Next Steps
for
GE Activists
WORKSHOP PRESENTERS:
Skip Spitzer, Pesticide Action Network, North America Philip Bereano,
Washington Biotechnology Action Council
Joe Mendelson, Center for Food Safety
Michael Hansen, Consumers Union
Stuart Newman, New York Medical College & Council for Responsible Genetics
Charles Margulis and Kimberly Wilson, Greenpeace USA
Tom Lalley, Environmental Media Services
Larry Bohlen and Bill Freese, Friends of the Earth
Wendy Wendlandt, Julie Miles and Richard Caplan, the State PIRGs
Jason Ford, Native Forest Network
Faith Campbell, American Lands Alliance
Chaia Heller, Institute for Social Ecology Holly Ross Tech Rocks
Liana Hoodes, Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
Christy Leavitt , Free the Planet!
Matt Rand, National Environmental Trust
Howard Brandstein, Save Organic Standards, New York
Eric Bradhshaw, Ground Score
Organized by Genetic Engineering Action Network (GEAN) USA, Free Agency, and
Continuing Education & Public Programs at The Graduate Center, City
University
of New York
Co-sponsors include: Alliance for Bio-Integrity, Americans for Safe Food,
Center for Food Safety, Council for Responsible Genetics, Earth Society
Foundation, Edmonds Institute, Food First, Friends of the Earth, Genetically
Engineered Food Alert, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaign, Institute
for
Agriculture & Trade Policy, International Forum on Globalization, Mothers &
Others for a Livable Planet, National Environmental Trust, Northeast Organic
Farming Association - NY, Organic Consumers Association, Park Slope Food
Coop,
Peoples Earth Network, Save Organic Standards NY, the State PIRGs, The
Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, 20/20 Vision, Washington
Biotechnology Action Council