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April 26, 2000


Combined Contribtutions 4/26/00


- http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Five Contributions below....

From: "MERRITT, COLIN R [AG/8050]"
Subject: FW: atomic GM

Responding to Peter Lund and several subsequent commentaries on mutation
breeding (and the quaint term "atomic GM"), this is perhaps one of the most
intriguing anomalies in the line taken by anti-biotech fundamentalists
(especially those claiming a scientific stance).

A good, though brief discussion of the subject is in the recently published
report by Leonard Gianessi and Janet Carpenter of the National Center for
Food and Agricultural Policy: "Agricultural Biotechnology: Weed
Control Benefits of Herbicide-
Tolerant Soybeans" - Pages 19-22
see <http://www.ncfap.org/pesticid.htm>.

As this article points out, there are considerable uncertainties surrounding
mutagenesis of both chemical and irradiation variety. It is claimed that
chemical mutagenesis is becoming the more popular due to the more ready
access plant breeders have to mutagens.

Nevertheless, there is reference to the many examples of induced-mutation

There is also information available from the joint FAO/IAEA research
programme on Nuclear techniques in food and agriculture.
According to the latest IAEA symposium proceedings report:

Induced Mutations and Molecular Techniques for Crop Improvement
Proceedings of a Symposium, Vienna, 19-23 June 1995. IAEA, Vienna (1995).
STI/PUB/972 (748 pp., 94 figures)
ISBN 92-0-010091-0.

"the FAO/IAEA Mutant Varieties Database lists 1790 varieties of 158 plant
species officially released in 52 countries"

This had increased from the previous data base statistics reported in the
proceedings published in 1990:

Plant Mutation Breeding for Crop Improvement,
Vol. 1 & 2 Proceedings of a Symposium, Vienna, 18-22 June 1990.
IAEA, Vienna (1991).
Vol.1: ISBN 92-0-010091-0, Vol.2: ISBN 92-0-010191-7.

Which stated: "Our mutant germplasm records show that by the end of 1989, on
the 25th anniversary of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, some 1330
crop varieties, being either direct induced mutants or having an induced
mutant in their pedigree, had been registered and released to growers".

This shows the extensive range of induced-mutation crops actually in
cultivation, none of which have been subjected to the level of intense
scrutiny that GM crops in commercial use have undergone.

For a classic example from the UK, the barley variety, Golden Promise, is
often cited. This variety was developed in the spring of 1956 at the
'Technological Irradiation Group' of the Atomic Energy Research
Establishment, Harwell, where a sample of the traditional variety,
Maythorpe, wqas subjected to gamma irradiation. The process produced a line
which had the excellent malting properties of Maythorpe, but included a
stiff straw characteristic of agronomic value. The variety went on to become
a leading variety for almost 20 years in the 1960s and 1970s, and was widely
used in brewing and distilling, including the production of 'organic' beer.
These records are contained in technical literature at that time of the Miln
Marsters seed company, who marketed the variety as "pedigree: A gamma-ray
mutation from Maythorpe". Clearly an enlightened period for the application
of science in agriculture.

Dr Colin Merritt
nces (including foods). After
years as the darling of the environmental-protection set for his
development of the Ames test (which helped screen out a lot of
potentially-carcinogenic synthetic chemicals), he fell afoul of his
"green" supporters when he extended his testing (for comparative
purposes) to foods, household chemicals, natural products, etc. and
found comparable proportion of these showed carcinogenic/mutagenic
properties as did the synthetic chemicals.
I would welcome a test by, say, Consumers Reports, on the relative
concentrations of mycotoxins in different brands of cornflakes,
chips, etc. particulaly if this included certified organic versions
of these and/or guaranteed-non-GMO versions from EU house brands
(perhaps?). Years ago, CR did an aflatoxin test of peanut butter and
found detectable levels in some samples of EVERY brand that they
This isn't as theoretical a health issue as the hypothesized adverse
consequences of GE corn, soy or potatoes.
From: Neal Stewart (by way of C. S. Prakash)
Subject: Re: Bt gene escape

Rick makes good points. We are performing some of these types of experiments
with transgenic Bt canola and a wild relative of canola (wild
Brassica rapa), in which we have introgressed Bt into the wild
relative background. Brassica
specialists such as Plutella xylostella will defoliate B. rapa to the same
degree as canola-- and the Bt gene is expressed to the same degree in the B.
rapa genetic background. I agree that there are likely several more important
"weed genes" in B.rapa-- when compared with Bt-- which is also dependent on
insect selection pressure to make a difference in defoliation. Whether or not,
this plays out to increased fitness is not known. It might be that B. rapa,
Raphanus raphanistrum (wild radish) might be able to compensate for moderate
defoliation. I will have to say that these experiments are not
"simple" in that producing transgenic wild relatives of canola is
time-intensive. Sunflower,
being more difficult to transform in comparison with canola , will take much
longer to introgress a Bt gene into wild sunflower, and then there would be the
field experiments. Gene escape is a risk that needs more research. Where gene
escape is certain, then the consequences need research to estimate true risks.

Neal Stewart
Dept Biology
University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Rick Roush wrote:

> Let me first say that I write as a proponent of Bt cotton and corn, and was
> a major architect of Bt resistance management strategies. Indeed, I think
From: Bob MacGregor
Subject: Re: Bt gene escape

I don't have a particular problem with investigating the potential
impacts of "gene escape". However, I do often wonder why this is so
great a concern for GE crops, but nobody seems concerned that
"conventionally-bred" fungus or virus resistance will escape and
wreak havoc. Certainly, if viruses, fungi, etc. help control
populations of weeds, then any source of resistance to these might be
of concern, yet I haven't heard calls for long-term impact studies of
new, resistant wheat, corn, or other crop varieties EXCEPT for those
that are products of GE technology. This is illogical, punitive and
just plain unfair.

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Re: *** USDA lobbied on biotech squash

Dear Dr. Moore:

This is an instance of the Green groups striking while the iron is hot.
The EPA just turned down a petition by Greenpeace to cancel all Bt
registrations in the US, based primarily on the "peer-reviewed report"
they commissioned from Swiss scientists.

At the same time, the National Academies' National Research Council handed
them a gift: open criticism of the way EPA handles registrations in the
US. This, from a very prestigious body. (Never mind the fact that the
activists said the report should be scrapped because the scientists on the
National Academies' panel were 'pro-biotech.')

Criticism by the National Academies' panel gave them, simply, another
springboard from which to launch yet another legal action, this time
against the USDA.

Does anyone know the details of this story?
> *** USDA lobbied on biotech squash