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May 29, 2000


Organic labels, fishy fruit, Prince Charles, Fellowships


I did a bit of research on this quuestion when a local organic food store
report ran an article claiming that the vitamin content of organic foods
was higher that the usual type of foods.The variation as you might expect
was so large that one could not reach any conclusions. A second point ,I
recall that just recently there was a claim that children fed "organic"
foods had a much higher chance of aquiring toxic E coli nfections.Do you
know anything about these claims? Are they backed up by anygood
evidence?If so ,they should be made available to the public. Best wishes.

Subj: Re: Fishy fruit
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 5:04:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi all,

I was part of the group that did the experiments putting fish genes
into tomatoes at DNAP - published in 1991 in Plant Molecular Biology
(vol 17, pp 1013-1021), and can add a few points.

> "The fact is, it has been done ... DNAP [DNA Plant Technology of
> Oakland, California] was the company that put the fish gene in a
> tomato." Rissler acknowledges that the experiment was halted before
> any products were brought to market, but, she insists, "that is
> because of the uproar. Believe me, they would be doing it if people
> were not objecting to it."

This is bullshit of the first order. There was never any "uproar",
or public interest of any sort, until long after the exeriments had
been done, published, and the project consigned to the bin. I find
it unbelievably sad that an organisation such as UCS - for whom I
have always had some respect - should be making such demonstrably
untrue statements. So Jane: no, I don't believe you, in fact I know
you're wrong on this one.

As Michael Fumento reports in his email, the experiments didn't
really work. Antifreeze proteins are more correctly called "thermal
hysteresis proteins" in that when present (at high concentrations)
they depress the freezing point of water without changing the melting
point of ice. We're talking fractions of a degree, so any prospect
of using them for frost protection is almost certainly a non-starter.
What they also do (and this is why DNAP were interested) is they
inhibit the growth of ice crystals - the process that makes your
ice-cream go spiky if it's kept in the freezer too long, and that is
also responsible for a lot of tissue damage (and hence loss of
texture in fruit and vegetables) on freezing.

What we did at DNAP was to put various constructs expressing
anti-freeze genes from Arctic flounder into tobacco and tomato (which
were among the few plants that could be routinely and quickly
transformed in those days). The genes were, if memory serves,
synthesised from scratch based on the fish gene sequence rather than
being cloned from fish, but I forget the details. (Perhaps we should have
labelled the paper: "No fish were harmed in the making of this
episode...."). We found that in some cases (in particular, when expressed
as fusion proteins with a truncated protein A from Staphylococcus) we
could not only get reasonable expression but also could show in cell free
extracts that the proteins were active, in that when the extracts were
frozen the rate of crystal growth was indeed inhibited. But there was no
phenotypic effect - tomatoes put in the freezer and then thawed out were
still squishy. Nor was this particularly surprising: freezing damage is
an enormously complex and
poorly understood process, and the prospect of inhibiting it by expressing
just one protein at low concentration always struck me as pretty naive
(but I wasn't in charge of the project!). It was really a suck it and
see, blue skies project that we did in our spare time, mostly for fun
(remember fun in science?).

This experiment has indeed become a big stick with which the biotech
industry is frequently beaten. One of the symbols used for the "Five Year
Freeze" campaign here in the UK was of a half tomato-half fish monster,
which just shows what a long way we have to go in explaining some basic
genetics to some people.

There has been some work done in other labs since then, with again
some limited success (one group showed lower electrolyte leakage from
cells expressing antifreeze genes after freezing and thawing), but I
know of nothing that is remotely close to being brought to the
market. But I've been out of the field for a long time: others may
have more up to date information. The most likely route to get frost
protection seems to be in over-expressing regulator genes involved in
up-regulating various stress responses - see for example Mike
Thomashow's interesting work as reported in Science vol 280: 104-106
(1998). I don't know how close this is to any kind of field
demonstration - any one out there with more info? It's interesting
to note that this kind of approach could be done in theory without
introducing any foreign DNA into the plant at all - merely take the
regulator gene from the plant, put it under the control of a strong
plant promoter from the same plant, and put it back in using a
particle gun. Would this be more acceptable than fishy tomatoes?

Pete Lund

Dr Peter Lund
School of BioSciences
University of Birmingham

phone: UK + 121 414 5583
fax: UK + 121 414 5925

home phone: UK + 121 471 4826

Subj: weediness
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 6:21:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Meredith Lloyd Evans - BioBridge"

Hi All!

Is it correct just to say that 'a weed is a plant in the wrong place' as so
many people do? I.e. ennobling weeds so that attempts to control weeds
look like being a biodiversity genocidal act.
In my [inexpert] view, many or most weeds are inappropriate because they
out-perform desirable plants and crops (nutrient-stripping, seed
overwintering), because they introduce antinutritive factors into
mass-harvested material or are even directly parasitic (?Striga for
example). Is there an acceptable response to the 'just plants in the wrong
place' statement.?

Mr Meredith Lloyd-Evans, Managing Partner BioBridge Associates & Arcadia
International eeig; 45 St Barnabas Road, Cambridge CB1 2BX tel +44 1223

566850, fax +44 1223 470222

Support Raleigh International in Belize, sponsor Rebecca Lloyd-Evans for
Belize project, contact rebecca@biobridge.co.uk for more details!

Subj: Re: Prince Charles and Theology
Date: Sat, 27 May 2000 8:54:51 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Paul Geiger"

In a previous letter to this group a writer posited that the ungodly,
bereft of faith in our one true creator and his son Jesus have fallen in
with the likes of Sartre, Nietzsche, et al. to worship instead, pagan
like, mother earth or Gaia -- or, worse, human beings themselves or the
human intellect, flawed from the beginning by original sin (to know what
this is simply watch a group of two-year-olds playing in a sand box).

