Genetically Modified "Food" Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Edit Profile

Kitchen Doctor Bulletin Board » Genetically Modified "Food"  

  Thread Last Poster Posts Pages Last Post
  ClosedClosed: New threads not accepted on this page        

Welcome to Genetically Modified "Food".

Author Message
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Posted on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 05:56 pm:   

One of my students commented that it must be difficult to be surrounded by so many sleepwalkers.

Yes, but who is sleepwalking? Nearly everyone who has paid more attention to anthrax than hastily thrown together legislation that makes it illegal to label food as genetically modified (or not genetically modified.) The inference is that consumers are ignorant and unnecessarily suspicious of technologies that are full of promise but new. Patents are being awarded for any number of genetically defined objects, meaning that many hope to profit by ownership of a piece of DNA and all the marvelous possibilities that exist with this piece, but GMO foods are not fiction or hype, they exist, and many people are allergic to them.

The technology is owned by gigantic multinational corporations, such as the hugely evil Monsanto and its subsidiaries, and many of the crops are grown with what are called "terminator seeds," seeds that must be obtained from Monsanto every year and seeds that give rise to Round Up resistant crops, meaning much more poison can be used on them.

To be denied information on the extent of GMO contamination of food is irresponsible. People have gone into anaphylactic shock as a result of consuming such foods.

On the Mother for Natural Law web site,, many of the arguments are discussed in enormous detail . . . and, yes, there is another petition you can sign.

Folks, the administration has tremendous financial links to multinational entities and is completely disinterested in arguments against their agenda, but if you do not take a stand, the genetically engineered crops will pollinate with native species and "natural" will be a quaint word future generations (probably of mutants) will have to look up in musty old dictionaries.

These issues go much further. You can be vaccinated without your knowledge by laced bananas and other despicable modifications of food unless you know your farmer, supplier, and the source of what you eat.

Never before in history has it been so important to understand the ramifications of your spending dollar. You can use that dollar to support the sincere and uphill struggles of organic farmers and food and herb producers or you can use them to sustain multinational corporations and their quest for world domination.

To-date, Croatia is the only country in the world that completely forbids the growing of genetically modified crops and the production of foods containing such modifications. But, winds blow, and friends of mine who specialize in biodiversity say that the GM crops are encroaching on native species at the rate of seven miles per year. You can do your part by carefully seeding your garden with natural seeds so as to protect against the extinction of all that has sustained this Planet since its birth four billion years ago.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Posted on Monday, November 11, 2002 - 12:33 pm:   

The Institute of Science in Society Science Society Sustainability
General Enquiries Website/Mailing List ISIS Director

ISIS submitted written questions to the upcoming ‘Open Meeting’ of the Advisory Committee for Novel Food Products (ACNFP) in which horizontal gene transfer is to be discussed. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Director of ISIS, who has written substantially on the subject, and made frequent representations to the government, asked to be given time to present her case at the meeting, but her request was refused. She has accordingly submitted a written version of the case she would have presented (reproduced below), and asked for a "fulsome" response to it from the ACNFP at the ‘Open Meeting’.

Please circulate this as widely as possible as part of our contribution to the ‘National Debate’ on GM.


Recent Evidence Confirms Risks of Horizontal Gene Transfer
ISIS Contribution to ACNFP/Food Standards Agency Open Meeting 13 November 2002
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society, PO Box 32097, London NW1 0XR Tel: 202-7272-5636

Horizontal gene transfer is one of the most serious, if not the most serious hazard of transgenic technology. I have been drawing our regulators’ attention to it at least since 1996 [1], when there was already sufficient evidence to suggest that transgenic DNA in GM crops and products can spread by being taken up directly by viruses and bacteria as well as plant and animals cells.

The oft-repeated refrain that "transgenic DNA is just like ordinary DNA" is false. Transgenic DNA is in many respects optimised for horizontal gene transfer. It is designed to cross species barriers and to jump into genomes, and it has homologies to the DNA of many species and their genetic parasites (plasmids, transposons and viruses), thereby enhancing recombination with all of them [2]. Transgenic constructs contain new combinations of genes that have never existed, and they also amplify gene products that have never been part of our food chain [3].

