Today in AgBioView:
* Editorial: No Credible Scientific Evidence is Presented to Support Claims that Transgenic DNA was Introgressed into Traditional Maize Landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico
* Terrorist Group Earth Liberation Front Funded By PETA
* Ultra fortification
* ISAAA AfriCenter website
* Canada: Officials warn of GM label woes
* Discredited scientist to come to New Zealand
* GM law 'could hit vaccines'
* ANZFA more intimate with GM foods than any other
* Missouri Scientist Studies Britons' Aversion to Gene-Altered Foods
* GM peanut from ICRISAT likely to be unveiled soon
* SCIENTISTS DISAGREE ON BIOTECH COTTON
Editorial: No Credible Scientific Evidence is Presented to Support Claims that Transgenic DNA was Introgressed into Traditional Maize Landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico
Transgenic Research 11: iiiñv, 2002.
By Paul Christou (on behalf of the Editorial Board)
Because maize and its progenitor are wind-pollinated and capable of outcrossing, the eventual introgression of transgenes from commercial hybrids into landraces and wild relatives is likely should they be grown in close proximity. On 14th November 2001, a paper was published in the journal Nature which claimed for the first time to present evidence that transgene DNA had introgressed from commercially-released transgenic maize varieties into traditional landraces. It is not surprising that a scientific paper with such a strong claim in the title would be seized upon by the media and the public, including those who have been working with transgenic plants for many years. What is very surprising, however, is that a manuscript with so many fundamental flaws was published in a scientific journal that normally has very stringent criteria for accepting manuscripts for publication. Members of the Editorial Board of Transgenic Research, and a number of other scientists with many decades of experience in the area of transgenics, have provided comments that indeed demonstrate that the data presented in the published article are mere artifacts resulting from poor experimental design and practices. Consequently, this editorial focuses strictly on a purely scientific analysis of the data presented in the manuscript. We will not address implications or consequences if such an event had actually happened, as this is beyond the scope of this analysis. Our conclusion following detailed analysis of the results presented in this paper is that no credible scientific evidence is presented in the paper to support claims made by the authors that gene flow between transgenic maize and traditional maize landraces has taken place.
A careful analysis of the data presented in the paper strongly suggest the following:
* Sample contamination is the most likely explanation for the observed results.
* Rather than rely on questionable PCR results, plants that were alleged to contain introgressed DNA should have been grown out and subjected to more reliable confirming studies.
* The inverse PCR results are technically flawed.
* Cross pollination and introgression would not produce these results.
To avoid any confusion about what was being tested, it is important to clarify that this was maize, Zea mays, a landrace perhaps, but maize nonetheless, and not a progenitor species of maize. The experimental data Quist and Chapela cite as evidence for their conclusions is based solely on PCR and inverse PCR (IPCR). All those working with these two techniques know very well that they are prone to artifacts and we have all learned in the course of many years to exercise caution in designing and interpreting ex-periments based on methodology involving PCR and IPCR. All evidence in the present study is based on PCR for various sequences (the CaMV35S promoter, nos terminator and Bt cryIAb). Among these, only the CaMV35S sequence was analysed by both PCR and IPCR. It was necessary to use nested PCR (two con-secutive PCR reactions) to detect an obvious product. This is a particularly risky approach, since extremely low levels of contamination introduced during the handling of samples can be the cause of a positive result. The authors claim the Diconsa store sample gave a strong product in the first round of PCR but have cut out this track of the gel, without explanation. The Criollo samples represented a bulk of 150-400 grains. If the claimed presence of the transgene was due to pollination from commercial transgenic maize, one would not need PCR to prove it, given the level of 'contamination' in this relatively small number of ker-nels. An old-fashioned, but more reliable Southern blot would have sufficed, and would have provided more clear and unequivocal data. Indeed, the progeny of such pollinations would be very evident in terms of the dramatic change in the phenotype of the plant and cobs. Given that the authors relied on PCR, 40 PCR cycles would have been enough to amplify a single template molecule ñ a molecule which could have very easily been present because of contamination from a source other than plant DNA. The authors do not employ measures to eliminate any source of contamination, and therefore do not rule out the most likely explanation for the results they observed.
