World Scientists' Warning on the Dangers of GE Foods & Crops
World Scientists' Warning on the Dangers of Genetically Engineered Organisms

Date Posted: 09/23/1999

please find below the second update of the World Scientists' Statement,
beginning with a list of signatories and including new evidence of
hazards, plus news.

Angela Ryan

World Scientists' Statement

World Scientists' Statement launched in Cartegena, Columbia, during the

Convention of Biological Diversity Conference on the International
Biosafety Protocol, calling on all governments to:

* Impose an immediate moratorium on further environmental releases of

transgenic crops, food and animal-feed products for at least 5 years.

* Ban patents on living organisms, cell lines and genes.

* Support a comprehensive, independent public enquiry into the future

of agriculture and food security for all, taking account of the full

of scientific findings as well as socioeconomic and ethical

Sign on at our website: <<>

Signed (118 scientists from 24 countries):

Angela Fehringer, Anthropology Student, Austria

Dr. Ted Steele, Molecular Immunologist, U. Wollengong, Australia

Dr Farhad Mazhar, Ecologist, New Agricultural Movement, Bangladesh

Renata Menasche MSc, Agronomist, Federal Un. of Rio Grand du Sol,

Dr Thomas R. Preston, Un. of Tropical Agriculture, Cambodia

Prof. David Suzuki, Geneticist, U.B.C., Canada

Prof. Joe Cummins, Geneticist, University of Western Ontario, Canada

Dr Warren Bell, MD, Canad. Assoc. of Physicians for the Environ.,

Prof. Abby Lippman, Epidemologist & Geneticist, McGill Un. Canada

Prof. Ronald Labonte, Population Health Research Director, Ontario,

Prof. Marijan Jost, Plant Geneticist, Agricultural College, Krizevci,

Prof Anton Vajger, Un Zagreb Medical School, Croatia

Vesna Samobor, M.Sc. Agricultural College, Krizevci, Croatia

Damir Magdic, M.Sc. Food Scientist, Osijek Un, Croatia

Damjan Bogdanovic, PhD candidate, Un Zagreb, Croatia

Dr. Tewolde Egziabher, Agronomist, Min. of the Environment, Ethiopia

Dr. Herve Le Meur, Biomathematician, Univ. Paris, France

Dr. Christine von Weisaeker, Ecoropa, Germany

Dr Christiane Boecker, MCommH, Community Health, Haiti

Prof. Ervin Laszlo, President, The Club of Buddapest, Hungary

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Research Institute for Science and Ecology, India

Dr. Muhua Achary, Environmentalist, St. Joseph's College, Bangalore,

Dr. Bruno D'Udine, Behaviour Ecologist, University of Udine, Italy

Dr Giorgio Cingolani, Agricultural Economist, Italy

Prof. Atuhiro Sibatani, Molecular Biologist, Osaka, Japan

Dr Shiron Sugita, Plant Geneticist, Nagoya U. Japan

Dr Noeoru Tagishita, Plant Geneticist, Jap. Assoc. Agro-Nature, Tokyo,

Dr. Shingo Shibata, Biosafety and Environmental Sociologist, Japan

Dr Machiko Yasukohchi, PLAN - International Japan Public Relations Team,

Jaroen Compeerapap, Environmental Law and Development Center, The

Dr Robert Mann, Ecologist, Auckland, New Zealand

Prof. Terje Traavik, Virologist, University of Tromso, Norway

Dr Ingrid Olesen, Senior Research Scientist, Institute of Aquaculture
Res. Ltd, Norway

Prof. Oscar B. Zamora, Agronomist, U. Phillipines, Los Banos,

Dr. Pamela G. Fernadez, Agronomist, U. Phllipines, Los Banos,

Dr Gregorio Alvar, Biotechnologist,. Computense U. Madrid, Spain

Dr. Javier Blasco, Aragonese Ctr Rural European Information, Spain

Dr. Katarina Leppanen, History of Ideas, Gothenburg Uni, Sweden

Florianne Koechlin, Biologist, World Wildlife Fund, Switzerland

Verena Soldati, Biotechnologist, Basler Appell, Switzerland.