Congratulations to Phil Larkin who does a marvelous job as amateur
theologian with numerous quotes from old and new testaments. I'd like to
add the following quote from G.K. Chesterton:

"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found
wanting where it has not been sincerely tried."

Pray for our colleagues in Australia who have to counter the likes of the
Muirs and their wholly mistaken beliefs. And while we're at it pray for
Prince Charles too. He can use all the spiritual help he can get.


Subj: Re: Call to Action!
Date: Sat, 27 May 2000 2:35:57 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: rnaidu

Dear Sir,

It is possible to produce sufficient food to feed the world with the
current breeding technology. It is a question of distribution and the
biotechnologistsare least interested in this area. Biotechnologists must
address the health, safety and environmental issues rigorously to overcome
the opposition to transgenic crops. Don't blame Prince Charles. You have
to take the blame for not educating the general public on transgenic crops.

Rajanaidu Nookiah

Head, Plant Science and Biotechnology Unit, Mpob

Subj: RE: Prince Charles and Theology
Date: Sun, 28 May 2000 4:54:37 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Julian Morris"

I thought it was King Canute who was reputed to have commanded the sea to
turn back. And my understanding was that he did so in order to show that
he did not have divine powers; that he was a mere mortal. What English
Kings and Princely pretenders have failed to learn from this is that it
does not do to claim to know the mind of God. Charles Windsor makes this
very mistake by arguing that we should be more reverent towards nature,
rather than attempting to alter it.

Only if one knows the mind of God can one know perfectly to what extent
altering nature will be beneficial or harmful. Scientists do not pretend to
know the mind of god, but rather attempt to discover the underlying
characteristics of nature and to adjust these in ways that are beneficial.
Because knowledge of these underlying characteristics is disparate and
imperfect scientists proceed by trial and error. In so doing scientists are
not deviating significantly from our ancestors; they are merely utilising
better techniques that have resulted from the interplay between thought and
experiment. If we were to follow Charles Windsor's advice (incoherent as it
is) we would have to stop all trials (because any error is unacceptable
acording to the precautionary principle). As a result we would stop
learning how better to enhance nature for our own ends.

The bible can of course be used to justify many different positions, so I
hesitate to invoke it in discussions of this nature. But Charles Windsor is
pretender to the English Throne and as such is also pretenter to be the
leader of the Church of England. It thus becomes him, I think, to consider
the injunction imposed upon man in Genesis, where he is told:

1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the
air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping
thing that creepeth upon the earth.
1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he
him; male and female created he them.
1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over
the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living
thing that moveth upon the earth.
1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which
is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the
fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

If man has dominion over the earth and is to 'subdue it', it seems logical
that he should be permitted to alter it for his own ends.


Subj: Re: Post-doctoral fellowships
Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 8:50:27 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Calestous_Juma/FS/KSG%KSG@harvard.edu


Center for International Development at Harvard University
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University
Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University


The Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Program offers post-doctoral
fellowships in Science, Technology and Development under the auspices of
the Biotechnology and Globalization project supported by the Rockefeller
Foundation. The aim of the project is to provide research-based information
to policy-makers and the general public on the role of biotechnology in the
global economy with emphasis on its implications for developing countries.
The project covers issues such as evolution of the biotechnology industry;
biotechnology in international trade; intellectual property rights in
biotechnology; biotechnology and international relations; bioprospecting;
biotechnology in developing countries; environmental aspects of
biotechnology; biotechnology and human health; and ethics, social values
and biotechnology.

STI Program

The STI Program addresses the role of science, technology and innovation in
development. It examines recent trends in globalization and their
implications for the use of science and technology in the developing world.
It focuses on how to mobilize the world?s pool of scientific and
technological knowledge to contribute to economic growth in the developing
world. Emphasis is placed on science and technology policy issues related
to biotechnology and globalization, pharmaceutical research and
conservation of biological diversity.

The STI Program is implemented through research, training and outreach. It
is a joint activity of the Center for International Development (CID) at
Harvard University and the Science, Technology and Public Policy (STPP)
Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at
Harvard University. It is implemented in cooperation with the Program in
Science, Technology and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of


Fellowships are offered for one year, with an option for renewal. STI
Program seeks applicants from developing countries in fields related to the
application of science and technology to development with emphasis on
biotechnology and globalization. Disciplinary background may include
molecular biology, genetics, botany, agronomy, ecology, agriculture,
economics, law, political science, philosophy and international relations
and other relates fields. Ability to operate in an interdisciplinary
environment is an essential requirement. Fellows are expected to
participate in collaborative activities. Their work is expected to lead to
a book, monograph, or other significant publication during their tenure.


The STI Program offers 10-month stipends of $31,000. The awards are limited
in number and so interested applicants are encouraged to seek funding from
other sources. Applicants should indicate whether they expect full or
partial funding. They should also indicate other potential sources of
funding. Non-stipendiary fellowships will also be considered.


Each applicant should submit a:

1. 3-5 page research proposal showing its relevance to the research
interests of the Biotechnology and Globalization project;

2. curriculum vitae;

3. list of the three people the applicant is asking to submit, directly to
the STI Program, recommendation letters; and

4. sample of the applicant?s writing (except books or lengthy


Applications must be received by 15 September 2000.

Mailing address

Program Coordinator
Science, Technology and Innovation Program
Center for International Development at Harvard University
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA