Today in AgBioView:
* Mexican GM Maize Study "Flawed"
* Science council dismisses GMO concerns
* GM link flawed
* U.S. Official Courts African Allies For Brewing Biotech-Food Fight
* ICAR submits report on BT cotton
* GM Crops Make Ethical Sense, Says Pence
* Dr Ellen Ingham
Mexican GM Maize Study "Flawed"
The editorial board of the journal Transgenic Research say there is "no credible
scientific evidence is presented to support claims that transgenic DNA was
introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico". In an
editorial in the journal, Paul Christou of the John Innes Centre, editor of the
Transgenic Research' plant content, presents a detailed critique of the paper
"Transgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico"
by David Quist and Ignacio H. Chapela, which appeared in the journal Nature in
Christou says it is "very surprising," 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." Chapela disputes
the views of the Transgenic Research Board.
The board argues that an analysis of the procedures use "demonstrate that the
data presented in the published article are mere artifacts resulting from poor
experimental design and practices."
They conclude that sample contamination is the most likely explanation for the
observed results. They also suggest that tather than relying on questionable PCR
results, they should have grown out the plants that were thought to contain the
introgressed genes and subjected them to more reliable confirming studies.
Christou and his fellow board members say that the inverse PCR results are
technically flawed, and it is not credible that cross pollination and
introgression would produce these results.
Using nested PCR to detect CaMV35S by PCR and inverse PCR "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," say the
The board members also question why what they regard as important data has not
been presented, particularly evidence that would clarify contamination issues.
"Most frustrating is the total failure of the authors to do the easy and
incontrovertible experiment of growing out the suspected contaminated lines,"
say the editors. "Hybrids between Mexican landraces and transgenic 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."
Chapela says that he and Quist are being given an opportunity to respond by
Nature to criticisms submitted to the journal in the normal way by other
scientists. However, he believes there is "a glaring conflict of interest" in
the way their work has been attacked by some individuals. "I believe that we
have provided very strong evidence for a phenomenon which is obviously out there
in the environment," he says. "There is at least one independent study
confirming our statements (conveniently ignored by the current discreditation
campaign), and I have news of others". He believes that the scientific community
will lose credit with the public for the way the incident has been handled.
Contact: Dr Paul Christou,
Molecular Biotechnology Unit,
John Innes Centre,
Norwich Research Park,
Colney, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 7UH, UK
Science council dismisses GMO concerns
The Irish Times
February 19, 2002
An advisory body on science has dismissed as unwarranted concerns about foods
and drugs produced by genetic engineering. It argues however for a
'comprehensive information centre' for the public and a 'fully independent
biotechnology ethics committee'.
The independent Government advisers, the Irish Council for Science, Technology
and Innovation, released its report on biotechnology yesterday. It described it
as a key area 'to sustain Ireland's economic growth and to enhance Ireland's
capacity to become a knowledge based economy'.
It acknowledged, however, that there was a lack of 'independently validated and
readable information for the general public'. The public 'is not given the
opportunity to fully understand and therefore make informed decisions' on the
use of the genetic technologies, the report states.
The report 'seeks to promote and achieve a dialogue in biotechnology' between
those working in the field and the general public, according to the chairman of
the council, Dr Edward Walsh.
The council had established a task force chaired by Prof Emer Colleran of NUI
Galway 'to provide a scientifically credible, balanced and clear document' to
identify public concerns.
Those opposed to field trials using modified plants (GMOs) have argued strongly
against the trials sponsored by companies such as Monsanto, amid fears for the
transfer of antibiotic resistance genes or other modified genes into wild
The science council's report dismisses these concerns. The possibility that
antibiotic resistance genes in GMOs could compromise the use of antibiotics in
the treatment of diseases 'is insignificant compared to the risk of this
occurring because of the overuse of antibiotics in medicine, animal feeds and
crop farming', it states.
It points out that the two main resistance genes used are for one 'rarely used'
antibiotic and another which 'is not used in human medicine' at all. It also
says that this gene exchange in the wild or 'horizontal gene transfer' is
commonplace in nature 'and causes no intrinsic damage'.