Dr. Daniel Amman, Cell Biologist, Tech. Switzerland

Dr. Ruth Goseth, Dermatologist, ISDE, Switzerland

Yves Schatzle, Agronomist and Economist, Switzerland

Prof. Omboom Luanratana, Pharmacologist, Univ. of Mahedol,

Prof. Arpad Pusztai, Biochemist, Formerly from Rowett Institute, UK

Dr. Susan Bardocz, Geneticist, Aberdeen, UK

Dr. Colin L.A. Leakey, Plant Geneticist, Cambridge, UK

Dr. Harash Narang, Pathologist, BSE expert, UK

Prof. Richard Lacey, Microbiologist, Leeds, UK

Dr. Michael Antoniou, Molecular Geneticist, Guy's Hospital, UK

Dr David A.D. Birley, GP, Swindon, UK

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Geneticist and Biophysicist, Open University, UK

Dr J. M. Kerr, Bioethics, Winchester College: Oxford U. UK

Fatima Pelica, Biochemist, PhD Candidate, JII, UK

Dr Tom Wakeford, Biologist, U. of East London, UK

Peter Preston Jones, MSc, Environomental Campaigner, UK

Prof. Brian Goodwin, Biologist, Schumacher College, UK

Dr. Patrick Holden Director Soil Association, UK

Dr. Eva Novotny, Biologist, Univ. Cambridge (retired), UK

Prof. Ian Stewart, Biomathematics, U. Warwick, UK

Dr. Vyvyan Howard, Toxipathologist, U. Liverpool, UK

Prof. Peter Saunders, Biomathematician, U. London, UK

Prof. Tim Ingold, Anthropologist, U. Manchester, UK

Dr. Robert C. Poller, Organic Chemist, U. London, UK

Gordon Daly P.hD student, Gene Therapist, Kennedy Inst. London, UK

Stuart Daly P.hD student, Transgenic group, Charing Cross Hosp. UK

Dr. John E. Hammond, Engineer, Highfeild, UK

Dr. Philip Kilner, Cardiologist, Royal Brompton & Harefield, UK

Dani Kaye M.Sc. Scientists for Global Responsibility London, UK

David Kaye M.Sc. Scientists for Global Responsibility, London, UK

Angela Ryan, Molecular biologist, Open Univ. UK

Prof. David Packham, Material Scientist, U. Bath, UK

Dr. David J Heaf, Biochemist, Wales, UK

Dr. Alan Currier, Taxonomist, IRBV, UK

Dr. Gesa Staats de Yanes, Veterinarian Toxicologists, U. Liverpool, UK

Barbara Wood-Kaczmar, M.Sc., Science w riter, UK

Dr. Gene S. Thomas, Agriculturist, UK

Dr. David A.H. Birley, General Medical Practitioner, Swindon, UK

Prof. Martha Crouch, Biologist, Indiana University, USA

Prof. Ruth Hubbard, Biologist, Harvard University, USA

Prof. Phil Bereano, Council for Responsible Genetics, U. Washington USA

Prof. Martha Herbert , Pediatric Neurologist, Mass. Gen. Hosp. USA

Prof. David Schartzman, Biologist, Howard U. Washington DC USA

Prof. John Garderineer, Biologist, U. Michigan USA

Dr. Britt Bailey, Senior Researcher, CETOS, Ca, USA

Dr. Marc Lappe, Geneticist and Director CETOS, Ca, USA

Dr Walter Bortz, Physician, Palo Alto, USA

Dr. Mahua Acharya, Biologist, USA

Anne-Marie Mayer, Ph. D. candidate, Nutrition, Cornell Univ., USA

Dr. Catherine Badley, Biologist, University of Michigan USA

Dr. Gerald Smith, Zoologist, U. Michigan, USA

Vuejuin McKersen M.Sc, Natural Resource Manager U. Michigan, USA

Dr. John Soluri, Historian of Science, Carnegie Mellon U USA

Juiet S Erazo PhD student U. of Michigan USA

Dr. Juette Peufecto, Biologist, U of Michigan USA

U.V. Kutzli Ph.D. Candidate, U of Michigan USA

Kristin Cobelius M.Sc. Student, U. Michigan USA

Lena S Nicolai PhD Student University of Michigan USA

Marial Peelle, Biol./Anthropologist Undergrad. Swarthmors College USA

Dr. Ty Fitzmorris, Ecologist, Hampshire College USA