Further questions remain regarding the data actually presented. (1) Why did the Criollo maize samples A2, A3, B2 and B3 give weak signals while K1 gave a signal comparable to the Bt1 and RRI positive controls? Indeed, a close examination of Figure 1 shows that it does not support the statements made in the text, since the RR1 signal is strongest, and lanes for K1 and Bt1 have each been reconstructed. (2) Why are data from the historic control population never shown, when this is in fact the most appropriate control? The Mexican government results are stated without data or protocols and without citation. Given the uncertainties created by two consecutive PCRs and the likelihood of ground sample contamination, the authors should surely have grown out samples, even if more had to be collected, to prove beyond doubt that these were the result of cross-pollinations. None of this critical evidence is reported. If these really were cross-pollination events, it would be very easy to growplants and test for kanamycin resistance, BT protein expression, or glyphosate resistance. The plants certainly would not grow true-to-type for the landrace, as mentioned above. The interpretation of the inverse PCR results in this article are flawed as well. The short fragments that in some cases abut unidentified DNA are interpreted by the authors to be the result of rearrangement of the sequences either during transformation or by recombination (during introgression?).
Transformation is not a likely explanation, since the sequences in these transformation events are well-accounted for, and stray CaMV promoters just are not present in these events. So, where did these CaMV sequences come from? Most likely not from transgenic corn, but again most probably from contamination of the sample or some other technical artifact. The fact that the authors have not been able to show the presence of intact inserts, which are more likely to be present than fragments of unknown origin, casts further doubt that the results observed come from a transgenic plant source. Recombination is not a satisfactory explanation either, since multiple generations of crossing have been done with all these constructs, and they have been shown to be stable ñ or else they would not have made it through the regulatory system. It is highly improbable that these genes would experience a high degree of rearrangement upon crossing into a Criollo maize background. Finally, the authors show that not all CaMV positive samples were positive for the nos terminator. The absence of the nos terminator in some samples further casts doubt on the presence of intact, functional genes, which would have been expected if they were of transgenic plant origin. Furthermore, the lack of intact functional genes means that speculation about any effects would be scientifically unwarranted. Introgression through pollen is most likely to bring in the complete cassette (promoter-coding region-terminator) along with any flanking plasmid DNA that integrated into the original transgenic line. The IPCR products would, therefore, yield a sequence comprising partly of the gene and partly of the vector in almost all the cases. In two cases where the authors detected an adh1 gene sequence flanking the CaMV 35S promoter, IPCR reveals that the promoter is located within the adh1 gene sequence and not at one end as in the original construct. This calls for a most unlikely recombination event. There is no indication that the adh1 gene sequence was exactly that used in the construct. Adh is a complex gene family with a number of introns and exons. The authors did not investigate if this was an endogenous maize sequence, rather than the one normally used in trans-formation constructs. In fact, when the sequence they submitted (AF434757) is compared against the maize genome, it has 89% plus/ plus identity in 91 bases and 86% plus/ plus identity in 107 bases to the maize chro-mosome 9s bz locus. It also has 84% plus/ plus identity in 108 bases to the 22-kD alpha zein. It, of course, has an 86% plus/ minus identity in 89 bases to the adh1 gene. In all three cases approximately the same region of their submitted sequences is considered (ca 26ñ 130). The second 'adh1' gene sequence flanking the CaMV 35S promoter (AF434755) is very similar if not identical, and is homologous to the bz and zein sequences. It is not clear why the authors chose to report homology to the adh1 gene and not to the bz locus sequence or to alpha zein.
The inverse PCR result is said to show diverse adjacent sequence and the authors claim this implies insertion of the 35S sequence into multiple loci in the Criollo samples. In fact, this is not what would be expected from pollination from commercial transgenic maize. The likelihood of recombination very close the 35S promoter is infinitesimally small. The authors interpret their data as indicating that introgression events are relatively common. However, these results actually indicate technical failure in the authors' experiments. There are few transgenic events in commercial maize and all the inverse PCR results would be expected to conform to one or other of these.