It argues that biotechnology in food production 'is considered the least
beneficial application of genetic modification'. It acknowledges worries about
the risks of eating modified foods, but adds that despite all the plant and
animal genetic material consumed in the foods we eat every day, 'there is no
evidence for the transfer of intact genes into humans' either from bacteria or
Opponents to the technology also argue that the use of viral genetic material in
GMOs, such as the cauliflower mosaic virus, could encourage viral recombination
into more dangerous organisms. The report dismisses this, saying 'these
suggested dangers do not withstand detailed scrutiny'.
It also says public concerns have to be addressed 'to maximise the potential
benefits of the technology while minimising risks to humans, animals and the
environment'. For this reason it argues for a 'balanced, comprehensive
information centre for science and technology providing information on current
and proposed uses of GMOs'.
It wants mandatory labelling of modified foods so that people can make informed
choices, and information about any planned release of GMOs. It supports tight
regulation of research and clinical trials related to the technology's use as a
medical treatment in gene therapy.
It recommends that the Irish Medicines Board and the Environmental Protection
Agency should both be involved in regulating the use of gene therapy. It also
calls for 'a fully independent biotechnology ethics committee' to be created
under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy.
The academy on behalf of the Government is already putting together a bioethics
committee to consider complex issues such as stem cell research, advanced human
reproduction techniques and cloning. The broader application of biotechnology
would be outside this group's remit as originally envisaged.
GM link flawed
February 21, 2002
DAVID STRATON (Letters, 19/2) raises an old and discredited story as evidence
that GM foods have caused harm. He claims that an amino acid, L-tryptophan,
produced in Japan using genetic engineering, killed or crippled a large number
The overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion in that case is that the
manufacturers used a different production system that by-passed a filtering step
in the processing of a specific batch of tryptophan. The absence of this stage
gave rise to the contaminants responsible for causing the disease, not the GM
nature of the tryptophan.
The outbreak of the disease was an isolated incident occurring in 1989. A number
of published papers have reviewed the circumstances of the event and have
concluded that the manufacturing process rather than genetic modification was
the cause. The recent New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification also
concluded that there was no evidence to show that the genetic modification of
the tryptophan was to blame for the tragic events.
Ian LindenmayerManaging, director
U.S. Official Courts African Allies For Brewing Biotech-Food Fight
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
By NEIL KING JR.
February 20, 2002
PETIT, South Africa -- On his grand tour of Africa this past week, U.S. Trade
Representative Robert Zoellick has had many warm chats with top government
officials. But when he met a Zulu cotton farmer on Friday, the trade official
really perked up.
Both Mr. Zoellick and T. J. Buthelezi, it turns out, are comrades in the
biotechnology camp in a brewing trade war with Europe over genetically modified
crops. Mr. Buthelezi uses Monsanto Corp.'s bug-resistant cotton seeds; to Mr.
Zoellick, this makes him a perfect weapon to use in what is looming as the most
expensive and bloody trans-Atlantic trade fight ever.
Mr. Zoellick has many reasons for wanting to deepen the administration's new
alliance with Africa on this first-ever trip by a U.S. trade representative
south of the Sahara Desert. He needs the support of the developing world within
the World Trade Organization, as became clear at the Doha trade talks last fall.
And through Africa he also hopes to gain more free-trade converts among
Democrats in Congress.
But no front is more explosive than the coming showdown with Europe over
gene-altered crops. And for that, Mr. Zoellick very much wants Mr. Buthelezi and
the rest of Africa on his side. He has pushed the issue -- and won at least
tentative support -- at every stop on his nine-day trip, which ends Wednesday in
Mr. Zoellick likely will soon launch the first missile in this biotech showdown.
He says he is "strongly considering" filing a WTO suit against the European
Union for blocking the import of U.S. bioengineered seeds. U.S. corn farmers
alone say they are losing more than $200 million a year, thanks to a shuttered
European market for their genetically modified seeds.
The U.S. already has levied sanctions against Europe in a banana trade war (now
resolved) and a beef-hormone war (ongoing), but those markets are small potatoes
when compared with agricultural biotechnology. The European markets for
genetically modified crops and seed are potentially worth several billion
dollars a year, trade analysts say.