Dr. Caros R Ramirez, Biologist, St Lawrance University USA

Rosa Vazquez Student in Biology, Ohio State University USA

Sean Lyman Student Gettysbury College USA

Ryan White Student St Lawrence University USA

Dr Jack Kloppenburg, Un. Wisconsin, Rural Sociologist, USA

Dr. Nancy A Schult, Entomologist, U of Wisconsin-Madison USA

Dr. Brian Schultz, Ecologist, Hampshire College USA

Dr. Douglas H Boucher, Ecologist, Hood College USA

Dr. Timothy Mann, Geographer, Hampshire College

Chris Picone M.Sc. Soil Microbiologist, U. Michigan USA

Dr. Peter M. Rosset, Ins. for Food and Development Policy, USA

Dr. Ignacio Chapela, Microbiologist & Ecologist, U.C. Berkeley, USA

Dr. Michael Fox, Veterinarian and Bioethicist, USA

Dr. Ingrid C. Northwood, Biochemist, Simon Fraser University, USA

Prof. Ed Daniel, Health Sciences Centre, McMaster University, Ca, USA

Dr Linda Jean Sheperd, Biochemist, Gaia Blessings, USA

Dr Herve Grenier, Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Change, Univ.

U.V. Kutzli Ph.D. Candidate, U of Michigan USA


World Scientists' Statement

Update #2 (22.9.99)

Written and compiled by

Mae-wan Ho and Angela Ryan

Institute of Science in Society

Biology Department Open University

Walton Hall Milton Keynes MK7 6AA

A. Biopatents

1. African group tables important proposal at the World Trade Organisation

which may revoke and ban biopatents. The full proposal can be found at the

WTO website.

The African group questions TRIPS requirement for mandatory patenting of

some life forms and some natural processes. They propose that all plants,

animals and microorganisms should not be patentable. They seek

clarification that "sui generis" system of plant varieties protection can

include systems that protect the intellectual rights of indigenous and

farming communities. They have also asked for TRIPs to be made to harmonize

with the biodiversity convention and the FAO's International Undertaking on

Plant Genetic Resources.

This proposal is most significant. ISIS have given it our wholehearted

support, as it may lead to international agreement that all biopatents will

be banned.

Please support the African Group's position by sending your name,

organization and address to <underline></underline> , so
that the issue can be

made high priority for the WTO Seattle Conference December 2-3, 1999.

2. Anglo-American Agreement to protect Human Genes

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has initiated an extraordinary deal with

US President Bill Clinton to negotiate an Anglo-American agreement to

protect the 100,000 genes of the human body. The deal aims to prevent

entrepreneurs profiting from gene patents and to ensure that the benefits of

research are freely available world wide to combat or even eliminate


The two leaders aim to ensure that the world's largest medical charity, the

British-based charity, Wellcome Trust, and the US government's National

Institute of Health, publicize gene-sequences within 24 hours of their

discovery - so that the benefits accrue entirely to the public. It is

thought that research institutions, universities or laboratories would be

obliged to waive their rights to patent their work in the public interest.

ISIS welcome this move by Blair and Clinton. The next step is to prevent all

living organisms, seeds, genes and cell lines from being patentable.

