GM Science Review - Comments on First Report

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Name: Samantha Neil Location (optional): Date: 21 September 2003
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In one paragraph your report states that 'Gene flow between crop varieties is inevitable' Page 204

And in another 'The feasibility of establishing a separate supply and production chain for GM and non-GM crops is dependent on our understanding of the crops themselves and how the genes move.' Page 209

Which means that contamination and proliferation of GM into non-GM crops is inevitable. And that you really do not know how it is possible for the crops to co-exist. Simply put, the commercialisation of GM would be the end of organic farming. Since Organic farmers could not guarantee that their produce was free from GMO.

'Gene flow between crop varieties is inevitable' means that consumers loose their right to choose.

Our ancestors and todays farmers deliberately select genetic traits to increase yield and productivity. But this did not happen overnight, it is a process that works relatively within the bounds of what occurs in the natural environment. As it takes advantage of the natural genetic diversity that already exists. It uses the evolutionary process: It slowly increases advantageous natural traits and characteristics. And this breeding would have been physically possible in the natural environment anyway. The process of breeding ensures that the rest of the genetic code is stable and well rounded, functions normally, within the bounds of what is physically and naturally possible. If something goes wrong genetically, the process aborts and man can't do much about it. The genetic code is not altered so radically that there is a stark difference in characteristics of the next generation. The process of breeding naturally takes account of genetic complexity, even if man chooses the partners. But, what I understand from your report, is that there are no such safeguards with GM technology. Since the manipulation of one gene, can affect others around it. Which in turn, can profoundly alter the overall characteristics expressed by the organism. Perhaps this might seem to be acceptable to do in controlled conditions. Where the effects can be contained if the worst should happen. Your report translated as, genetically modified organisms are capable of interbreeding and can mutate when released into the natural environment. They have the potential to damage us, wildlife and the natural environment. They are something that we do not understand very well and cannot control.

Conventional methods of selecting for the best genetic traits through breeding, have been tried and tested over the past 11 thousand years (approximately 9 000 BCE development of agriculture Middle East). This method of farming has gone on perfectly safely and without incident. It has provided us with all the food we want.

Then 21 whole years ago, a giant profit making company genetically modified the first plant cell. Since then, we have heard about super-resistant strains of GM plants cause serious problems in Canada: GM potatoes are found to be accidentally highly toxic: And a study by an eminent scientist which said that genetically modified food fed to mice, damaged their immune systems. etc.

'Can plant-virus-derived transgenes recombine with, and be transferred to viruses? If horizontal gene transfer is possible between GM plants and viruses could this result in new viruses that could cause irrecoverable damage to the ecosystem or to crops?' 7.5 Page 235

'Could transgenes (or parts of their DNA sequences) in food survive digestion and behave differently in comparison to traditional foodstuffs in their ability to relocate, recombine or modify the consumer's genome or that of associated gut microflora? If so, would this pose an increased risk to health compared to the consumption of non-GM derived food?' 5.4 Page 90

The answer is that we do not know. At least, that is the overall impression your report gives.

That we really do not know. And we do not have to have to risk it.

There really is absolutely no need at all for consumers to be subjected to this risk...unless you are the company who has developed this technology and would do anything to market it...

From an outsiders point of view, reading about experimentation with viruses and bacteria for the purposes your report describes, is be quite shocking. But. . .they actually expect people would be eat this?

'The scientific literature on DNA fate includes a series of papers that demonstrate significant persistence of DNA following its consumption. It is important to emphasise that these studies are not focused on transgenes and they are relevant to the fate of all consumed DNA. This data suggests that intact DNA may survive in the gastro-intestinal tract, cross the gut epithelium, enter the blood stream and interact with mammalian cells.' Page 93.

But the government actually proposes to release this into the environment, an allow it to be fed to our children? That 'scientists' would even risk this, when we have perfectly safe and healthy food to eat, is very strange.

On the basis of the evidence we have, which is rather sketchy: The very least your report appears to recommend, is that since we do not really know, it would be prudent to treat GMO with extreme caution. Which means, not growing GM crops commercially. And certainly not eating them.

Finally, there is the matter of whether it is right to alter the structure of nature to better suit ourselves, at all. Some people, Tony Blair for example, say we should judge GM on the basis of the science alone. Although on that, they would be defeated: Since we do not know enough, and perhaps we presume too much. But the reality is, we cannot judge this on the science alone. Like a gene in an organism, science is not an insular entity. It is very important to remember that science will always be less than nature. Failure is the presumption to believe we can control that which created us.

Samantha Neil