The Europeans, for their part, say they aren't going to let U.S. threats push
them to import what many consumers call "Frankenstein food," brought to them by
a company they derisively call "Monsatan." So at WTO headquarters in Geneva,
officials are bracing for the biggest trade battle in memory. "Biotech will make
bananas look like peanuts," says one WTO official.
Mr. Zoellick would like sub-Saharan Africa to be a chief U.S. ally in the fight.
Only South Africa has approved the limited use of bioengineered seeds, first for
cotton and more recently for corn. But Zimbabwe, Kenya and Swaziland also have
begun to consider their use, with other nations likely to follow their lead. Mr.
Zoellick puts the Africa situation in stark terms of hunger and food supply.
"It's about productive farmers and feeding more people in places where there's
not enough food," he says.
Mr. Buthelezi is one farmer who has reaped some benefits. Monsanto paid to bring
him more than 300 miles from KwaZulu Natal Province to meet Mr. Zoellick at the
company's research site here, an hour's drive from the capital, Pretoria. Over
lunch he tells how he switched three years ago to Monsanto's Bollgard cottonseed
-- and doubled his yield in one year.
"For the first time I'm making money. I can pay my debts," Mr. Buthelezi gushes
as Mr. Zoellick beams in reply.
In his region, called Makhathini Flats, more than 400 other black farmers have
followed Mr. Buthelezi's example, turning the Monsanto pilot project into a
potent symbol for biotech supporters in Africa.
Opponents are livid. "Makhathini Flats is pure industry spin, and Robert
Zoellick is falling for it all the way," says Andrew Taynton, a local activist
who insists Africa's future lies in modern methods of organic farming.
Biotech cotton is too far from the dinner table to have sparked an uproar here,
but farmers this year for the first time are growing genetically modified white
corn, which could end up in flour. That has stirred threats of lawsuits and
supermarket strikes. Mr. Taynton and others talk of mass action when the World
Summit on Sustainable Development convenes in Johannesburg in August.
Mass action is one thing Tanzania's trade minister, Juma Ngasongwa, can do
without. He and nine other Southern African trade ministers sat down with Mr.
Zoellick in Pretoria during the weekend to hash over U.S.-Africa trade relations
and to talk about the future of biotech.
"We are interested in this new technology, but Ambassador Zoellick must first
convince the Europeans," Mr. Ngasongwa says. "We don't want this being fought
over in the capitals of Africa."
His hesitancy is understandable. He and other ministers say much of the pressure
to stay away from biotech crops is coming from diplomats in Europe's embassies
across the continent. The tacit threat is that if Africans move into genetically
modified food, they could see a drop in aid from Europe, or even outright trade
The potential for things getting nasty is one reason Mr. Zoellick so far has
kept his biotech diplomacy fairly low key. While in Kenya, he says, he won the
firm support of President Daniel arap Moi. In a well-received speech in Nairobi
he touted the power of biotech to "increase food security" across Africa. He
also raised the subject with, and got a warm show of support from, South African
President Thabo Mbeki.
But all isn't sweetness and light. Before leaving Washington, Mr. Zoellick
accused the Europeans of "going around Africa and trying to scare people." He is
also completely dismissive of biotech critics. "It's equivalent to that period,"
he says, "when people were opposed to machines."
Mr. Zoellick has built up a lot of goodwill among African leaders since taking
office last year. He has met with nearly every trade minister on the continent.
At the Doha trade talks in November he agreed with African countries that public
health should trump drug patents in the fight against AIDS, and won their
support for U.S. objectives.
Some here say that he, and not Secretary of State Colin Powell, has emerged as
the Bush administration's Mr. Africa.
U.S. trade with Africa has ballooned during the past year, thanks to a trade
bill that went into effect in 2000. The U.S. now imports many textiles and other
items duty-free from eligible African countries.
All of this, of course, earns the U.S. precious capital for the biotech fight
ahead. Knowing African support may be reluctant at first and still not enough,
Mr. Zoellick also is figuring out ways to get Southeast Asia and Latin America
It won't happen all at once. Malawi's minister for commerce and industry, Peter
Kaleso, remembers the bad experience his country had with Western fertilizers in
the 1970s. They boosted yields at first, but then depleted the soil. "We want
some time to weigh the pros and cons," he says.