B. New Evidence of Hazards and Potential New Hazards

1. The human mouth and pharyngx contain bacteria that can take up and

express transgenic DNA, including antibiotic resistance marker genes. This

confirms the ability of transgenic DNA to spread by horizontal gene


The findings: A genetically engineered plasmid was found to survive

(6 to 25%) up to 60 min. of exposure to human saliva. Partially degraded

plasmid DNA was capable of transforming Streptococcus gordonii, one of the

bacteria that normally live in the human mouth and pharynx and are naturally

transformable. The frequency of tranformation dropped exponentially with

time of exposure to saliva, but it was still greater than 10-7 after 10

mins. Transformations were also obtained when plasmid DNA was mixed directly

with filter-sterilised human saliva. Approximately 107 transformants were

obtained per microgram plasmid DNA. Whole (unfiltered) saliva had a

background of erthyromycin-resistant bacteria, but transformation of the

test strain occurred nevertheless at a high frequency of 10-4 of all

colonies of S. gordonii isolated. Human saliva contains factors that promote

competence of resident bacteria to become transformed by 'free' or 'naked'


Our comment: Transgenic DNA from food is unlikely to be completely

broken down in the mouth, and may transform bacteria normally present in the

mouth. One main danger is the uptake of transgenic DNA containing antibiotic

resistance marker genes by the bacteria, but other genes and novel

constructs involving viral promoters/enhancers may also be hazardous.

Reference: Mercer, D.K., Scott, K.P., Bruce-Johnson, W.A. Glover, L.A. and

Flint, H.J. (1999). Fate of free DNA and transformation of the oral

bacterium Streptococcus gordonii DL1 by plasmid DNA in human saliva. Applied

and Environmental Microbiology 65, 6-10.

2. Special Report comissioned by UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and

Food (UK MAFF) shows that DNA is not readily degraded by most commercial

processing procedures. Animal feeds are likely to contain gene-size DNA

fragments. One main conclusion is that there is significant risk of

transmitting transgenes in the gut of farm animals, and recommends against

using ensilaged GM crops as animal feed.

The findings: Samples of oil seed, linseeds, soya and wheat were

analysed for DNA fragments after various treatments. Grinding and milling

left DNA largely intact, as did treatment with dry heat for 30 mins. at 90

deg. C. Degradation to less than 100bp occurred only after treatment with

dry heat at 96 deg.C or moist heat at 93 deg. C. DNA was completely stable

in silage.

Reference: Forbes, J.M., Blair, D.E., Chiter, A. and Perks, A.

(1998). Effect of Feed Processing Conditions on DNA Fragmentation Section 5

- Scientific Report,

UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, London.

Our Comment: It should not be assumed that processed food contains

no DNA. The degradation of DNA is defined as less than 100bp. We now know

that (see below) nucleic acids as small as 25bp can stimulate autoimmune


3. Gene therapy and naked DNA vaccines can trigger autoimmune reactions. New

research shows that any fragment of double-stranded (ds) DNA or RNA

introduced into cells can induce these reactions. (Thanks to Brian Goodwin

for drawing our attention to this item.)

The findings: Immune reactions are normally mounted by white blood

cells against substances (antigens) foreign to the body, and involve the

expression of many different genes. Autoimmune diseases are associated with

abnormal reactions of other cells directed against the body's own

constituents, and can be triggered by viral infections. Autoimmune diseases

can be specific to organs or cells, examples are rheumatoid arthritis,

insulin-dependent diabetes and Graves disease of the thyroid. The

researchers found that introducing any fragment of dsDNA or dsRNA into the

cells by transfection stimulate the abnormal expression of major

histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and class II genes as well as other

genes involved in presenting antigens on the surface of the cell membrane.

This in turn induces activation of immune cells against the

antigen-presenting cells. The effects were indifferent to the sequence of

nucleic acid introduced, so long as it is double-stranded; and fragments as

short as 25 base pairs were effective. The authors conclude, "This

phenomenon may contribute to the development of autoimmunity when plasmid

DNA is introduced during gene therapy and may be important when dsDNA is

used in plasmid DNA vaccinations."

Reference: Suzuki, K., Mori, A., Ishii, K.J., Singer, D.S., Klinman,

D.M., Krause, P.R. and Kohn, L.D. (1999). Activation of target-tissue

immune-recognition molecules by double-stranded polynucleotides. Proc. Natl.

