GE NEWS ARCHIVE
Mothers for Natural Law
References on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
Please notethis is a quick extract of references from email reports. It is not comprehensive, but it does serve to indicate the scientific grounds for concern.
For website references, please visit our links page.
Salient Points: "Overall, the pesticide reduction benefits have been overstated, the ecological risks under researched and reported, and the economic costs and benefits miscalculated. The technology has been misrepresented in ways that suggest genetic improvement can take the place of management and skill in solving pest problems. This may explain, in part, why farmers have so readily adopted the technology to the degree they have.
Bacheler, J.S., Bollguard Bt Cotton, from Carolina Cotton Notes CCN-00-3D March 23, 2000, Extension Entomologist, North Carolina State University
Salient Point: "Interestingly, when one takes the average projected Bollgard technology fee, insecticide and application costs, differences in late season damage and increased scouting costs for Bollgard cotton into consideration, overall average projected costs and returns for the two systems are nearly identical. Individual producer costs would likely need to be adjusted to account for their particular situations." [No direct comment on yields - Webmaster]
Larson, E. Corn, from Agronomy Notes, March 8, 2000, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Salient Point: "Preliminary research data and industry yield trials suggest the inclusion of a Bt event does not increase hybrid yield potential, as compared a closely related conventional isoline in the absence of corn borers. You would not likely recover the higher seed cost of the Bt technology (about $10 per acre) unless significant corn borer infestation is likely. Unfortunately, seasonal corn borer populations are not predictable; therefore, local historical infestation levels should be used to justify Bt hybrid use."
Liberty-resistant canola, from "Production and Protection of Combinable Break Crops", Aspects of Applied Biology 55, 1999
Salient Point: compared to conventional rape hybrids,
Ferrell, J.A., and Witt, W.W., Comparison of Weed Management Strategies with Roundup Ready Corn. Download PDF file.
Salient Points: Corn yield and net return in 1998 and 1999 at Lexington, KYno statistical differences among yield or net return occurred.
Duffy, M., and Ernst, Matt, 1999. Does planting GMO seed boost farmers' profits? Article online.
Salient Points: Farmers who did not use GMO soybean varieties in 1998 reported a slightly higher yield than those who used GMO varieties. The average yield for non-GMO soybeans was 51.21 bushels per acre; the average yield for GMO soybeans was 49.26. GMO soybeans had a return of $144.50 per acre versus a return of $145.75 for non-GMO soybeans.
In 1998, the average yield for Bt corn was 160.4 bushels per acre. The average yield for non-Bt corn was 147.7 bushels per acre. Farmers applied insecticides on 12 percent of their Bt corn fields at an average cost of $17.56 per acre. They applied insecticides on 18 percent of their non-Bt corn fields at an average cost of $14.94 per acre. Seed for Bt corn averaged $39.62 per acre, compared to $29.96 per acre for non-Bt corn. Bt fields had slightly higher weed control costs, averaging $2.82 per acre. Fertilizer costs were $5.02 per acre higher than non-Bt corn. When comparing gross revenue, total costs, and the return to land and labor between Bt and non-Bt corn, corn was valued at the 1998 average price of $1.90 per bushel. The total difference in return to land and labor was only $3.97 per acre.
Benbrook, C., 1999. Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal Trials in 1998. Benbrook Consulting Services, Sandpoint, Idaho, Ag BioTech InfoNet Technical Paper Number 1, July 13, 1999
Salient Points: This report reviews the results of over 8,200 university-based soybean varietal trials in 1998 and reaches the following conclusions regarding the magnitude of the RR soybean yield drag: (1) The yield drag between top RR varieties compared to top conventional varieties averages 4.6 bushels per acre, or 6.7 percent. (2) When comparing average yields across the top 5 varieties tested in 8 states, the yield drag averages 4.1 bushels, or 6.1 percent. (3) Across all varieties tested, the yield drag averages 3.1 bushels, or 5.3 percent. (4) In some areas of the Midwest, the best conventional variety sold by seed companies produces yields on average 10 percent or more higher than comparable Roundup Ready varieties sold by the same seed companies.