While some degree of sequence rearrangement is expected, the sequences obtained by PCR are rather strange: none of the sequences contains an EcoRV site (which would be expected from the religation event). Why are the amplified elements for A3 different/ longer than those for K1? That requires additional point mutations (to delete or create EcoRV sites) or further unexplained scrambling of sequences. The sequences that have been pulled out would generally be expected to contain vector sequence elements (for iCMV1 and iCMV2 amplicons) or transgene sequences (iCMV3 and iCMV4 amplicons) rather than zein, transposon and other unrelated sequences. Most strikingly, the sequences between the primer iCMV1 and the putative location of the EcoRV site are not well conserved at all! This implies that the original sequence between the 3 end of iCMV1 and the EcoRV site is lost/ altered in all cases, immediately after the primer.
It is most likely that the report by Quist and Chapela is a testimony to technical failure and artifacts which are common with PCR and IPCR. The PCR results are likely due to minute contamination of the ground sample powders. The inverse PCR results are problematic, internally inconsistent and not what is expected from cross-pollination by commercial transgenic maize. Most frustrating is the total failure of the authors to do the easy and incontrovertible ex-periment of growing out the suspected contaminated lines. Hybrids between Mexican landraces and trans-genic commercial maize would be very obvious. It is disappointing that the editors of Nature did not insist on a level of scientific evidence that should have been easily accessible if the interpretations were true. Consequently, no evidence is presented to justify any of the conclusions presented in the paper.
Reference Quist D and Chapela IH (2001) Transgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nature 414: 541ñ 543. 3
ELF Funded by PETA, Says Center for Consumer Freedom
Earth Liberation Front and Arsonist 'Support Committees' Funded By PETA
14 Feb 13:22
Contact: Mike Burita of the Center for Consumer Freedom,
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In the wake of this week's congressional hearings on eco-terrorism, new evidence shows a close relationship between the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the violent Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The FBI has labeled ELF as "the largest and most active U.S.-based terrorist group."
Richard Berman, executive director for the Center for Consumer Freedom, said the financial links between PETA and ELF are very disturbing. "An investigation of IRS documents shows that over the past six years PETA has given significant money to the legal support funds of criminals with close affiliations to both ELF and Animal Liberation Front (ALF)," Berman said. "More shocking is our most recent discovery of a direct donation to Earth Liberation Front from PETA in April 2001."
PETA's 1995-2000 IRS tax filings show the following:
* In FY2000, PETA gave a direct contribution of $1500 to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) to "support their program activities."
* In FY2000, PETA gave $5000 to the "Josh Harper Support Committee." Josh Harper is an ALF-affiliated criminal arrested numerous times and convicted for assaulting a police officer. In 1998, Harper told Eugene Weekly newspaper "we're going to continue to be confrontational, we're going to continue to be militant. If people see that as extreme, then so be it."
* In FY1999, PETA gave $2,000 to David Wilson, a Utah-based animal-rights extremist who was then a national "spokesperson" for the ALF. In March of that year, Wilson bragged to Mother Jones magazine: "We started with animal rights, but we've expanded to wildlife actions like the (October 1998 ski resort arson) one in Vail. We're the ones bridging the environmental gap."
* In FY1995, PETA gave a $45,200 contribution to the "support committee" of Rodney Coronado, a convicted arsonist who firebombed a research facility at Michigan State University. PETA also gave an unreturned $25,000 "loan" to Rodney Coronado's father.
PETA has used their closely controlled Foundation to Support Animal Protection to launder over $500,000 in contributions to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization whose president collaborates with a violent animal rights group known as Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC). SHAC is a special-interest subset of ALF responsible for firebombings, property destruction, grand theft and assault.
"People are being deceived by PETA's self-portrayal as a warm and cuddly animal rights organization," Berman said. "PETA should explain to their contributors why their money is being used to help finance domestic terrorism."
The Center for Consumer Freedom is a coalition of more than 30,000 restaurants and tavern operators working together to protect the public's right to a full menu of dining and entertainment choices, through education, training and public outreach. To learn more, visit http://www.consumerfreedom.com/.
