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Date:

March 21, 2007

Subject:

Time to try the forbidden fruit; Sabah backs devt of biotech sector; EU withdraws approval for five "old" GMO crops; 60 years' experience of propagating wheat seed; Calling All Supporters of Science-Based Regulation

 

Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, http://www.agbioworld.org March 21, 2007

* Time to try the forbidden fruit
* Sabah backs devt of biotech sector
* EU withdraws approval for five "old" GMO crops
* 60 years' experience of propagating wheat seed
* Calling All Supporters of Science-Based Regulation

--------------------

Time to try the forbidden fruit

- Olivia Judson, The Daily Telegraph (London), March 17, 2007

GM food has had a terrible press, but without it we would all starve, argues biologist Olivia Judson

I like genetically modified (GM) food. I'd happily tuck into a bowl of GM soy; I'd even choose it over a bowl of organic soy. I know this sounds eccentric: genetic modification is usually decried. But while much has been made of possible risks, little is made of the considerable and real benefits. Genetic modification is a useful tool that could have helpful impacts, particularly on the environment. Indeed, in my view, support for GM is a green position.

Genetic modification sounds complicated. But actually, it's simple. There are only two things you need to know to make sense of it. The first is that a gene is a piece of DNA that contains the instructions for making a protein. Different proteins do different jobs within the body. Lactase, for example, is a protein that allows you to digest milk. The second thing you need to know is that genetic modification just means copying a gene from one organism - say, a jellyfish e_SEnD and inserting it into another - perhaps a rabbit - so that the receiving organism can make a new protein.

Today, genetic modification is a routine technique in laboratories around the world. Since the potential for it was discovered, 30 years ago, millions of experiments with it have been done. One of the most common modifications is to insert a jellyfish gene into something else. Why? The jellyfish Aequorea victoria has a gene for a protein called green fluorescent protein. The protein glows green when you shine blue light at it. If you add the gene for green fluorescent protein to the end of some other gene, you can see when that other gene is being used: a little green light goes on. This doesn't harm the organism - and gives us a way to watch what's happening in the cell.

What's more, there's nothing preordained, or even fixed, about which organisms make which proteins. As organisms evolve, some genes fall out of use and disappear, and new ones are added. From time to time, the new ones arrive from other organisms: in other words, genes sometimes jump from one species to another. For example, the fungi that live in cows' stomachs appear to have taken their genes for digesting cellulose from bacterialco-occupants of the stomach. (Cellulose is the stuff that plants put into their cell walls; we find it rather indigestible). There are several ways this can happen. And when we genetically modify an organism, we mimic this jumping.

The great advantage of GM is that it allows us to make precise tweaks to a plant or an animal. For thousands of years we've been doing genetic modification in a far cruder way, by selective breeding. Through this, we have created extraordinary varieties of animals and plants, taking them far beyond their natural state. From wispy grasses, we have developed new varieties of wheat and corn e_SEnD impressive giants with plump kernels that we can harvest with machines. And we've bred exotica such as featherless chickens and super-muscly cows.

Nonetheless, selective breeding is limited. Suppose you'd like to breed lines of corn that use less water. If none of your corn plants are efficient at using water, no amount of breeding will make a difference: you have to wait for the right mutations to appear. (Mutations are random changes to DNA; they occur naturally, when the DNA-copying machinery makes a mistake. However, they can also be induced.)

In the 20th century, plant scientists in the US and elsewhere began bombarding seeds with chemicals and high-energy radiation in order to cause mutations. The seeds are then grown into plants to see whether they have any useful new traits. This mutational bonanza has given us some enormous improvements in plant agriculture. But it's a crude, haphazard approach and may never succeed in generating the trait you want. Ironically, in contrast to GM, which is one of the most highly regulated processes in agriculture, this random approach is unregulated; unwanted mutants are just thrown out with the rubbish.

Why bother with any of this? Like it or not, the history of agriculture is a history of beating nature: all agriculture is unnatural e_SEnD it has to be. Much of what occurs in nature is inedible, or meagre in quantity. The ancestor of the potato, for example, is poisonous. Moreover, growing crops in abundance is difficult. Lots of other organisms like to eat what we like. To have a harvest, a farmer has to defeat slugs, pigeons, rabbits, deer, rats, squirrels, moulds, aphids and weevils - not to mention weeds. It's remarkable that any of us has anything to eat, let alone that, in the West at least, we've made food plentiful and cheap.