On whether RR soybean systems reduce pesticide use and increase grower profits, our analysis shows that: (1) RR soybean systems are largely dependent on herbicides and hence are not likely to reduce herbicide use or reliance. Claims otherwise are based on incomplete information or analytically flawed comparisons that do not tell the whole story. (2) Farmers growing RR soybeans used 2 to 5 times more herbicide measured in pounds applied per acre, compared to the other popular weed management systems used on most soybean fields not planted to RR varieties in 1998. RR herbicide use exceeds the level on many farms using multitactic Integrated Weed Management systems by a factor of 10 or more. (3) There is clear evidence that Roundup use by farmers planting RR soybeans has risen markedly in 1999 because of the emergence of a degree of tolerance to Roundup in several key weed species, shifts in weeds toward those less sensitive to Roundup, price cuts and aggressive marketing. (4) Roundup use on soybeans may well double from 1998 levels within the next few years. But if current trends continue in the way RR technology is used, the efficacy and market share of Roundup may then fall just as quickly. (5) The RR soybean yield drag and technology fee impose a sizable indirect tax on the income of soybean producers, ranging from a few percent where RR varieties work best to over 12 percent of gross income per acre.
Lappé, M.A., Bailey, E.B., Childress, C. and Setchell, K.D.R., 1999 Alterations in Clinically Important Phytoestrogens in Genetically Modified, Herbicide-Tolerant Soybeans. Journal of Medicinal Food, Vol 1., no. 4.
Salient Point: An overall reduction in phytoestrogen levels of 12-14 percent was observed in the genetically altered soybean strains.
Nordlee, J.D., Taylor, S.L., Townsend, J.A., Thomas, L.A. and Bush,, R.K., 1996. Identification of a Brazil nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 334(11), p. 726.
Salient Points: The soya bean was genetically engineered with genes from the brazil nut and the blood serum of people known to be allergic to brazil nuts showed and allergic response to the GE soybean in 7 out of 9 cases. Researchers concluded that the allergenicity had been transferred with the transferred gene.
Saxena, D., Flores, S., Stotzky, G., 1999. Transgenic plants: Insecticidal toxin in root exudates from Bt corn. Nature 402, 480.
Salient Points: "Bt corn is corn (Zea mays) that has been genetically modified to express insecticidal toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to kill lepidopteran pests feeding on these plants. Here we show that Bt toxin is released into the rhizosphere soil in root exudates from Bt corn.
"The insecticidal toxin produced by B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki remains active in the soil, where it binds rapidly and tightly to clays and humic acids. The bound toxin retains its insecticidal properties and is protected against microbial degradation by being bound to soil particles, persisting in various soils for at least 234 days (the longest time studied), as determined by larvicidal bioassay. Unlike the bacterium, which produces the toxin in a precursor form, Bt corn contains an inserted truncated cry1Ab gene that encodes the active toxin."
Tapp, H. and Stotzky, G., 1998. Persistence of the Insecticidal Toxin from Bt subsp. Kurstaki in Soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Vol. 30, No. 4, p. 471-476.
Koskella, J. and Stotzky, G., 1997. Microbial Utilization of Free and Clay-Bound Insecticidal Toxins from Bt and Their Retention of Insecticidal Activity after Incubation with Microbes. Applied and Env. Microbiology, Sept. 1997, p. 3561-3568.
Salient Points: The Bt toxin is a large protein molecule which had been considered too large to cross the root membrane. During the research, the team grew GM seedlings in the laboratory for 25 days. Each plant produced on average 105 microgrammes of protein. This protein was tested against larvae of the tobacco hornworm. Up to 95 per cent of the larvae died after five days with 50 per cent killed at a dose of just 5.2 microgrammes of protein.
