need safeguards for gene-manipulation

suter at suter at
Mon Jun 28 07:26:19 EST 1993

cooper and murray wrote:

+J.E. Cummins provided the following references for his article
+_Tinkered_Genes_in_the_Supermarket_. He mentioned that he has had
+trouble with popular press publishers stripping references out of
+the texts of articles he has submitted.  He should be faxing us more
+next week; he's doing work on an Oneida reserve this weekend.
+[NB (again, for those who missed it the first 2 times),
+OPIRG-Carleton posts this to further informed debate on this important
+subject, not to take sides.  As part of our mandate, we have often
+sponsored speakers many (if not all) of us do NOT completely agree
+with (eg., Paul Watson, Murray Bookchin, Naomi Wolf, David Cliche),
+and who certainly wouldn't agree with each other. (Bookchin
+had some choice words about Watson...)] Anyways, here's the list:
+Cereal Intolerance & Schizophrenia:
+Food Poisoning (1992). Marcel Dekker, NY, pp 373-397
+CaMV is expressed in insects or fungi:
+Virology Vol 179, pp 312 (1990)
+J. Gen. Vir. 71, pp 2201 (1990)
+J. Virol. Methods 129, pp 37 (1992)
+Res. Virol. 142, pp 297 (1991)
+Horizontal gene transfer of bacteria to plants:
+TIBS 17, pp 489 (1992)
+Pseudorecombination in plants:
+J. Gen. Vir. 74, pp 23  (1993)
+J. Gen. Vir. 74, pp 889 (1993)
+J. Gen. Vir. 73, pp 169 (1992)
+J. Gen. Vir. 73, pp 709 (1992)
+J. Gen. Vir. 72, pp 243 (1991)
+Virulent viruses by recombination with genetic engineered forms:
+Mol. Plant Microbe, Int. 5, pp 48 (1992)
+Virology 187, pp 525 (1992)
+Mol. Plant Microbe Int. 4, pp 350 (1991)
+Bacterial sequences may "pop out" of the plant chromosome:
+Proc. Natur. Acad. U.S.A. 90, pp 422 (1993)
+Bacteria are regularly released from the sewers of laboratories
+(some may have complete HIV genomes):
+New Scientist, 21 March, 1992, pp 11
+Scorpion toxin to kill insects:
+Virology 187, pp 777 (1991)
+Nature 352, pp82, 85 (1991)
+Plant vs Animal Warfare:
+TREE 8 pp137 (1993)
+EMS & tryptophan:
+Nature 358, pp96 (1992)  
+Plasmids easily move from plant chromosomes to soil bacteria:
+Plant Molecular Biology Vol 20, pp 61 (1992)
+In addition, Cummins sent along some other information including an
+example of what he called a "typical trial approval from Agriculture
+Canada". Condition #7 says "no alfalfa will be grown after the site
+for 3 years after the harvest." Condition #8 says "all volunteer
+plants will be destroyed before setting seed following the test",
+and condition #9 is "no seed or harvested plant matter will enter
+human or livestock food/feed chains". Cummins says that this points
+out that AgCan realizes the risk of gene transfers.
+He also sent along a copy of a news report from the *Kitchener-
+Waterloo Record*, dated Jan. 4th, 1993, about Agriculture Canada
+"losing" a report on a monitored plot of genetically-engineered
+corn. In the article Cummins is referred to as "an outspoken critic
+of government regulation of research trials with transgenic plants".
+For a more cool-headed popular discussion of this issue, Friday's
+(June 25, 1993, OpEd) *Globe and Mail* had an article by Abby Lippman
+(@ McGill's dept. of epidemiology, & chair of the human genetics
+committee of the Council for Responsible Genetics) and Philip L.
+Bereano (@ U of Washington's College of Engineering, & chair of CRG's
+commercial biotechnilogical and environment committee). A short
+excerpt: "Despite the surrounding hype, genetic engineering is not
+only about alleviating pain and suffering. The image of the altruistic
+scientists expanding the frontiers of knowledge to cure disease has
+been compromised by the reality of the entrepreneurial scientists...
+more and more of whom are intimately linked to multinational
+corporations and venture capitalists." (NB: the *Globe* is a
+conservative business-oriented newspaper.)
+We hope that others who objected to Cummins' lack of cites will now make
+up for their own lack of cites by posting some studies supporting
+their own claims.
+Reid Cooper
+Dianne Murray

first of all, several of the cited papers (i have read a few, yes) do 
actually not support the outrages claims made by cummins (like PMB 20 
and PNAS 90) either completely or in part. especially the papers concerning
"CaMV is expressed in insects or fungi" do not show a link with HIV or 
danger to humans. (they do however indicate that scientists (contrary
to popular believe perhaps ?) are open-minded, and concerned
about risk-assessment.) to say the least, cummins is not
afraid to over-interpret scientific results. thus he diffuses the topic,
instead of clarifying it for his lay audience (which was the initial 
criticism he encoutered here on the group, remember ?)

secondly you now ask for cites which show that genetechnology is safe.
something like: cloned HIV are completely safe for human consumption, 
perhaps ?
could you design a study which could show this ? scientifically, this is
impossible. therefore, it is absolutely impossible to show that an individual
genetech product is safe. thus we are back to point one: society has to make 
a choice what products should come on the market. for this, we need
an open-minded discussion (and critical research !) to explain pros and cons. 

we thus do not need cummins.


Clemens Suter-Crazzolara, PhD
Max-Planck-Institut fuer Zuechtungsforschung
Abteilung Genetische Grundlagen der Zuechtungsforschung
Carl-von-Linne Weg 10
5000 Koeln 30
Tel. xx49-221-5062.221       Fax. xx49-221-5062.213      Priv. xx49-221-581.794
e-mail: suter at

More information about the Bioforum mailing list