We've done this by employing a variety of tools. Genetic modification is just another one. Like any tool, we can wield it well or badly. It's not a silver bullet: it won't solve all our problems. But all farming, be it organic or ''industrial'', is bad for the environment. All farming puts land under cultivation, erodes the soil and requires pest control.

Organic farming, indeed, takes more space than regular farming. (And here's an irony: to control pests, organic farmers often use Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that makes a protein poisonous to insects. Inserting the gene for this protein into a plant is one of the most common genetic modifications.) GM could help us to grow crops with a higher yield on less land, using less water, and spraying fewer pesticides. Bring it on.

- Olivia Judson is an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College, andco-presenter of Animal Farm, a three-part Channel 4 series on biotechnology, starting this Monday at 9pm.

************************

Sabah backs devt of biotech sector

- The Daily Express (East Malaysia), March 21, 2007, http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=48407

Kota Kinabalu: Yayasan Sabah Group through its biotechnology laboratory facility is urged to work on an associate basis with the Biotechnology Co-operative Centres in order to benefit from the National Biotechnology Policy.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the centre, established to streamline biotechnology research, was in line with the nation's emphasis on biotechnology development under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).

These centres were to assist to co-ordinate biotech research in various research organisations to improve co-operation and reduce duplication, he said while opening the YSG Biotech Laboratory at Km 2, Jalan Tuaran, here, Tuesday.

Musa, who is also the Chairman of Yayasan Sabah Board of Trustees, said the Federal Government's seriousness in promoting the development of biotechnology was reflected through the sizeable allocation of RM2 billion in order to complement private sector funding.

At the local setting, he said the State Government has been and would continue to support the development of the biotechnology industry such as the formulation of the 10-year Sabah State Government Biotechnology Action Blue Print (2005-2015).

Yayasan Sabah Group is a member of the Working Group on Biotech Research, Development and Applications that operates under the umbrella of the Sabah Agro-Industrial Precinct (SAIP).

"Indeed this is a manifestation of the State Government's commitment in providing the support to develop bio-industry in the State," he said.

According to Musa, it was only apt that Yayasan Sabah set it sights on biotechnology since it has been accepted by the Malaysian Government as one of the key drivers of the country's development.

"Such recognition is enshrined in the first thrust of the National Mission unveiled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he tabled the Ninth Malaysia Plan in Parliament in March last year," he said.

As arable land for food production has been declining in the face of stiff competitions with other uses, he said the irreversible trend had called for ways and mans to produce greater yields than ever before, including the development of pest resistant crops, which could substantially reduce or eliminate the need to use pesticide.

"Hence, the role of biotechnology," he said, adding biotechnology also plays an important role in terms of developing alternative efficient and more environment-friendly source of energy.

Speaking to reporters later, Musa said the facility was a step in the right direction in line with the Prime Minister's call and its development would also benefit the State Government.

According to Yayasan Sabah Director, Tan Sri Khalil Jamalul said the Plant Biotechnology Laboratory (PBL) was a joint-project with Cirad, a French R&D organisation and for 10 years was located in Tawau so as to be in close proximity to the research centres in Luasong and Taliwas.

At the beginning of the project in 1991, emphasis was placed on three species of large caned rattans, which was, however, halted a few years later as these were determined to be uneconomically feasible.

The PBL then began work on the genetic improvement and micro propagation of economically important forest tree species such as teak and three species of acacia, namely Acacia Crassicarpa, Acacia Mangium and Acacia hybrids.

Khalil said in the face of declining harvest from natural forests, teak had become one of the world's most valuable timber species and worldwide demand for superior quality teak prompted the development of technologies for the propagation of teak by rooted cuttings at the nursery and tissue culture under appropriate conditions.

Today, he said the PBL operates under a registered company called YSG Biotech Sdn Bhd to reflect the commercial nature of its undertaking.

The new 2,000sq m facility in Jalan Tuaran has a production capacity of up to one million plantlets per year, he said, adding that up to-ate orders of more than a million teak plants had already been received demonstrating the strong interest in teak on global level.