Write to Neil King Jr. at email@example.com
ICAR submits report on BT cotton
The Times of India
February 20, 2002
NEW DELHI: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has sent its
report on trials on the genetically modified BT cotton to the environment
ministry, which is to take a final decision on its large scale introduction in
the country. (ref.2582)
All India trials were conducted by ICAR on about 25 to 30 farms in country`s
south, central and western parts, ICAR director general Dr Panjab Singh said on
``We have given a positive report to the environment ministry,`` Singh said
adding trials showed yield enhancement by six-eight quintals. It would help
farmers in reducing the number of sprays of insecticides in the cotton fields.
The Genetic Engineering and Approval Committee (GEAC) of the environment minitry
was likely to meet next month to take a final decision on the introduction of BT
The institute was also synthesising genes indigenously to impart cotton plants
resistance to a variety of worms. Cotton plants consume about 55 per cent of all
pesticides used by various crops.
Country`s indigenously developed BT variety was likely to go for field trials in
two years, Singh said.
GM Crops Make Ethical Sense, Says Pence
A progressive approach using GM crops "will play a goodly part in a milestone in
human history: eliminating mass starvation". So argues Gregory Pence,
bioethicist in the Philosophy Department at the University of Birmingham, in a
new book. In "Designer Food: Mutant Harvest or Breadbasket of the World", he
explores some of the ethical and philosophical issues underlying the debates in
relation to agricultural biotechnology.
Pence discusses the potential of GM crops to help the people of the developing
world. "Egalitarians are right: such people donít need monocultures for export,
they need to eat," he argues. He notes that a report by seven science academies
points out that biotech so far has only marginally aided small farmers in
emerging countries and that such farmers should not have to buy back enhanced
versions of their native crops. However, he believes the overwhelming effect
will be positive for developing countries. "Surely critics are wrong that this
tool itself will not help starving people." Vandana Shiva, critic of biotech
"does not speak for the real India", says Pence.
He draws an analogy between the view of eighteenth century philosopher
Jean-Jacques Rousseau that civilisation and science were corrupting and
modern-day opponents of biotechnology. "Our new Rousseaus have no real plan for
the suffering peoples of countries of the developing world." He criticises the
"ecofacism" that has neglected to tackle the hard questions relating to
decisions relating to human lives and potential environmental impact. "Not all
human interests must be sacrificed at the altar of the environment," he
Considering GM food safety, he argues trust is the major issue. "Although no
reason exists now to fear the safety of GM food, the question arises whether we
should trust international agribusinesses to alert us if evidence of dangers
begins to mount. The record of StarLink corn and TSEs in Europe gives reason for
concern," says Pence. "So strong regulation and testing by outside agencies will
be needed to insure that new GM foods are safe and that they continue to be so."
Although he doesnít believe GM food labelling is necessary, he argues that it is
a compromise that must be lived with for now. "Once consumers understand that GM
food is safe, and once marketers or scientists give consumers an added reason to
by GM food at the same price or lower (better taste or nutrition longer shelf
life), GM food will be a success. But GM food should not be forced down the
throats of American or European consumers; citizens should accept it
voluntarily, as such and clearly labelled. Only in this way will GM food
ultimately be depoliticized," he says.
The book "Designer Food: Mutant Harvest or Breadbasket of the World", is
published by Rowman and Littlefield.
Contact: Gregory Pence, Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at
Birmingham, AL 35294-1260, USA.
Date: 19 Feb 2002 22:06:56 -0000
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Dr Ellen Ingham
I did some checking up on Dr. Ingham at Oregon State University. Here is her
It shows she has not been employed by OSU since June of 1993. She has held
courtesy appointment with Botany & Plant Pathology from July 1993 to June 1991
and Forestry Science from July 1999 to present. In talking with people at the
Forestry Science department she has not done anything there for some time.
When I ask exactly was a courtesy appointment was it gives you library
privileges and privileges of any faculty members that are willing to let you use
their stuff. Representing herself as being associated with Oregon State is a
considerably stretch of her creditability as it appears that she hasn't drawn a
cent from them as faculty since the summer of 1993.