Reddy, S.A. and Thomas, T.L., 1996. Expression of a cyanobacteria delta 6-desaturase gene results in gamma-linolenic acid production in transgenic plants. Nature Biotechnol. 14: 629-42.
Hill, H.R., 1994. OSU Study Finds Genetic Altering of Bacterium Upsets Natural Order. The Oregonian, August 8, 1994
Salient Points: A genetically engineered bacterium developed to aid in the production of ethanol, produced residues which rendered the land infertile. New corn crops planted on this soil grew three inches tall and fell over dead.
Ewen, S.W.B and Pusztai, A., 1999. Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine. Lancet, Volume 354, Number 9187, 16 October 1999.
Salient Points: Diets containing genetically modified (GM) potatoes expressing the lectin Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) had variable effects on different parts of the rat gastrointestinal tract. Some effects, such as the proliferation of the gastric mucosa, were mainly due to the expression of the GNA transgene. However, other parts of the construct or the genetic transformation (or both) could also have contributed to the overall biological effects of the GNA-GM potatoes, particularly on the small intestine and caecum.
Birch, A.N.E., Geoghegan, I.E., Majerus, M.E.N., McNicol, J.W., Hackett, C.A., Gatehouse, A.M.R., Gatehouse, J.A. 1999. Tri-trophic interactions involving pest aphids, predatory 2-spot ladybirds and transgenic potatoes expressing snowdrop lectin for aphid resistance. Molecular Breeding 5(1): 75-83, 1999
Salient Points: Ladybugs life-span and fertility suffer when eating aphids that have been fed genetically engineered potatoes.
Losey, J.E., Rayor, L.S., and Carter, M.E., 1999. Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae. Nature 399:214.
Hilbeck, A., Baumgartner, M., Fried, P.M., and Bigler, F., 1998. Effects of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis corn fed prey on the mortality and development time of immature Chrysoperla carnea (Neuroptera Chrysopidae). Environmental Entomology 27 (2) 480-487.
Salient Points: Green lacewings suffered a two-thirds increase in death rate when they fed on army worms eating corn engineered to contain a bacteria toxic to crop pests.
Inose, T., and Murata, K. 1995. Enhanced accumulation of toxic compound in yeast cells having high glycolytic activity: a case study on the safety of genetically engineered yeast. International Journal of Food Science and Technology, Vol. 30, p. 141.
Salient Points: A yeast was engineered to produce high levels of enzymes that are important in the breakdown of sugar. It was found that concentrations of a toxic and mutagenic product of the breakdown process, methyl gloxal (MG) were 30 times higher compared to the original strain. The scientists concluded:
"....in genetically engineered yeast cells, the metabolism is significantly disturbed by the introduced genes or their gene products and the disturbance brings about accumulation of the unwanted toxic compound MG in cells. Such accumulation of highly reactive MG may cause damage in the DNA, thus suggesting that the concept of 'substantially equivalent' for the safety assessment of genetically engineered food is not always applied to genetically engineered microbes....."
D'Arcy, P.F., 1995. L-tryptophan: eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. Adverse drug reactions and Toxicological review, Vol. 14, p.37.
Mayeno, A.N., and Gleich, G.J., 1994. Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome and tryptophan production: a cautionary tale. TIBTECH, Vol. 12, p. 346.
Brenneman, D.E., Page, S.W., Schultzberg, M., Thomas, F.S., Zelazowski, P., Burnet, P., Avidor, R., and Sternberg, E.M., 1993. A decomposition product of a contaminant implicated in l-tryptophan eosinophilia myalgia syndrome affects spinal cord neuronal cell death and survival through stereospecific, maturation and partly interleukin-1-dependent mechanisms. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 266(2), 1029-1035, 1993.
