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August 1, 2000




Margaret Mellon is a regular fixture in Washington amongst the
anti-biotech crowd lobbying policy makers. I have never seen her give a
credible biological reason for opposing the technology. Most of her
arguments involve social objections, which is typical of the so-called

Gary Blumenthal

> I read with interest the note from Andura Smetacek
> which included the information that New
> England Biolabs is supporting the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS),
> which has an anti-GMO program. I noted from the UCS website
> (http://www.ucsusa.org/agriculture/agr-home.html#staff) that it employs
> two staffers in this program: Margaret Mellon and Jane Rissler. Their
> bios from the UCS website follow. I note that neither of them is listed
> in the membership of the American Society of Plant Physiologists.
> Searches on Medline and Agricola (from 1981 on) did not identify any
> research papers by either one of them to establish qualifications in the
> area of plant molecular biology, although the Mellon bio describes her
> a molecular biologist and the Rissler bio describes her as a plant
> pathologist. I did find some papers by Rissler from the pre-molecular
> concerned with behavior of plant pathogens. They both publish opinion
> papers.
> Does anyone know more about the actual scientific qualifications of
> two individuals? This will help me to prepare a more knowledgeable
> to New England Biolabs.
> Thanks,
> John Cross
> ---------
> M. Mellon Bio from http://www.ucsusa.org/news/expmm.html
> Profile
> Margaret Mellon is one of the nation's most respected
> experts on biotechnology and food safety. She holds a
> doctorate in molecular biology and a law degree from the
> University of Virginia. She was formerly a research fellow
> in molecular virology at Purdue University and program
> director for the Environmental Law Institute.
> Mellon has published widely on the potential
> environmental impacts of biotechnology applications.
> She co-edits Foodweb (formerly Gene Exchange), a
> public voice on food, farming, and the environment, and
> is co-author of Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops
> and co-editor of Now or Never: Serious New Plans to
> Save a Natural Pest Control." She teaches a course in
> biotechnology and the law at the Vermont Law School,
> and in 1993 received a Distinguished Alumni Award from
> Purdue University's School of Science.
> When Mellon first became aware of biotechnology in the
> early '80s, her attitude toward the new technology was
> like that of most scientists -- unreservedly enthusiastic.
> But as she learned more, she grew skeptical of its
> benefits and more concerned about its risks. She
> became convinced that decisions about new
> technologies shouldn't be left to companies and
> scientists -- she believes the public must have a role. A
> widely quoted expert on genetic engineering, Mellon
> regularly appears on ABC World News Tonight, CNN,
> and NPR, as well as in the New York Times,
> Washington Post, and many other major media outlets.
> Rissler Bio from http://www.ucsusa.org/news/expjr.html
> Profile
> Jane Rissler is one of the nation's leading authorities on
> the environmental risks of genetic engineering. She
> provides firm scientific grounding for UCS's policy
> positions on agriculture, biotechnology and the
> environment, and also works to ensure that the public
> has opportunities to participate in regulatory decision
> making on biotechnology applications.
> Rissler's passion for science meshes perfectly with her
> deep love of the natural world, gained from a childhood in
> rural West Virginia. She received her PhD in plant
> pathology from Cornell's College of Agriculture and
> taught in the Department of Botany at the University of
> Maryland. But she always wanted to use science "in
> ways that were more directly relevant to public policy."
> She spent four years at the Environmental Protection
> Agency helping to formulate biotechnology regulatory
> policies before moving to the National Wildlife
> Foundation, where she felt better able to protect the
> public interest. In 1993, Rissler and her colleague at the
> foundation, Margaret Mellon, were invited to join UCS to
> establish our Agriculture and Biotechnology Program.
> Rissler has published major reports on the
> environmental risks of transgenic crops and on
> crop-management plans to delay insect resistance to the
> Bt toxin, a valuable natural pesticide. She is a widely
> cited authority on biotechnology and frequently appears
> on NPR, CNN, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, ABC
> World News Tonight, and many other media outlets.