The health risks of horizontal gene transfer include:

Antibiotic resistance genes spreading to pathogenic bacteria.
Disease-associated genes spreading and recombining to create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases.
Transgenic DNA inserting into human cells, triggering cancer.
The risk of cancer is highlighted by the recent report that gene therapy - genetic modification of human cells - claimed its first cancer victim [4]. The procedure, in which bone marrow cells are genetically modified outside the body and re-implanted, was previously thought to avoid creating infectious viruses and causing cancer, both recognized major hazards of gene therapy.

The transgenic constructs used in genetic modification are basically the same whether it is of human cells or of other animals and plants. An aggressive promoter from a virus is often used to boost the expression of the transgene, in animal and human cells, from the cytomegalovirus that infects mammalian cells, and in plants, the 35S promoter from the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) that infects Cruciferae plants.

Unfortunately, although the CaMV virus is specific for plants, its 35S promoter is active in species across the living world, human cells included, as we discovered in the scientific literature dating back to 1989. Plant geneticists who have incorporated the promoter into practically all GM crops now grown commercially are apparently unaware of this crucial information [5].

In 1999, another problem with the CaMV 35S promoter was identified: it has a ‘recombination hotspot’ where it tends to break and join up with other DNA [6]. Since then, we have continued to warn our regulators that the CaMV 35S promoter will be extra prone to spread by horizontal gene transfer and recombination [7-9]. The recent controversy over the transgenic contamination of the Mexican landraces [10] hinges on observations suggesting that the transgenic DNA with the CaMV 35S promoter is "fragmenting and promiscuously scattering throughout the genome" of the landraces, observations that would be consistent with our expectations [11].

Similarly, I was not surprised by the research results released earlier this year by the Food Standards Agency [12], indicating that transgenic DNA from GM soya flour, eaten in a single hamburger and milk shake meal, was found transferred to the bacteria in the gut contents from the colostomy bags of human volunteers.

What I found unacceptable was the way the Agency dismissed the findings and downplayed the risks. The comments, "it is extremely unlikely that genes from genetically modified (GM) food can end up in bacteria in the gut of people who eat them", and "the findings had been assessed by several Government experts who had ruled that humans were not at risk", are seriously misleading.

First, the experimental design stacked the odds heavily against finding a positive result. For example, the probe for transgenic DNA covered only a tiny fraction of the entire construct. So, only a correspondingly tiny fraction of the actual transfers would ever be detected, especially given the well-known tendency of transgenic constructs to fragment and rearrange.

Second, the scope of the investigation was intentionally restricted. There was no attempt to check for transgenic DNA in the blood and blood cells, even though scientific reports dating back to the early 1990s had already indicated transgenic DNA could pass through the intestine and the placenta, and become incorporated into the blood cells, liver and spleen cells and cells of the foetus and newborn [13].

The observation in the FSA report [12] that no transgenic DNA was found in the faeces of the ‘healthy volunteers’, far from being reassuring, raises the worrying possibility that the transgenic DNA has all been taken up into the intestinal cells and/or passed into the bloodstream.

Third, no attempt was made to address the limitations of the detection method and the scope of the investigation, which grossly underestimated the extent and frequency of horizontal gene transfer, and hence failed completely in assessing the real risks. On the contrary, false assurances were made that "humans were not at risk".

Another research project on horizontal gene transfer commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), the predecessor to the Food Standards Agency, concerns Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the soil bacterium that causes crown gall disease, which has been developed as a major gene transfer vector for making transgenic plants. Foreign genes are typically spliced into T-DNA - part of a plasmid called Ti (tumour-inducing) – that’s integrated into plant genome.

It turns out that Agrobacterium injects T-DNA into plant cells in a process that strongly resembles conjugation, ie, mating between bacterial cells; and all the necessary signals and genes involved are interchangeable with those for conjugation [14].

That means transgenic plants created by T-DNA vector system have a ready route for horizontal gene escape, via Agrobacterium, helped by the ordinary conjugative mechanisms of many other bacteria that cause diseases [15].

A report submitted to MAFF in 1997 had indeed raised the possibility that Agrobacterium tumefaciens could be a vector for gene escape [16, 17].

The researchers found that it was extremely difficult to get rid of the Agrobacterium used in the vector system after transformation.