The planting materials from the YSG Biotech were being exported to Australia, Brazil, Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, Indonesia and Tanzania among others.

He said the facility also provides services like tissue culture propagation laboratory set-p consultancy, contract work on the development of tissue culture protocols for selected plant species, technical assessment, support and clonal forest know-how as well as meeting local demands for rooted cuttings of teak and other economically important plant species.

Also on hand were Agriculture and Food Industry Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail, Yayasan Sabah Deputy Director, Dr Johan Ariffin Abdul Samad, ICSB General Manager, Susanna Willie and ICSB Biotechnology and Horticulture Division Manager, Dr Doreen Goh.

*********************

EU withdraws approval for five "old" GMO crops

- Reuters, March 20, 2007, http://today.reuters.com/sponsoredby/ge/eco-business/article.aspx?type=environment&storyid=2007-03-20T173401Z_01_L20172062_RTRIDST_0_ENVIRONMENT-EU-GMO-APPROVALS-DC.XML&src=rss

Brussels - EU biotech experts have withdrawn approval for five genetically modified (GMO) products no longer in commercial use, including the first GMO crop grown in Europe, the EU's executive Commission said on Tuesday.

Three of the products were cited in a dispute filed against the European Union by major biotech growers Argentina, Canada and the United States at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Commission, which negotiates trade policy on behalf of the EU, has said it will not appeal against the 2006 ruling, where the WTO found that the EU had operated a de facto moratorium on GMO products, breaking global trade rules.

No applications to renew EU licenses for the five GMOs were expected from their manufacturing companies before the products' authorization expired on April 18, the Commission said.

"If the companies responsible for these GMOs wanted to continue marketing them in the EU after that date, they had to submit an application to the Commission," it said.

"For the 5 GMOs affected ... no applications for renewal are expected. This is due to the fact that they are no longer being used and the companies no longer have any commercial interest in them," the Commission said in a statement.

The five GMOs are Bt-176 maize, the first biotech crop grown in Europe and engineered by Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta, a maize hybrid known as GA21/MON810 made by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto and three GMO rapeseed types marketed by German drugs and chemicals group Bayer -- Ms1Rf1, Ms1Rf2 and Topas 19/2.

Although all stocks of food and feed derived from these GMOs had been used up, the possibility remained that some food and feed products within EU markets might still contain trace amounts of the GMOs, the Commission said.

Each company would therefore be required to identify and withdraw seeds of any of these GMOs from the market, it said.

Since this could not be achieved overnight, a 0.9 percent threshold for the accidental presence of the five GMOs would be allowed in food and feed products for the next five years.

"It is an absolute disgrace that European taxpayers' money was spent defending a trade dispute about products that biotech companies were about to withdraw," said Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe in a statement.

"The biotech industry should be forced to pay the EU compensation for the time and money they have wasted," she said.

While European consumers are known for their wariness toward GMO foods, the biotech industry insists that its products are perfectly safe and no different to conventional foods. Europe's hostility to GMO foods is unfounded, it says.

********************

"We have 60 years' experience of propagating wheat seed."

- GMO Safety, German Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium fŘr Bildung und Forschung), March 18, 2007, http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/559.docu.html

Several genetically modified wheat lines are currently being tested in a field trial on the site of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben. The IPK also has one of the world's largest gene banks. Well over a hundred thousand plant specimens, including wheat, have been stored there for years. Every summer, a proportion is planted in the field and propagated. Does the GM wheat trial represent a threat to the gene bank's work? - GMO Safety spoke to the head of the gene bank, Prof. Andreas Graner.

On 23 November 2006 the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) (the German authority responsible) approved the release trial of GM wheat lines with a modified protein composition.

As a self-pollinator, wheat generally fertilises itself with its own pollen inside the floret. This means that from a purely biological perspective, outcrossings are unlikely, which means a spread of the transgenic DNA is also unlikely. Nevertheless, the trial field has been set up 500 metres away from the gene bank's wheat propagation plots. As we have just learnt, the BVL recommended that the gene bank move its wheat propagation plots as a precaution.

GMO Safety: You are in charge of the gene bank at the IPK in Gatersleben. What are the tasks of the gene bank and how important is it?

