Release of Engineered organisms (plants) into the wild... Discussion

Graham Dellaire dellaire at ATLAS.ODYSSEE.NET
Sat Jan 13 16:00:27 EST 1996

Repost of Phils post.... seems that not all news feeds are equall.
Although this post made it to 
bionet it did not make it to McGill's news feed.  

I thought that many points in the following were well worth a thought
or two and since I deal mostly with mammalian systems I thought that
this group would be appropriate to find people who could look at the
plant side of thing.

Please cross post all comments to 


Phil Hasting had wrote....

I seem to have dumped the discussion that began last week on the
which are arround about the release of transgenic plants. But my
is that there is much more to be said, so I want to add a couple of 
points and perhaps get some answers from someone out there.

I always find myself in a conflict because I hold that it would be 
rediculous to ban genetically altered organisms, since this is merely
natural successor to plant breeding. Yet it clearly opens new 
possibilities, some of which are dangerous. 

My bottom line position is that it has to be done properly anmd with a

broad perspective and sense of responsibility beyond the immediate. 

Dellaire raised the point that antibiotic resistance remaining in an 
organism may induce allergy. What then of BST in our milk or B.t.
in our potatoes. On the latter point, my local paper said "experts are

agreed that it is non-toxic" so you will be pleased to know that I am 
clearly defined as non-expert. But I could be so easily satisfied- if 
they took the trouble to use a leaf -specific promoter then I have no 
problem with it. Did they? And if not, why not? And why would anyone 
be allowed to release a potato in which such a simple precaution had
been taken? There is no need to leave to antibiotic resistance genes 
intact. Permits for release of such plants should require their 
removal. Don't say "you don't know how difficult these things are". I
know but I would also say that if we do not know how to do something
this, then we are not ready to release the organism. 

Then again, why are these things not marked? In Canada we even 
colour-code our wheat varieties. But now there are B. t. toxin
potatoes which are indistinguishable from russet burbank unless you
a DNA lab. How could we recall them if it were to turn out to be a

I am taking too much of your time, so let me quickly put in another
for disscussion before closing- Criteria for whether a gene will
in the wild and cause harm are pitifully inadequate. The possibilities

of wildy wide horezontal transmission would make an interesting 
dicussion, but even within the realm of conventional genetics, you
establish that a gene will not spread to related wild population by 
planting a testplot and watching the others nearby to see whether they

pick up your marker. Take the case of glyphosate resistant rapeseed. 
Noone may claim that hybridization with wild Brassicas is not
It looks as if any Brassica hybrid is possible- just some are going to
extremely rare. How many times did bread wheat arrise in the wild?
about Spartina townsendii? Such wide hybrids are rare and highly 
improbable accidents, but they have occurred. So the question should
not whether glyphosate resistance can spread, but rather, does it
if it does? 

Allright ,I know this isn't about recombination. But I didn't raise
subject and our group may have valid points of view. 

Phil Hastings

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