High rates of gene transfer are known to be associated with the plant root system and the germinating seed [18]. There, Agrobacterium could multiply and transfer transgenic DNA to other bacteria, as well as to the next crop plant.

Agrobacterium was also found to transfer genes into several types of human cells [19], and in a manner similar to that which it uses to transform plant cells.

We have submitted two relevant ISIS reports together with some specific questions to the ACNFP for consideration at the November 13 Open Meeting [20].

All the risks of horizontal gene transfer described above are real, and far outweigh any potential benefits that GM crops can offer. There is no case for allowing any commercial release of GM crops and food products.

The following experiments and tests should be done to address the risks of horizontal gene transfer.
Feeding experiments similar to those carried out by Dr. Arpad Pusztai’s team should be done, using well-characterized transgenic soya and/or maize meal feed, with full, adequate, monitoring for transgenic DNA in the faeces, blood and blood cells, and post-mortem histological examinations that include tracking transfer of transgenic DNA into the genome of cells. As an added control, nontransgenic DNA from the same GM feed sample should also be monitored.
Feeding trials on human volunteers should be carried out using well-characterized transgenic soya and/or maize meal feed, with full, adequate monitoring for transgenic DNA in the faeces, blood and blood cells. Also as an added control, nontransgenic DNA from the same GM feed sample should also be monitored.
The stability of transgenic plants in successive generations should be systematically investigated, especially for those containing CaMV 35S promoter, using adequate quantitative molecular techniques.
Full molecular characterisation of all transgenic lines must be carried out to establish uniformity and genetic stability of the insert(s).
All transgenic plants created by the Agrobacterium T-DNA vector system should be tested for the persistence of the bacteria and vectors. The soil in which they have been grown should also be monitored for gene escape to soil bacteria. And the potential for horizontal gene transfer to the next crop via the germinating seed and root system should be carefully monitored.
References and Notes
Correspondences between myself and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and Health and Safety Executive, going back to 1996.
See Ho MW. Horizontal Gene Transfer. The Hidden Hazards of Genetic Engineering, TWN Biotechnology Series, Third World Network, 2001 (available fom the ISIS online store); also Ho MW. Horizontal gene transfer and genetic engineering, SCOPES website, AAAS, 2000.
Ho MW. Briefing to the Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher, Minister for the Environment on the Special Safety Concerns of Transgenic Agriculture and Related Issues. April 1999 ; published in Seminario Internacional sobtre Direcito da Biodiversidade, Revista cej: Centro de estudos Judiciarios do Conselho da Justica Federal, Brasil, pp.120-6, 1999.
Science, News of the Week, 4 October 2002; see also "Predicted hazard of gene therapy a reality" by Mae-Wan Ho, ISIS Report, October 2002
"GM maize approved on bad science in the UK" by Mae-Wan Ho, Science in Society 2002, 15, 10-25.
Kohli A.,Griffiths S, Palacios N, Twyman R, Vain P, Laurie D and Christou P. Molecular characterization of transforming plasmid rearrangements in transgenic rice reveals a recombination hot spot in the CaMV 35S promoter and confirms the predominance of microhomology mediated recombination" Plant.J. 1999, 17,591-601.
Ho MW, Ryan A and Cummins J. Cauliflower mosaic viral promoter – a recipe for Disaster? Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 1999 11, 194-7.
Ho MW, Ryan A and Cummins J. Hazards of transgenic plants with the cauliflower mosaic viral promoter. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 2000, 12, 6-11.
Ho MW, Ryan A and Cummins J. CaMV35S promoter fragmentation hotspot confirmed and it is active in animals. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 2000, 12, 189.
Quist D and Chapela IH. Transgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nature 2001, 414, 541-3, 2001.
"Astonishing denial of transgenic contamination" by Mae-Wan Ho, Science in Society 2002, 15, 13-14.
Netherwood T, Martin-Orue SM, O'Donnell AG, Gockling S, Gilbert HJ and Mathers JC. Transgenes in genetically modified Soya survive passage through the small bowel but are completely degraded in the colon. Technical report on the Food Standards Agency project G010008 "Evaluating the risks associated with using GMOs in human foods"- University of Newcastle.
Doerfler, W. and Schubbert, R. (1998). Uptake of foreign DNA from the environment: the gastroinestinal tract and the placenta as portals of entry, Wien Klin Wochenschr. 110, 40-44.p. 40.
Ferguson GC and Heinemann JA. Recent history of trans-kingdom conjugation. In Horizontal Gene Transfer 2nd ed. (ed. M Syvanen & CI Kado), pp 3-17, Academic Press, San Diego, 2002.
Ho MW. What’s unspeakable in horizontal gene transfer? Heredity (in press); "Averting sense for nonsense" by Mae-Wan Ho, Science in Society 2002, 16, 29-30.
McNicole et al (1997) The Possibility of Agrobacterium as a Vehicle for Gene Escape. MAFF. R&D and Surveillance Report: 395.
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.
Sengelov G, Kristensen KJ, Sorensen AH, Kroer N, and Sorensen SJ. Effect of genomic location on horizontal transfer of a recombinant gene cassette between Pseudomonas strains in the rhizosphere and spermosphere of barley seedlings. Current Microbiology 2001, 42, 160-7.
Kunik T, Tzfira T, Kapulnik Y, Gafni Y, Dingwall C, and Citovsky V. Genetic transformation of HeLa cells by Agrobacterium. PNAS USA, 2001, 98, 1871-87; also, "Common plant vector injects genes into human cells", ISIS News 2002, 11/12, p. 10
"Stacking the odds against finding it" and "Averting sense for nonsense" by Mae-Wan Ho. Science in Society 2002, 16, 28-30.
The questions first submitted to FSA 22 July 2002 were as follows:
Why were the transgenic soya samples so poorly characterised in terms of GM content, structure of transgenic insert(s), states of degradation, etc.?
Why was only one meal administered and monitored?
Why was only one small fragment of the entire insert subject to PCR amplification, knowing that this would drastically underestimate the presence of transgenic DNA?
Why did the researchers make what they know to be unjustified assumption that transgenic DNA was absent in negative samples?
Why did the researchers not monitor for transgenic DNA in blood and blood cells, when they are fully aware of previous research in mice showing that transgenic DNA can indeed get into the blood, and from there to other cells of the body?
Why was such a bad piece of research accepted by the FSA, and worse, misinterpreted to indicate that GM foods are acceptable, when all the indications are that the extent of horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA is most likely to be much more extensive than the data indicate?