Andreas Graner: The gene bank's role is to conserve, supply and document plant genetic resources. The gene bank plays an important role in preventing gene erosion, i.e. preventing cultivated plants and their wild relatives from dying out.

GMO Safety: Which cultivated plants do you do this for?

Andreas Graner: We deal primarily with agricultural crops and horticultural plants and their wild relatives. We have over 3000 different species in our gene bank from more than 750 botanical genera. As regards species diversity we are probably the most complex gene bank in the world. With a stock of 150,000 specimens from over 3000 species we are also one of the largest. Even more plant specimens are stored at the Wawilow Institute in Russia.

GMO Safety: Some of these specimens are regularly planted in the field and propagated. This is necessary for obtaining seeds from the different strains. How many specimens are planted out and how many samples are cultivated per year?

Andreas Graner: This varies a lot from species to species and depends to a large extent on the shelf life of the seeds. The average is around 20 years. This means that each year we need to plant five per cent of our collection in the field or in the greenhouse for propagation purposes. That equates to around 7500 specimens.

GMO Safety: When these specimens are propagated in the field you have to make sure that they do not mix. Can you rule this out and what measures do you take to prevent it happening?

Andreas Graner: For a start we use agronomical measures - for instance, in the cereals assortment we don't plant the different wheat specimens next to each other; we alternate them with barley. This "disjunctive" cultivation method was established in Gatersleben years ago. It enables us to avoid cross-fertilization to a large extent - in this case in wheat and barley. We can also ensure that when it comes to harvesting we differentiate clearly between harvested material from neighbouring plots and keep it separate. Cross-fertilizing species are planted on isolation plots with a minimum distance of 250 metres between them. This separation distance prevents e.g. pollen from different rye populations from being mixed by the wind. And for the third group - cross-fertilizing species that are pollinated by insects - we cultivate the plants in small greenhouses. The fronts and backs are covered with an insect-proof gauze. We have 170 of these greenhouses that are full every year during the growing season.

GMO Safety: Do you check whether you are actually achieving your aim of avoiding cross-contamination?

Andreas Graner: Yes. And there are other measures that we take as part of our conservation management. For instance, the propagation plots are regularly monitored by the curators and assortment managers during the growing season in the summer months. This means that the material is checked for authenticity using certain morphological characteristics, e.g. changes to flower colour or leaf position. Any deviations caused by e.g. cross-fertilisation or mixed seed, can be spotted.

GMO Safety: Do you really find all the deviant plants?

Andreas Graner: For instance, if by chance a seed from the previous years' plantings is left in the soil and germinates, this plant will not correspond to the material that we want to propagate. When such deviant plants emerge they are removed by the assortment managers - just like weeds. The descriptor characteristics used are described in detail in a list. In addition, a few years ago we introduced detailed tests using DNA markers specifically for wheat. Control specimens were used to compare wheat varieties, some of which had been propagated up to 20 times over recent decades. We established that in all the cases we investigated the end specimen was still identical to the original specimen - even after 20 propagations. So we found no deviations. This is surely an indication that our assortment managers are doing their job well.

GMO Safety: The IPK has a large number of agricultural and plant research projects. Some of the plants developed in these projects must surely be used in field experiments, such as the current trials with genetically modified wheat lines. Does this lead to particular risks for the gene bank's propagation plots?

Andreas Graner: The number of release trials on the IPK site is manageable - not least because of the administrative work involved. They do not pose a risk to the gene bank. As part of our quality management we have taken a number of measures to avoid potential outcrossings or cross-contamination with the gene bank material. In the case of this latest trial, we are respecting a separation distance of 500 metres between the trial and the gene bank's wheat propagation plots. This distance is sufficient to prevent any cross-fertilisation through pollen transfer. If we didn't do this we would not be able to conserve the genetic authenticity of the 30,000 wheat specimens that we have in the gene bank. In Gatersleben we have been propagating wheat specimens using disjunctive cultivation methods for 60 years. We use plots measuring two square metres laid out like a chess board with wheat - barley - wheat - barley... If there were any significant cross-pollination in wheat, the material that we have in the gene bank today would be nothing like the material we collected in the past.

GMO Safety: When approving the release trial for genetically modified wheat, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety recommended that the gene bank move the propagation plots for wheat. Leaving aside the question of whether this is necessary - is it in fact possible?