Love, L.A., Rader, J.I., Crofford, L.J., Raybourne, R.B., Principato, M.A., Page, S.W., Trucksess, M.W., Smith, M.J., Dugan, E.M., Turner, M.L., Zelazowski, E., Zelazowski, P., and Sternberg, E.M., 1993. Pathological and immunological effects of ingesting l-tryptophan and 1, 1-ethylidenebis (l-tryptophan) in Lewis rats. Journal of Clinical Investigation, Inc., 91, 804-811, March 1993.
Raphals, P., 1990. Does medical mystery threaten biotech? Science, 249, 619, 1990.
Raphals, P., 1990. EMS deaths: Is recombinant DNA technology involved? The Medical Post, Maclean-Hunter, Toronto, 16, November 6, 1990.
Also visit the NLP Canada L-Tryptophan page.
Emberlin, J., Adams-Groom, B., and Tidmarsh, J., 1999. A Report on the Dispersal of Maize Pollen. National Pollen Research Unit, University College, Worcester WR2 6 AJ, England., January (1999).
Snow, A., and Jorgensen, R., 1998 Costs of transgenic glufosinate resistance introgressed from Brassica napus into weedy Brassica rapa. Abstract of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Baltimore, Md., August 6, 1998
Salient Points: The transgene picked up by seeds through cross-pollination does not decrease fertility in the resulting plants.
Dove, A., et al., 1998. Research news: promiscuous pollination. Nature Biotechnology 16:805, September 1998.
MacArthur, M., 1998. Resistant canola expected. Western Producer, 15 October 1998.
Salient Points: Canola can outcross, producing 5-6% contaminated plants up to 400m away.
MacArthur, M., 1998. Canola crossbreeds create tough weed problem. Western Producer, 15 October 98.
Bergelson, J., Purrington, C.B., 1998. Promiscuity in Transgenic Plants. Nature 3 September 1998, p. 25.
Salient Points: Transgenic A. thaliana were roughly 20 times more likely to outcross than ordinary mutants. The results show that genetic engineering can substantially increase the probability of transgene escape even in a species considered to be almost completely selfing. The genetic mechanism behind this phenomenon is not known.
Metz, P. L. J., Jacobsen, E., Nap, J. P., Pereira, A., and Stiekema, W. J., 1997. The impact on biosafety of the phosphinothricin-tolerance transgene in inter-specific B. rapa x B. napus hybrids and their successive backcrosses. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 95, 442-450.
Kling, J., 1996. Could transgenic Supercrops One Day Breed Superweeds. Science, Vol.274, pp.180-181.
Mikkelson, T., et al., 1996. The Risk of Crop Transgene Spread. Nature, 1996, 380:31.
Greenpeace [Charles Margulis, Greenpeace USA, (212) 865-5645] (1998) Genetically Engineered Corn Contaminates Neighboring Crop. Press Release (?) Amsterdam/Hamburg, October 12, 1998.
Salient Points: Corn cobs up to 10 meters away from the GE-field were taken by the Freiburger Institut fnr Umweltchemie e.V. and analyzed by Gene-Scan for the foreign DNA of the Novartis corn. Analysis indicates that the rate of cross-pollination was around 5% at the field border, 0,2% at 5 meters and 0,1% at 10 meters distance. A detailed description of the sampling and analysis is available from Greenpeace upon request.
Timmons, A.M., et al., (1996) Risks from transgenic crops. Nature Vol 380. p 487.
Salient Points: Research in Scotland has found cross-pollination from GE canola 2.5km away from test sites.
Eady, C., Twell, D., and Lindsey, K., 1995. Pollen viability and transgene expression following storage in honey. Transgenic Research Vol. 4. pp.226-231.
Salient Points: A study by researchers at the University of Leicester has found that in honey, pollen DNA and proteins can remain intact after seven weeks in honey.
Huang, F., Buschman, L.L., Higgins, R.A. and McGaughey, W.H., 1999. Inheritance of resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (Dipel ES) in the european corn borer. Science284:965-967.