This article can be found on the I-SIS website at

The Institute of Science in Society, PO Box 32097, London NW1 OXR
telephone: [44 20 8731 7714] [44 20 7383 3376] [44 20 7272 5636]

General Enquiries - Website/Mailing List - ISIS Director

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Posted on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 12:34 am:   

Dear UCS Member,

Five hundred thousand bushels of soybeans in Nebraska have been
quarantined because the biotech company ProdiGene allowed
pharmaceutical-producing corn to contaminate the soybean harvest.

This incident reinforces the need for a strong regulatory system
overseeing pharm crops. Until a new system is in place, tell the USDA
that it should impose at least a one-year moratorium on field tests
and commercial production of engineered pharmaceutical and industrial
crops and seriously consider banning the use of engineered food crops
to produce drugs and chemicals.

Hit reply to send the letter below. If you'd like to edit this
letter, go to the UCS Action Center,

Additional information:
UCS November 13, 2002 press release
UCS Pharmaceutical crop report


William T. Hawks
Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs
US Department of Agriculture
Whitten Building, Room 228-W
14th and Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Mr. Hawks:

I strongly urge the USDA to act on behalf of public health and halt
field trials and commercial production of genetically engineered
pharmaceutical and industrial crops for at least a year, until the
federal government has sought advice from the scientific community
and the public and has put in place a strong, transparent regulatory
system for ensuring that the food supply will not be contaminated by
these crops. The USDA should also seriously consider banning
engineered food crops for the production of drugs and industrial

The recent revelation that pharm corn contaminated a half-million
bushels of soybeans heightens my concern that this industry is
outpacing the government's ability to control risks. The failure of a
leading biopharm company, Prodigene, to properly confine its
engineered corn confirms the vulnerability of the food supply to
contamination by drugs, vaccines, and industrial chemicals produced
in engineered food crops.


[Your name and address will be inserted]


If you have questions, comments or concerns about this action, send
email to -- replying to this action will send the

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | Help/Instructions | Program Credits Administration