Acad. Sci. USA 96, 2285-90.

Our comment: This research not only raises serious safety concerns

over gene therapies and the use of naked DNA vaccines, it also emphasises

the need to regulate the ever-increasing use of all kinds of naked DNA and

RNA such as plasmids and vectors and to prevent their discharge into the

environment. In view of the fact that fragments as small as 25bp can

stimulate autoimmune reactions, naked DNA or RNA should be fully degraded

before being discharged.

4. A scientist from the Center for Complex Infectious Diseases in Rosemead,

California, claims to have found a new virus associated with chronic fatique

syndromes which is part bacteria. Could genetic engineering have contributed

to creating it?

The findings: More than 50 bacterial genes were found in a virus

isolated from patients with various chronic fatique syndromes. The scientist

regards this as a new organism and coined the term, "viteria" to describe

the hybrid virus-bacteria. The virus most closely resembles a

cytomegalovirus. And top of the list of bacteria from which the virus has

captured genes are E. coli and Bacillus subtilis.

Our comment: This new discovery should be seen in the light of a

report on the possible links between genetic engineering biotechnology and

the resurgence of infectious diseases co-authored by seven scientists, four

of whom have signed onto the World Scientists' Statement (Ho, M.W., Traavik,

T., Olsvik, R., Tappeser, B., Howard, V., von Weizsacker, C. and McGavin, G.

(1998). Gene technology and gene ecology of infectious diseases. Microbial

Ecology in Health and Disease 10, 33-59.) The report was among the top ten

'Project Censored' stories in 1998. It drew attention to, among other

things, pathogenicity islands coding for many virulence genes that transfer

horizontally as a unit, so non-pathogens can be converted into pathogens in

a single step.These pathogenicity islands are thought to have originated

from bacterial viruses which have integrated into bacterial genomes and

picked up a range of virulence genes. They are highly mosaic, consisting of

parts of plasmids and bacteria, particularly of those parts that might have

been assembled into artificial vectors for genetic manipulation. Could

genetic engineering have inadvertently contributed to creating pathogenicity

islands? Could the newly discovered 'viteria' be pathogenicity islands that

have gained independent existence as infectious particles? These are

question which urgently need to be addressed. Cytomegalovirus, which the

viteria most resembles, is one of the first viruses to be used as vector in

genetic manipulation of animals, while E. coli and B. subtilis the top two

bacteria from which it has acquired genes are also the two most commonly

used bacteria in genetic engineering.

Reference: Martin, W.J. (1999). Bacteria-related sequences in a

simian cytomegalovirus-derived stealth virus culture. Experimental and

Molecular Pathology 66, 8-14.

5. A new genetic engineering technique, 'chimeroplasty' claims to overcome

the current hit or miss transgenic technology that results in random gene

insertions and rearrangements; instead, it can change a single base at a

predetermined position in a specific gene in the plant cell. But it may not

be as precise as claimed and introduces new dangers. (Thanks to Suzanne

Wuerthiele for drawing our attention to this paper.)

The findings: A technique of directed gene conversion involves

introducing a palindromic inverted repeat of a sequence of 25 bases composed

of DNA and modified RNA residues, which forms a stable hairpin. The sequence

is homologous to that of the target gene, except for the base to be

substituted, which is in the middle of the sequence of 25 bases. When

introduced into the cells by a gun that shoots tiny gold particles coated

with the hairpins, the hairpins will basepair with both strands of the

target sequence in the gene. DNA mismatch repair enzymes will then convert

the sequence of the gene to that specified by the hairpin. Using this

technique, the researchers attempted to convert a gene in tobacco coding for

the enzyme acetolactate synthase to a herbicide-resistance phenotype, by

changing the codon (CCA) for proline at amino-acid position 196 to CAA for

glutamine and CTA for leucine respectively, with two different hairpin

constructs. The results show that the target sequence was converted, but not

at the base intended. Conversions were at neighbouring bases. For example,

ACA for threonine was obtained instead of CAA intended, and TCA for serine

resulted, as well as ACA and TCA instead of the intended CTA. Another

complication is that the gene is capable of undergoing spontaneous mutations

to herbicide resistance. The directed mutation rates were up to 20-fold

those in controls, but were variable from experiment to experiment.