Andreas Graner: From our point of view it is virtually impossible. It would mean that we would have to set up the gene bank at a different site, at least for the propagation period in the summer months. And where should this site be - one kilometre away or ten? There is no scientific justification for the "correct" distance. And logistically it would be impossible - or at least only possible at great effort and expense. We would have to rent fields and then transport the 65 or so people involved with the gene bank propagations there every day during the summer months, and transport the harvested seeds back to IPK. With such a small release trial - we are talking about around a thousand individual plants - and, in my view, the absence of any residual risk, moving the propagation sites would be an impracticable and unjustifiable step.

GMO Safety: Thank you for talking to us.

[photo caption:] Prof. Andreas Graner, head of the gene bank at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben; awarded the Gregor Mendel Foundation innovation prize (2004)

********************

Calling All Supporters of Science-Based Regulation

- Val Giddings, March 21, 2007, lvg+at+prometheusAB.com

CALLING ALL SUPPORTERS OF SCIENCE-BASED REGULATION -- the FDA's public comment docket on their risk assessment and guidance to industry documents related to livestock cloning remains open until April 2.

Several activist campaigns are in full throat, applying political pressure in an effort to compel FDA to ban livestock cloning and/or impose stigmatizing labeling requirements that activists can use to spark emotion driven and irrational product boycotts. You can help.

Please write to FDA urging them:

1. In the absence of any significant new data contradicting the findings of their risk assessment, to move quickly to finalize the animal cloning risk assessment and guidance to industry so consumers can begin to enjoy the numerous benefits promised by this new tool.

2. Commend the FDA for upholding its biotechnology labeling policy, and for resisting special interest pressure to act in a way that would be inconsistent with science and agency policy.

3. Stress that the FDA should act quickly -- the science is clear and it would serve consumers, environmental, and economic values poorly to see this technology driven offshore. There are already major research centers overseas and a number of other countries are moving rapidly to full commercialization. There is no benefit to allowing the US to fall behind through regulatory delays.

Comments may be submitted electronically through: http://tinyurl.com/39tgnx.

BACKGROUND

FDA's exceptionally rigorous food safety analysis -- one of the most in-depth ever conducted by the FDA -- re-affirms the consensus of the scientific community. Cloning is another form of assisted reproduction -- similar to in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, and a host of other breeding techniques commonly used by farmers and ranchers today. Cloned animals are simply identical twins born separate in time. Food products derived from cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as any other meat and milk on the market.

However, because the word "clone" is so controversial and poorly understood by the general public, it is important that reasonable individuals submit comments to support and underscore the efforts of the FDA. Some of the following points may be useful.

If you have any questions about this, please email me at lvg+at+prometheusAB.com.

Thanks!

Val Giddings


ADDITIONAL POINTS, WITH NUMBERS [1] THAT CORRESPOND TO ENDNOTES

BENEFITS OF LIVESTOCK CLONING

* For the farmer and rancher -- Provide more consistently high-quality, safe, healthful meat and milk -- Improve overall herd genetics with greater speed, efficiency, flexibility [1] -- Rapidly spread the genetics of the strongest, healthiest and most productive animals, thereby reducing reliance on antibiotics, growth hormones and other chemical inputs -- Multiply the animals that are most resistant to production stresses, thereby lowering production costs through lower input costs -- Shave years off beef and dairy cattle breeding programs -- Use the genetics of exceptional animals that can't otherwise reproduce -- Improve the U.S. food supply and food exports

* For the meat processor and packer -- Achieve higher quality and more consistency in grading -- Achieve more efficient production -- Meet retailer demands more efficiently and consistently -- Significantly improve overall livestock genetics

* For the retailer -- Offer traits consumers want in their meat: leanness, marbling, tenderness -- Have more reliable sources of consistently high-quality meat and milk -- Source meat nationally that comes from superior animals -- A Supply Chain Management program (in development) enables retailers to control which brands do and don't use this technology