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 11:25:28 +0930
To: "Red Porphyry" , firstname.lastname@example.org
From: "Rick Roush"
Subject: Ultra fortification
Purple rice and Ultra fortification
>From: "Red Porphyry"
>Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Purple rice and Ultra fortification
Interesting stuff Red, especially in the light of Kershen's reply. My question is about costs and distribution of this fortified rice. Will it really help poor subsistence farmers who grow their own rice? After drafting this, I got today's listing and note that Bob MacGregor asks a similar question.
Also, why can we be so sure that "Asian governments will inevitably pass legislation MANDATING the micronutrient fortification of all rice and rice products" and that such mandates will be enforced? I suppose China has regulations on pesticide use as well, but todays news cited a case of recent imports to Japan from China exceeded Japan's limits.
Oh, by the way, lots of agbiotech scientists have never even aimed to get wealthy or famous. They actually believe that they are working to help people.
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 12:16:55 +0530
From: "ISAAA AFRI Centre"
Subject: ISAAA AfriCenter website
You can now view the new ISAAA AfriCenter website at:
We would appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Canada: Officials warn of GM label woes
By Barry Wilson, Ottawa bureau
The Western Producer
February 14, 2002
Forcing labels onto genetically modified food in Canada would cause a major trade crisis, Agriculture Canada officials warned MPs last week. (ref.2553)
They were testifying before the House of Commons health committee, which opened hearings into GM labelling.
A mandatory labelling law "could place our agricultural trade at risk," Michael Presley told the committee Feb.7.
The director general of Agriculture Canada's food bureau said mandatory labels could violate World Trade Organization and North American Free Trade Agreement rules.
A requirement to label food according to their GMO content "would almost certainly be strongly rejected by the United States," he said.
It is one of the reasons Agriculture Canada has been promoting a voluntary labelling scheme.
Meanwhile, Canadian Food Inspection Agency vice-president Peter Brackenridge told MPs that enforcing mandatory labels would be "a challenge." It would require better testing for food content and a sophisticated trace-back system for food product ingredients.
"It would be a formidable task to deal with it," he said.
In a later interview, Brackenridge said mandatory GM labels would force regulators to spend more time assessing food labelled GMO-free than they would food labelled as containing GM ingredients.
"If they were claiming that it did contain genetically modified ingredients, we'd probably be assuming they were being truthful and not being misleading," he said. "Our efforts would probably be focused on those who would be claiming non-genetically modified ingredients because presumably they would be expecting to get some kind of market opportunity with that statement."
Administering a mandatory labelling system would be a costly and uncertain enterprise, he added. It would be some years before the technology and tracing system exists to make enforcement credible.
Discredited scientist to come to New Zealand
NZ Life Sciences Network
February 14, 2002
The scientist who had to publicly apologise for misinforming the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification is coming to New Zealand to talk to organic and soil groups.
Dr Elaine Ingham shot to international prominence after she erroneously claimed a genetically modified soil bacterium, klebsiella planticola, would ìdestroy all terrestrial plant lifeî if it were released into the wild.
Inghamís evidence was presented to the Royal Commission by the Green Party as scientific evidence of the dangers of GM. The problem was that the research Ingham claimed was justification for the assertion was never published in the cited scientific journal. There is no evidence that the research was even undertaken. Ingham, in the same evidence to the Royal Commission, also made false claims about the actions of US regulatory authorities.
The facts came to light following a detailed investigation and rebuttal initiated by Berridge, Tribe and Walter.
Both the Green party and Ingham had to formally apologise in writing to the Royal Commission. Copies of the apologies are available from the Royal Commissionís website. (See link below)
Dr Ingham is being brought to New Zealand by BioSoils which is the marketing arm of Organic Promotions. Her tour takes in workshops in Cambridge(16 March), Tauranga(15 & 17 March), Napier(19 & 20 March)and Christchurch (22 & 23 March).
GM law 'could hit vaccines'
By FRANCESCA MOLD
Law changes relating to genetic modification could result in a ban on some vaccines, a blood clot-busting drug and insulin unless the wording in proposed amendments are tightened, a pro-GM lobby group claims.
The Life Sciences Network expressed concern at a parliamentary select committee hearing yesterday that definitions of xenotransplantation and "living biological material" might unintentionally "capture" important medicines.