Our comment: It is very unlikely that the technique is as precise as

claimed. The mere act of introducing nucleic acid sequences into the cells

by bombardment with a particle-gun will trigger injury responses that can

cause nonspecific recombination. In addition, the technique depends on

imprecise basepairing between the target sequence and the introduced

hairpin. Can one be sure that nontarget sequences are never affected? The

hairpins themselves are a hazard to biodiversity and health if released into

the environment. All kinds of unintended gene conversions could take place

in species exposed to the constructs, including human beings.

Reference: Beetham, P.R., Kipp, P.B., Sawycky, X.L., Arntzen, C.J.

and May, G.D. (1999). A tool for functional plant genomics: Chimeric RNA/DNA

oligonucleotides cause in vivo gene-specific mutations. PNAS 96, 8774-8778.

6. "The Herbicide, Glufosinate, used with millions of acres of GM crops

including corn, canola and soy, causes birth defects on exposure of father

alone as well as mother!" submitted by Joe Cummins

Joe Cummins has written a number of previous notes on the danger of

the herbicide ,glufosinate, used with GM and normal crops and on the false


by officials of EU , US and Canada that the herbicide has no harmful side

effects. The previous evidence showed that pregnant females fed food

containing the herbicide gave birth to children with birth defects, as well

as defects in behavior and learning. Learning defects were also experienced

by young children exposed to the herbicide. Recent studies showed that

fathers exposed to glufosinate gave birth to children with birth defects

while most other pesticides did not produce the same effect.

Reference: Garcia,A.,Benavides,F.,Fletcher,T. and Orts,E. (1998).

Paternal exposure to pesticides and congenital malformations. Scand J Work

Environ Health 24, 473-80.

Joe Cummins comments: The glufosinate birth defects suggest that the large

chemical companies have undue influence over government bureaucrats . Such

bureaucrats turn their backs on clear evidence of danger from pesticides

and promote dangerous genetic engineering.

7. A new study looks at the prevalence and spatial distribution of viruses

in natural populations and discusses the implications of widespread

multiple viral infections in natural plant population with respect to the

release of transgenic plants expressing virus-derived genes.

A quote from this paper: " The presence of transgenic virus

resistant plants expressing viral proteins or virus-derived nucleic acids

introduces a substantially new dimension into the dynamics of plant-virus

co-evolution, even though virus-derived nucleic acids are normal

constituents of plant populations. There is a possibility that the spread

of virus-derived transgenes through seed and pollen will substantially alter

the distribution of viral nucleic acids, for example, gene flow might reduce

temporal and spatial variation in the incidence of virus-derived nucleic

acids and so increase the potential for recombination."

Reference: Raybould et al (1999) The prevalence and spatial distribution of

viruses in natural population of Brassica oleracea . New Phytol 141, 265


6. "Virus-Resistant Crops Could Help Weeds" Says Professor Alison Power.

Genetic engineering cereals to resist the barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV)

might indirectly cause farmers difficulties in controlling related weeds. A

report presented at the Ecological Society of America1s annual meeting

indicates that the resistance engineered into oats could spread to wild

oats, a weed. Transgenic barley and oats that can resist BYDV have been

developed, but there is concern that because these crops can hybridize with

wild relatives, that the introduced genes will escape into related weeds.

Alison Power, an ecologist at Cornell University says that if wild oats gain

resistance to BYDV, they could become a much larger problem for farmers, and

might also disrupt natural habitats, outcompeting other native species.

Power grew oats and wild oats in greenhouses and infected them with the

BYDV. She found that infected wild oats did not perform well: they were much

thinner and had shorter roots than uninfected controls and infected oats.

Infected wild oats also produced fewer seeds than normal. "A BYDV-resistant

transgene transfer seems likely to help wild oat survivability," concludes


Reference: Contact: Alison Power, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary

Biology,E331A Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853,USA.