* For the consumer -- Get more consistently high-quality meat and milk from the best livestock -- The FDA and the food industry are focused on maintaining the highest possible quality, safety, and affordability in the food supply; livestock cloning can contribute dramatically to this goal -- It's NOT about increasing supply; it's about quality, not quantity -- Animal cloning is an enabling or "gateway" technology that -- when used with other technologies will be necessary for the development of genetically modified animals that will yield important consumer benefits, such as the "heart healthy" pigs (omega-3 fatty acid pigs), the "enviro-pig," and BSE-resistant or -immune beef cattle

FOOD SAFETY

* The FDA's Draft Risk Assessment is one of the most exhaustive food safety studies ever conducted. It analyzes more than 100 scientific studies on cloning from the U.S. and abroad, including two reviews by the National Academy of Sciences, encompassing years of safety data and several generations of livestock. It was produced in collaboration with an independent panel of scientific experts. The report shows that there's no difference between the safety of food from cloned animals and other animals. [2]

* The health problems seen in some animal clones are not food-safety issues. The food supply is already protected from animals that have health problems, because those animals flunk federal food safety inspections and are culled before they reach inspection. [3]

* A new study shows that mad cow disease can be blocked by a combination of genetic engineering and cloning. [4]

* The public may comment on the report until April 2, after which the FDA will review the comments and issue its final report along with guidelines for the food industry. At that point, the voluntary moratorium on the use of cloned animals in food production will end. [5]

* Both New Zealand [6] and France [7] have released government risk assessments attesting to the safety of foods from cloned animals and their natural-born offspring.

APPROVAL PROCESS

* Scientists must be engaged in the decision-making process on this issue as the technology is new and grossly misunderstood

* Media coverage of the FDA's findings may have left consumers with the impression that livestock cloning programs will result in food products for sale any day now, but the benefits of livestock cloning will not reach consumers for years

* A long-standing moratorium on the sale of food derived from cloned animals and their progeny will remain in effect until the FDA has finalized its report and issued guidelines for industry, which will likely take the rest of this year

* Then several more years will pass as livestock cloning orders lead to pregnancies and births, the cloned animals grow to sexual maturity and reproduce, and their offspring reach the optimum age for market

* Eventually some cloned cattle and swine may reach the market as culled animals

LABELING

* Because assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination, embryo transfer, and cloning don't affect the safety of meat and milk, the FDA doesn't require labels to identify them.

* Interest groups occasionally pressure the FDA to ban or label certain foods or drugs for political reasons, even if they're safe, such as the contraceptive pills known as Plan B, or meat and milk from cloned animals. But the FDA's mandate is to evaluate the safety of food and drugs without regard to politics, and the American public overwhelmingly supports this mandate.

* Food companies already have the right to voluntarily provide labels that address philosophical or religious concerns, such as organic or kosher or "clone-free" labels, as long as those labels don't mislead consumers. [8]

* Beef, pork, and milk from cloned animals are 100 percent real.

ETHICS

* The cloning of animals has not resulted in a slippery slope to the cloning of humans, just as the eating of steak and bacon has not resulted in cannibalism among humans. Scientists, like other people, make a strong distinction between animals and humans.

* Just because one species can be cloned doesn't mean another species can be cloned. For example, scientists have tried and failed to clone monkeys. [9]

* The license to cloning patents can be denied to anyone who seeks to intentionally misuse cloning technology. [10]

* Because developing nations may benefit significantly from livestock cloning, "foregoing the use of these techniques would raise new ethical concerns," according to Harvard professor Calestous Juma, Ph.D., who co-chairs an expert panel of the African Union on modern biotechnology. [11]

* The Vatican declared that "There is a place for research, including cloning, in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, wherever it answers a need or provides a significant benefit." [12]

* Some critics have argued that cloning is "unnatural," but it has always been human nature to develop new tools and technologies. Agricultural and breeding practices have long been used to develop better crops and animal breeds.

BIODIVERSITY

* Farmers and ranchers can use cloning to increase the genetic diversity of their herds, by re-introducing the genetics of outstanding animals that have been castrated, aged beyond their breeding years, or died.

* Cloning could be used to repopulate endangered species, thereby protecting biodiversity. [13]

* Ranchers have used selective breeding to spread desirable traits throughout herds for hundreds of years, and this has not resulted in a drastic shortage in the diversity of cattle.