The network's chairman, Dr William Rolleston, highlighted the polio vaccine, insulin and a drug used to dissolve blood clots after heart surgery as those which could be caught up unintentionally in the changes.
"To me it [the proposed wording] would capture those sorts of things. I would hope that it doesn't, but it may well do. It's something the committee needs to consider."
Finance and expenditure select committee chairman Mark Peck was concerned at the suggestion from Dr Rolleston and called for a report on the definitions in the proposed amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.
The changes were designed to extend until at least June 2003 a ban on procedures such as the use of insulin-producing cells from the pancreas of newborn piglets to treat diabetes.
The ban is to address concerns that pig viruses could spread into people.
But Dr Rolleston said other procedures might be caught, depending on the definition of "living" material as described in the proposed legislative amendments.
"Biopharmaceuticals that have an action in humans could also come under that definition," he said.
"I'm only highlighting this as something the committee should consider. It could be a trap that, as the legislation goes through, we could fall into."
The committee also heard from representatives of Biotenz, an organisation representing the biotechnology sector. Biotenz was critical of the Government's proposed constraints on the release of genetically modified organisms.
The organisation's chairman, Bill Falconer - a former chairman of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, which handles the regulatory process - said the decision to restrict applications for the release of GM organisms was being made for political rather than scientific or safety reasons.
The decision also contradicted the Government's assertion that it wanted to promote biotechnology as a major driver of the innovation and knowledge economy, Mr Falconer said.
Prime Minister Helen Clark this week released the Government's long-term economic vision, which emphasises the importance of biotechnology.
ANZFA more intimate with GM foods than any other
Australasian Business Intelligence
February 15, 2002 02:42 AM
By Eva Wiland
The Australia-New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) knows more about genetically modified (GM) foods than any other food. This is despite GM food products accounting for only a minute share in grocery shelves. The food authority's acting managing director, Greg Roche, said in the week ended 9 February 2002 that since April 1999, ANZFA has received 23 applications for the retail of GM foods, 12 of which have been approved. He said ANZFA's GM team has studied the scientific data provided with each application and now know more about the genetic components of GM foods than any other food.
Missouri Scientist Studies Britons' Aversion to Gene-Altered Foods
February 14, 2002
Feb. 13--The European aversion to Frankenfood, as some British consumers call genetically modified food, remains strong, said Maury Bredahl, a University of Missouri-Columbia professor emeritus of agricultural economics.
But some of those products might win acceptance if they have qualities that Europeans value, such as improved health characteristics or even better taste.
That was a preliminary finding of a joint study performed by MU agricultural economists and Reading University in the United Kingdom. Bredahl helped gather data during a research leave to Great Britain from 1998-99.
Bredahl calls the findings a wake-up call to producers of genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs.
I think in Europe especially, large multinational companies are paying close attention to this kind of study because they need to become interested in the functional attributes that consumers value, Bredahl said.
European consumer apprehension to GMOs includes concerns about food safety, a perceived lack of consumer benefit and distrust of large companies. But European trade official John Richardson said during an MU symposium in March 2000 that Europe is faced with a crisis because of opposition to the foods. We are in danger of rejecting this technology despite its enormous potential for good, he said.
GMOs appear in the United States in such products as tortilla chips and spaghetti sauce.
Bredahl's study focused on 60 middle- and upper-class mothers between the ages of 30 and 50. The group was asked to rank eight fictitious yogurt products, described on cards as having such attributes as improved taste or the ability to reduce blood cholesterol.
A majority of the group, 48 mothers, consistently ranked the two non-genetically modified products highest, with the two products coming from genetically modified cows the lowest.
Nine mothers, however, ranked some of the GMO products higher. Three mothers rejected all genetically modified products.
Bredahl believes one interpretation of the data shows that some consumers are willing to make some trade-offs to accept genetically enhanced products only if they have functional characteristics they value.
In terms of product development, companies and researchers are going to have to recognize the concerns over these products and do what they can to address those concerns, he said.
Asian consumers, especially in Japan and Taiwan, are also resistant to GMOs, but we really don't know why that is, Bredahl said.