7. An independent study conducted by Dr Marc lappe at CETOS, has shown that

the phytoestrogen concentrations in two varieties of GM herbicide tolerant

soyabeans were reduced by an average of 12-14 % compared to their non GM

Most of the reduction was attributable to reductions in genistin and to a
lesser extent

diadzin levels, which were significantly lower in modified compared to

conventional soybeans in both strains.

(Thanks to Dr Michael Antoniou for forwarding this paper)

Soyabean-based food products are of growing medical interest as they

contain two key biologically active ingredients, notably genistin and

diadzin, which are phytoestrogens. A number of studies have indicated that

phytoestrogen content of ingested soybeans can modify the pathogenesis of

some hormone-dependent and hormone-independent diseases and may constitute a

natural estrogen replacement therapy in post menopausal women. In the

United States approximately one half of the 1998 soyabean crop consisted of

GM, herbicide-tolerant soyabeans, of which 33% are slated for export, thus

the phytoestrogen content of GM soyabeans is of international interest

Given the high biological potency of isoflavones and their metabolic

conversion products, these data suggest genetically modified soybeans may be

less potent sources of clinically relevant phytoestrogens than their

conventional precursors. In order to ensure uniformity of clinical results

the scientists who conducted this study strongly suggest there is a need to

establish baselines of expected isoflavone levels in transgenic and

conventional soy products so as such data will be available when making

clinical decisions.

Reference: Lappe et al (1999) Alterations in Clinically Important

Phytoestrogens in Genetically Modified, Herbicide-Tolerant Soybeans.

Journal of Medicinal Food, Vol 1, no 4.

Our comment: The unpredictability in the composition of GM crop

plants is highlighted by this study and further confirms the inadequacy of

the regulatory protocols, which rely on the principle of 'substantial

equivalence' for approving GM crops and products.

8. An investigative safety assessment study carried out at the Scottish

Crop Research Institute in Dundee (completed in 1997) has shown that

Agrobacterium used in the production of GMOs is a possible vehicle for gene

escape, or horizontal gene transfer.

The findings: The study shows that the use of frequently used

antibiotics, carbenicillin, ticaracillin and cefotaxime failed to eliminate

contamination of Agrobacterium even after 13 months of repeated subculture

from transformed and weaned plants. Furthermore a significant percentage

(12.5%) of Agrobacterium containing the binary vector was detected in tissue

culture after six months, even without selection pressure being maintained.

The MAFF, R&D Surveillance report No. 395 states that:

" The presence (contamination with) of disarmed (but foreign gene

containing) Agrobacterium in GMO plant tissues would not represent a risk if

the binary vector had been 'lost', but the discovery that it survives, even

without selection advantage, indicates that gene spread is a real


The presence of latent Agrobacterium was also observed during the tissue

culture phase of GMO production. The scientists who conducted this study

stress the need for sampling tissues for contamination and not merely

relying on the lack of visual symptoms. They strongly suggest that such

procedure should be adopted routinely, for in the case of Agrobacterium,

sampling is the only reliable method of indicating contamination.

References: McNicole et al (1997) The Possibility of

Agrobacterium as a Vehicle for Gene Escape. MAFF. R&D and Surveillance

Report: 395.

Carol Barrett et al (1997). A risk assessment study of plant genetic

transformation using Agrobacterium and implications for analysis of

trangenic plants. Plant Cell. Tissue and Organ Culture 47: 135-144.

Our Comment: It is claimed that other more effective antibiotics

are now used to eliminate Agrobacterium from GM plant material and the above

mentioned sampling procedures are now thought to be implemented. But,

before the results of the above study became available, it is likely that

most GM plants transformed by Agrobacterium were contaminated with residual

Agrobacterium containing antibiotic resistance genes. Most of the present

generation of GM crops commercially grown or being field-tested were, in

fact, created before the results of this study were published and therefore

carry this risk. The above study demonstrates that major flaws in safety

assessments are being uncovered only after the products have been approved.