* Though cloning will be used to spread desirable traits more efficiently, it will not replace conventional breeding, which farmers and ranchers use to develop those traits in the first place. As has been widely reported, cloned animals will primarily be used as breeding stock.

* The world cattle population exceeds 1 billion. [14] If cloning were used to produce a million clones of a single cow every year for a decade (a ridiculous hypothetical scenario), the result would reduce the diversity of the cattle population by less than one percent.

PROGENY

* Cloned animals can and do reproduce naturally. Their offspring are not clones.

* Few people will get the opportunity to have meat or milk that comes directly from a cloned animal, because those animals are so valuable as breeders.

* The best animals will be cloned for use as breeding stock, and their conventionally-produced offspring will be used for food.

* Because the food industry will use the offspring of cloned animals for food rather than the cloned animals themselves, it will be years before that food reaches consumers.

* The offspring of cloned animals are normal, healthy, and safe sources of food. [15]

* Companies will not be able to exclude the natural-born offspring of cloned livestock; there is no test that can determine the means by which an animal's parents were produced (however, if it WAS possible for a company to exclude the natural-born offspring of cloned livestock, that company would suffer a competitive disadvantage due to the added expense of identifying and tracking those offspring, and because cloning would improve the breeding stock of other companies).

ANIMAL HEALTH

* Farmers and ranchers want animals that have good health and longevity, so those are traits they'll look for when they choose which animals to clone. As a result, some day animals born through cloning may have fewer health problems than conventionally-bred animals.

* The myth that most cloned animals have health problems or die is due to a distortion of the data. It's true that most cloned embryos fail, but these are tiny groups of cells and not live animals.

* The great majority of animals born through cloning reach healthy adulthood. [16]

* The health problems seen in some cloned animals are not unique; they're also seen in naturally conceived animals. No unique skills or methods are needed to identify and treat those problems.

* The myth that most cloned animals have health problems is due to the fact that there's been a higher incidence of such problems in cloned animals than in other animals, and this has received a lot of media attention.

* As scientists continue to refine cloning practices, cloning-related problems are declining.

* Dolly was euthanized after she and several other sheep in her barn contracted a fatal respiratory disease that has nothing to do with cloning. Other cloned sheep born soon after Dolly are still alive and healthy. [17]

* The theory that clones would be born "old" or age rapidly has been disproved, and was based on erroneous predictions about the behavior of telomeres. [18]

RECIPIENTS

* Embryo transfer is already routine in livestock breeding. It makes no difference to the recipient females whether they're receiving embryos produced by cloning or by conventional means.

* Farmers and ranchers want calves that are born small, so their mothers can deliver them easily, and then grow quickly thereafter. This is a trait that farmers and ranchers will look for when they choose which animals to clone. This will have positive results for the surrogate mothers.

CONSUMER OPINION

* Consumers want safe, nutritious, and delicious food. They want meat with good marbling and milk with good butterfat content. Cloning will help farmers and ranchers satisfy this demand, so ultimately consumers will respond favorably

* Research by the Rutgers Food Policy Institute showed that most Americans know little about cloning, don't think about it much, and have soft opinions about it, meaning that when they learn about its benefits their opinions improve. [19]

* The key to consumer acceptance is clear information on what livestock cloning DOES and DOESN'T mean.

* Research by the University of Maryland's Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy showed that two-thirds of people would buy or consider buying foods derived from the offspring of clones. [20]

* Unfortunately science fiction movies have created a lot of confusion and misconceptions about cloning. Cloned animals aren't an alien species and they're not born in labs. Cloning is a way to make identical twins. The result is normal cows and horses and pigs.

* Polls are not predictive of buying behavior. For example Australians told pollsters they didn't want genetically modified food, but when labels went on such products in Australian stores, they had little effect on sales. [21]

* Some consumers object to farm technologies for religious or philosophical reasons, and specialty markets and producers are available to serve their needs.

* Certain groups are intentionally spreading misinformation in order to try to kill livestock cloning, because cloning will give conventional producers a competitive advantage.

* Once the FDA review process is complete and media attention dies down, so will the misinformation campaign because it depends on the media.

* Efforts to kill in vitro fertilization met a similar fate, and over time it became clear that the public accepts and benefits from IVF.