Salient Points: Resistance in ECB is dominant. In other pest lepidopteran species, resistance varies from recessive to incompletely dominant. Furthermore, resistance also varies between types of Bt endotoxins.
Additional Points: When Bt hybrids first came out, producers were told to hold back a 5% refugia (to plant to a non-Bt hybrid). Then it was 10%, and now it is most commonly recommended as 20% (plan submitted to the US EPA by Monsanto, Mycogen, Dow Agrosciences, Novartis, and Pioneer Hi-Bred; AgNews, 23 Apr 99; also by the Bt Corn Coalition to the Plant Biotechnology Office of the CFIA in October 1998), although some are calling for 40%. Clark, E.A., 1999.
Coghlan, A., 1999. Gone with the wind. New Scientist, April 17. p. 25.
Nielsen, K.M., et al., 1998. Horizontal gene transfer from transgenic plants to terrestrial bacteria - a rare event? FEMS Microbiological Reviews 22: 79-103.
Wostemayer, J., et al., 1997. Horizontal gene transfer in the rhizosphere: a curiosity or a driving force in evolution? Adv. Bot. Res. Incorp. Adv. Plant Pathol. 24: 399-429
Chevre, A.M., et al., 1997. Gene flow from transgene crops. Nature 389:924
Harding, K., 1996. The potential for horizontal gene transfer within the environment. Agro Food Ind. Hi-Tech. 7:31-35.
Mikkelson, T.R., et al., 1996. The risk of crop transgene spread. Nature 380:31
Lorenz, M.G. and Wackernagel, W., 1994. Bacterial gene transfer by natural genetic transformation in the environment. Microbiol. 156: 319-326
Dreiseikelmann, B., 1994. Translocation of DNA across bacterial membranes. Microbiol. Rev. 58: 293-316.
Green, A.E., and Allison, R.F., 1994. Viruses and transgenic crops. Science 263:1423-1424.
Kidwell, M.G., 1993. Lateral transfer in natural populations of eukaryotes. Annu. Rev. Genet. 27: 235-256
Heinemann, J.A., 1991. Genetics of gene transfer between species. Trends Genet. 7:181-185.
Stachel, S.E., and Zambryski, P.C., 1989. Generic trans-kingdom sex? Nature 340: 190-191
Borja, M., Rubio, T., Scholtof, H. and Jackson, A., 1999. Restoration of wild-type virus by double recombination of tomusvirus mutants with a host transgene. Mol. Plant MicrobeInteract 12, 153-62.
Gebhard, F., and Smalla, K., 1998. Transformation of Acinetobacter sp. Strain BD413 by Transgenic Sugar Beet DNA. Appl Environ Microbiol, April 1998, p. 1550-1554, Vol. 64, No. 4.
Salient Points: Demonstration of deleted gene restoration. The bacterium Acinetobacter with gene npII deleted was able to take up and integrate npII (and other genetic material) from transgenic sugar beet through homologous recombination. Available online.
Wintermantel, W.M., and Schoelz, J.E., 1996. Isolation of recombinant viruses between cauliflower mosaic virus and a viral gene in transgenic plants under conditions of moderate selection pressure. Virology 223, 156-64.
Greene, A.E., and Allison, R.F., 1994. Recombination between viral RNA and transgenic plant transcripts. Science 263, 1423-5.
Gal, S., Pisan, B., Hohn, T., Grimsley, N. and Hohn, B., 1992. Agroinfection of transgenic plants leads to viable cauliflower mosaic virus by intramolecular recombination. Virology 187, 525-33.
New Scientist, January 30, 1999. Can we really stomach GM foods? Gut reaction.
Salient Points: Fears that genes for antibiotic resistance could jump from genetically modified foods to bacteria in the gut may be fuelled by new research from the Netherlands. The results show that DNA lingers in the intestine, and confirm that genetically modified bacteria can transfer their antibiotic-resistance genes to bacteria in the gut. Using an "artificial gut", the Dutch researchers showed that DNA remains intact for several minutes in the large intestine. "It was a surprise to see that DNA persisted so long in the colon," says Hub Noteborn of the State Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products in Wageningen, who helped organise the research.