9. A new study on the effects of a genetically engineered microorganism

(GEM) on soil biota and plant growth has shown that GEMs can persist under

conditions found in some soil ecosystems for long enough periods of time to

stimulate major changes in soil biota that could affect nutrient cycling

processes. Nematode community composition and plant growth were also

affected following the introduction of the GEM.

Reference: Holmes M T et al (1999). Effects of Klebsiella

planticola SDF20 on soil biota and wheat growth in sandy soil. Applied Soil

Ecology 11 (1999) 67-78

Our comment: Further investigations are needed to determine the

long term effects of these observations and whether the release of GEMs have

a viable future. The potential for an ecological effect to occur after the

release of GEMs is now apparent and of global concern.

And now the goood news...

10. Non-functional genes in patients with Fanconi anaemia undergo

corrective mutations spontaneously to restore normal function. These are the

latest examples of functional corrections that can occur in a range of

different hereditary defects which show how fluid and dynamic genes and

genomes are. Molecular geneticists should investigate the physiological and

environmental factors favouring such functional corrections of defective

genes instead of concentrating exclusively on changing and transferring


(Thanks to Wytz de Lange for drawing attention to this paper.)

The findings: Somatic cells in individuals with non-functional

pathogenic alleles (forms of a gene) have recently been discovered to revert

spontaneously to functional, wild-type alleles. The best known mechanisms

occur in heterozygous patients, ie, patients with two different alleles of

the gene and involves recombination within the gene during ordinary cell

division, in which the two alleles present exchange parts, or gene

conversion, in which the functional allele converts the non-functional. New

mechanisms of corrections are described for non-functional alleles in

homozygous patients (those with two identical alleles). Frameshift alleles

in two different patients were restored to the correct reading frame, in one

case, by deletions of two single base-pairs, and in the second, by insertion

of 5 base-pairs. A missense mutation in another patient (T to G in position

1749) was compensated by a C to T mutation in position 1748. Although the

protein in all three cases differed in amino-acid sequence from the

wild-type, they were functionally equivalent to the wild-type.

Our comment: These are the latest examples of the fluidity of genes

and genomes which has completely invalidated the genetic determinist science

driving and promoting genetic engineering biotechnology. Evidence

accumulating since the mid 1970s indicates that there is nothing constant

about genes and genomes.The new observations that even nonfunctional genes

can revert to functional wild-type or wild-type equivalents take genomic

fluidity one step further. Rather than concentrating exclusively on changing

and transferring genes, molecular geneticists ought to direct their

attention to the physiological and environmental factors that favour the

regulation of gene function and structure in the whole organism, even to the

extent of correcting the structure of non-functional genes.

Reference: Waisfisz, Q., Morgan, N.V., Savino, M., et al (1999).

Spontaneous functional correction of homozygous Fanconi anaemia alleles

reveals novel mechanistic basis for reverse mosaicism. Nature Genetics 22,


C. New Postings on ISIS website:

1. Draft Open Letter to all governments from world scientists to be

presented to WTO conference in Seattle, Washington, December 2-3, 1999. It

re-iterates our World Scientists' Statement call for a 5 year moratorium and

a ban on biopatents.

We are encouraging other scientists to sign on and non-Government

organisations to endorse our Statement and Letter. Either sign onto

Statement on

our website, or e-mail us at <underline>


2. From BSE to GMO - What Have We Learned? by Dr. Harash Narang, with

Introduction by Angela Ryan.

This is a new ISIS publication in collaboration with the Millenium Debate,

due to be released 26 September, 1999.

3. The precautionary principle by Dr. Vyvyan Howard and Prof. Peter


Published in Nature correspondence, 16 September, 1999.

4. Head to Head, by Mae-Wan Ho, to appear in Sovereign magazine.

5. No to GMO, Civil Society versus Corporate Empire, talk presented in

Progressive Farm Leaders Summit on Genetic Manipulation and Agriculture,

Coalition of Family Farmers, USA, Mannassas, Virginia, September 11, 1999.