* Though the FDA's report on the safety of meat and milk from cloned animals was one of the most exhaustive food safety studies ever conducted, some consumers are still wary, just as some consumers are wary of food from animals that were treated with rBST -- but consumers are NOT wary of the offspring of animals that were treated with rBST, just as they won't be wary of the offspring of animals that were born through cloning.

ENDNOTES

[1] Bousquet D, Potential uses of cloning in breeding schemes: dairy cattle. Cloning Stem Cells. 2004;6(2):190-7. Available online at http://tinyurl.com/yeh73q

[2] U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2006. Animal Cloning: A Draft Risk Assessment. Available online at http://www.fda.gov/cvm/Documents/Cloning_Risk_Assessment.pdf

[3] U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, 2006. Regulations & Policies. Available online at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/federal_inspection_programs/ index.asp

[4] Richt, Production of cattle lacking prion protein. Nature Biotechnology. Published online December 31, 2006. Available online at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v25/n1/abs/nbt1271.html

[5] U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2006. FDA Releases Animal Cloning Draft Risk Assessment. FDA Veterinarian Newsletter. Available online at http://www.fda.gov/cvm/FDAVetVolXXlNo5-2006.htm#6599

[6] New Zealand Food Safety Authority, 2007. Food from cloned animals. Available online at http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/policy-law/publications/policy-statements/food-clon ed-animals/food-from-cloned-animals-final.htm

[7] Agence Franšaise de SÚcuritÚ Sanitaire des Aliments, 2005. Risks and benefits related to livestock cloning applications. Available online at www.afssa.fr/Ftp/Afssa/33773-33774.pdf

[8] Code of Federal Regulations, 2002. TITLE 21--FOOD AND DRUGS. Available online at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/CF101-65.HTML

[9] Simerly, 2003. Molecular correlates of primate nuclear transfer failures. Science 300(April 11):297. Available online at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/300/5617/297?ijkey=eT8OiNCS29o82

[10] Geron and Exeter Life Sciences press release, 2005. Geron and Exeter Life Sciences Form Joint Venture for Licensing Animal Cloning Technologies. Available online at http://www.geron.com/pressview.asp?id=709

[11] Juma, 2007. Developing nations need cloning. BBC News. Available online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6288941.stm

[12] Pontificia Academia Pro Vita, 1997. Reflections On Cloning. Available online at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_ pa_acdlife_doc_30091997_clon_en.html

[13] Loi. 2001. Genetic rescue of an endangered mammal by cross-species nuclear transfer using post-mortem somatic cells. Nature Biotechnology. Available online at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v19/n10/abs/nbt1001-962.html

[14] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1995. World livestock production systems. Available online at http://www.fao.org/WAIRDOCS/LEAD/X6101E/x6101e28.htm

[15] Mir, Progeny of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) pig clones are phenotypically similar to non-cloned pigs. Cloning Stem Cells. 2005;7(2):119-25. Available online at http://tinyurl.com/278z2j

[16] Jose B. Cibelli, Keith H. Campbell, George E. Seidel, Michael D. West, Robert P. Lanza. The health profile of cloned animals. Nature Biotechnology 2002; 20: 13-14. Available online at http://www.viagen.com/en/documents/health-profile-of-cloned-animals.pdf

[17] Rhind, Dolly: A Final Report, 2004. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 16(2) 156156. Available online at http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/44/paper/RDv16n1Ab69.htm

[18] Schaetzlein, Telomere length is reset during early mammalian embryogenesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2004 May 25;101(21):8034-8038. Available online at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/101/21/8034

[19] Public Opinion and Media Coverage of Animal Cloning and the Food Supply by W. K. Hallman, Ph.D. and S. C. Condry of the Food Policy Institute, Rutgers, 2006. Available online at http://www.foodpolicyinstitute.org/docs/summary/Animal%20Cloning%20Summary.p df

[20] Consumers' Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs, and Purchase Intent Regarding Foods from the Offspring of Cloned Animals by Maureen L. Storey, Ph.D. of the Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy, 2006. Available online at http://agresearch.umd.edu/CFNAP/Topline_of_Animal_Cloning_121406.pdf

[21] Report on the Review of Labelling of Genetically Modified Foods, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2003. Available online at http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/GM_label_REVIEW%20REPORT%20_Final% 203_.pdf

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*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net