Shubbert, R., et al., 1998. Ingested foreign (phage M13) DNA survives transiently in the gastrointestinal tract and enters the bloodstream of mice. Mol. Gen. Genet 242: 495-504.
Salient Points: Fragments of artificial genes inserted into foods were detected in the brain cells of baby mice.
Doerfler, W., and Schubbert, R., 1998. Uptake of foreign DNA from the environment: the gastrointestinal tract and the placenta as portals of entry. Wien Klin Wochenschr, 110(2):40-4.
Salient Points: Foreign DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is part of our environment. Considerable amounts of foreign DNA of very different origin are ingested daily with food. In a series of experiments we fed the DNA of bacteriophage M13 as test DNA to mice and showed that fragments of this DNA survive the passage through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in small amounts (1-2%). Food-ingested M13 DNA reaches peripheral white blood cells, the spleen and liver via the intestinal epithelia and cells in the Peyer's patches of the intestinal wall. There is evidence to assume that food-ingested foreign DNA can become covalently linked to mouse-like DNA. When M13 DNA is fed to pregnant mice the test DNA can be detected in cells in various organs of the fetuses and of newborn animals, but never in all cells of the mouse fetus. It is likely that the M13 DNA is transferred by the transplacental route and not via the germ line.
Report on Public Health Aspects of the Use of Bovine Somatotrophin1516 March 1999on the website of the European Commission. This report includes over 150 references.
Chan, J.M., et al., 1998. Plasma insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and prostate cancer risk: A prospective study. Science 279:23.
Gebauer, G., et al., 1998. mRNA expression of components of the insulin-like growth factor system in breast cancer cell lines, tissues, and metastatic breast cancer cells. Anti-cancer Res. 18:2A 1191-5.
Hawkinson, S.E., et al., 1998. Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor 1 and risk of breast cancer. Lancet 352: 1393-6.
Outwater, J.L., et al., 1997. Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF-1, estrogen and BGH hypothesis. Med. Hypotheses 48: 453-61.
Prosser, C.G., et al., 1989. Increased secretion of insulin-like growth factor-1 into milk of cows treated with recombinantly derived bovine growth hormone. J. Dairy Sci. 56:17-26.
Suurkula, Jaan. Junk DNA - a brief presentation of papers which shed light on junk DNA.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 4, 2000. 'Junk DNA': Why do we have it? What does it do?; It may be useless; it may be vital, but not yet understood.
Salient Points: The human genome contains 3.15 billion bases. Despite the announcement that the human genome has been fully mapped, the human genome is full of sequences scientists do not understand. This residue, called "junk DNA" by some researchers, constitutes 95-97% of the genome. Some scientists consider the junk DNA useless, others think it has a purpose that has not yet been discovered.
The Village Voice, 10 March, 1998. "The End of Nature - From Banana Vaccines to Fast-Growing Fish: DNA Lets Scientists Play God", by Mark Schoofs.
Salient Points: "Something curious happened when a synthetic gene was inserted into the sweet potato. The protein content soared, but the new gene accounted for only a small fraction of this boost. Somehow, the sweet potato's natural protein genes shifted into high gear. How? Tuskegee University's C.S. Prakash, who helped develop this super sweet potato, chuckles, 'We have no idea.'"
Washington Times, March 11, 1997. Before there was dolly, there were disasters scientist failed to disclose abnormalities..
Salient Points: A year before the world was introduced to Dolly, Scottish researcher Ian Wilmut reported the successful "cloning" of two other ewes in a scientific journal but failed to disclose that the experiment also produced three lambs with malformed kidneys. The report, in Nature magazine last March, said three of five lambs born in the experiment died soon after birth. It did not discuss the medical problems that caused their deaths.