Ideally, Bredahl and his colleagues want to conduct similar tests in Canada, Germany and the United States to better gauge what consumers think about GMOs in different markets.
GM peanut from ICRISAT likely to be unveiled soon
Hindu Business Line
February 13, 2002
HYDERABAD THE International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) here is currently working on a transgenic groundnut crop that is resistant to peanut clump virus, which is stated to be widely prevalent in the groundnut crop in India.(ref.2550)
"The transgenic is being tested in a greenhouse at present. We will possibly be conducting field trials by next year and are looking forward to commercialise it in a span of three years," Dr William D. Dar, Director General of Icrisat, told newspersons here on Tuesday.
Emphasising that Icrisat was looking to harness biotechnology for the benefit of the poor, Dr Dar said the institute also proposed to come out with the transgenics for pigeon pea and sorghum during the next five years. "Icrisat believes that even poor farmers require transgenic seeds as they are resistant to pests and enhance crop productivity" , he said.
In order to develop agriculture as an engine of growth and to raise the incomes of farmers, Icrisat proposes to assess commodity and market trends and evaluate the prospects for diversification into higher value crops including fruits and vegetables. Icrisat would facilitate access to small farmers with regard to such commercial crops.
Dr Dar said Icrisat was launching a movement, "Team Icrisat" , on Wednesday for infusing a new spirit to the organisation and its latest research agenda. "It is a moral boosting programme" aimed at enhancing efficiency especially in the light of a decline in international funding to the institution on account of global economic slowdown after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre.
The total funds received by Icrisat this year accounted for $22.3 million as against $23.4 million last year. The institution's expenditure on salaries to its staff has declined from 60 per cent of its total funding to 50 per cent this year following the introduction of a voluntary separation scheme which was opted by 205 people.
Last December, Dr Dar said, Icrisat got approval for a five-year "Desert Margins programme" for which Global Environment Facility had granted $16 million. Similarly, Suri Sehgal Foundation had agreed to give $3 lakh for a research project on pearl millet. The Andhra Pradesh Government had also committed $4.25 lakhs for undertaking rural livelihood development programme through watershed development.
This apart, the institution had also got indications that the Tata Trust Foundation was interested in granting it $1 million for taking up a three-year watershed management programme. While the UK had set aside GBP5 lakh, another donor country agreed to $5 lakh for taking up livestock development projects in India and Nigeria.
As a part of its vision and strategy, Icrisat has founded six global research themes. These are harnessing biotechnology for the poor, crop management and utilisation for food security and health, water, soil and agro-biodiversity management for ecosystem health, sustainable seed supply systems for productivity, enhancing crop-livestock productivity and systems diversification and semi-arid tropics and development pathways.
SCIENTISTS DISAGREE ON BIOTECH COTTON
February 13, 2002
Research scientists are, according to this story, divided on whether to import genetically modified cotton planting materials for farmers. The story says that at a recent biotechnology symposium attended by policy makers, business community and research scientists in Kampala, some researchers said Uganda risks losing its European market if the farmers started planting the BT(biogenetically improved cotton) cotton. The story says that the National Agricultural Research Organisation( NARO) last year applied to Monsanto, a US-based company to supply the BT cotton seeds to Uganda. NARO through its cotton research institute at Serere, Soroti district was to carry out further trials on the cotton before releasing it to the farmers. The tests were to seek among others, BT cotton's adaptability to local climate and also other ecological implications. Monsanto has appointed a local representative to foresee the project. Prof. Joseph Mukiibi, the NARO director general defended the BT cotton. He said it holds the future for Uganda's cotton industry because it is high yielding. BT cotton, unlike the ordinary varieties has strong resistance against cotton borers. Prof. Rubahihayo from Makerere University's Faculty of agriculture said that BT cotton has a gene which produces a chemical that kills the eggs and larvae of the borers before penetrating the ball. However, the chemical may not be effective against other pests and diseases of cotton. He said it does not have terminator characteristics. "Let's be careful when handling the BT cotton issue not to harm our cotton sector," he said. Cotton is one of the leading traditional cash crops.