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March 5, 2000


re: Does plant genome contains foreign DNA?


> One of the more sophisticated objections to GM plants is that, since we
> don't control the site of transgene integration, it could integrate into a
> site that subtly affects gene action, causing unpredictable and unknowable
> pleiotropic effects. Forgetting for a moment the empirical testing and
> analysis that is used to eliminate such events, the point I'm getting at is
> that traditional plant breeding across species (within species?) causes
> genome disruption on a far, far greater scale than does integration of a
> single transgene. In other words, potential risks from unknown genomic
> disruption are far, far greater with traditional breeding than with
> transgenesis.
> Comments?

Excellent...! I was not aware of this (massive transposon movement),
thank you! Gives superb ammo for combatting the "But you're
disturbing the genome of the plant!" argument one is increasingly
getting these days.

I met a good one the other day: "But mankind has evolved in balance
with all the plants we eat, so changing them by adding genes will
upset millions of years of co-evolution...".

Really? We evolved in concert with potatoes, tomatoes, cassava and
maize, to name just a few? But the rabid folk who came up with the
argument couldn't see the flaw...probably becuase they don't have too
much of a concept of evolution, either.

Ed Rybicki, PhD
Dept Microbiology | ed@molbiol.uct.ac.za
University of Cape Town | rybicki@ucthpx.uct.ac.za
Private Bag, Rondebosch | phone: x27-21-650-3265
7701, South Africa | fax: x27-21-689 7573
WWW URL: http://www.uct.ac.za/microbiology/ed.html

"Organised people just have limited horizons"