GE Free Northland,1th July  2003

Biotech lobby wants "don't look - don't find" strategy backed by ERMA so public and scientists are left in the dark.

Responding to the challenge to present evidence that New Zealand's longest-running trial of GE sheep and other transgenic field-experiments presented negligible risks, the LSN has now altered its tune. Admitting there has been no research on the site the LSN now support a "don't look don't find" strategy that serves their interests but not that of New Zealand's biosecurity.

Following the challenge to publish scientific evidence in support of their claims of 'negligible risk', (see "Time for industry to get honest on GE claims." 5.6.03) the LSN now admit their claims of safety are not based on research but on the lack of research. But instead of wanting to learn more the lobby group says the absence of evidence means there must be no problem.

This is a nonsense that betrays the fundamentally unscientific approach being promoted by segments of industry pushing for environmental release of GE organisms and sanctioned by ERMA. 

"They have done no research, and then simply claim safety because there is no evidence. It is the blind leading the blind,' says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

The LSN have asked what evidence the community has on transfer of transgenes to other organisms at Whakamaru? It is for ERMA to be investigating to guide their decision-making, not the public they are meant to protect.

The LSN also claim that if there has been a transfer of transgenes, the transferred genes must be shown to have conferred some sort of selective advantage on the other organisms with a defined risk.

"In the absence of scientific studies which establish such a risk to a point of serious consideration it does not make sense to undertake expensive research to establish the absence of something" says Francis Wevers, Executive Director at LSN.

GE Free NZ in food and environment reject this attitude as serving the interests of big business not good science. The lack of data is outrageous as is ERMA's failure to require research instead listening to industry opinion that is not based on evidence. There is no evidence because they haven't looked.

The concerns of local Maori have also been ignored. Since the collapse of PPL's project here, local people have asked how the land will be cleaned up so their children and grandchildren can one day live there.

ERMA has no data on the risk or how it might be ameliorated. They have failed once again to protect the public interest.

The CEO of ERMA- Bas Walker should resign unless he can show that his organisation is able to undertake genuine science following the precautionary principle, and can apply the law in ways which respect New Zealand cultural values, human rights, ethics and our brand image.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

Following is the open letter to the LSN and their response, plus the LSN original claims of safety.

GE Free NZ _ Open letter to Rolleston, Life Science Network 5.6.03

"Time for industry to get honest on GE claims."

GE Free would like to have the scientific study from LSN that says No risk from HGT at Whakamaru. It is exactly this point that we are asking for assurance on. 

Leading DNA expert, Prof. Alan Cooper of Oxford University recently revealed groundbreaking new DNA research that shows DNA has persisted in some soils for 400,000 years (1) yet the LSN assumption has been that DNA degrades rapidly. LSN is unequivocally assuring New Zealanders that there is no risk and asking GE-Free NZ to get their science right before rushing into print and we say " Please produce the evidence".

As Dr Rolleston fully knows the human AAT is part of the whole chromosome succinctly embedded in with its gene network, promoters, terminators and part of the cell that has evolved for humans. The transgenic sheep contain the hAAT gene as a foreign gene, this gene has been inserted into the sheep cell by fusing parasitic elements like viral and bacterial promoters, reporters terminators and antibiotic marker genes to the human AAT. Cells inserted with foreign genes and their promoters are far more unstable and more likely to be prone to horizontal gene transfer. In studies overseas these fusions of foreign viral and bacterial additions have been shown to persist in the soil and stomachs of animals and humans causing changes to the gut lining and bone marrow. (2).

Dr. Deborah Fass in 1997 of the Whitehead Institute said that "Retroviruses are a profound human medical problem. Natural retroviruses cause AIDS, leukemia, and other diseases in both humans and animals. But remodeled retroviruses, stripped of their ability to cause disease, can be ideal vehicles for gene therapy. 
Retroviruses are designed by nature to transport their genetic information into the nucleus, or command center, of the cells they infect. The retrovirus DNA inserts itself into the cell's DNA where it is duplicated every time the cell divides. In a natural infection, the retrovirus DNA eventually subverts the cell's command machinery, forcing it to make thousands of new virus particles". (3)

In reality in 2002 a therapy using this model was withdrawn. Two young boys undergoing gene therapy for severe combined immune deficiency disease (SCID) containing a remodeled mouse leukemia virus (MLV) coated with a protein from a virus that infects gibbons. in an effort to make it more effective. The two boys contracted mouse leukemia that can only have been a jump from the genetically engineered viral fusion. This proves that we need to know much more about retroviruses and their action as of yet it appears that they cannot be stripped of their ability to cause disease. There is the now the possibility that the MLV now has a human host creating a species jump and the creation of a new cancer being carried in those who were in contact with the children. (4)

In light of this scientific result from clinical testing in a human case, GE Free NZ would like to know if there is a similar link to the hAAT ram born in 1997. The ram sired from imported transgenic semen and died of an unknown disease that caused spongiform changes similar to Scrapie has it got anything to do with the insertion of the hAAT gene? It is a pity that the two other rams who died of similar unknown causes were not submitted for the required tests as they also might have shown that they also died of a spongiform disease that is related to the insertion of the foreign protein. (5)

There fore we yet again ask for the scientific data or studies into this seven year experiment that LSN has, so as to reassure our members that there is no risk from HGT at Whakamaru.

Claire Bleakley. (06) 3089842

1. Diverse Plant and Animal Genetic Records from Holocene and Pleistocene Sediments Eske Willerslev , Anders J. Hansen , Jonas Binladen , Tina B. Brand ,M.
Thomas P. Gilbert , Beth Shapiro , Mike Bunce , Carsten Wiuf , David A. Gilichinsky , Alan Cooper
2. RI Vazquez Padron et al (1999) Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice. Life Sciences, 64, 1897-1912. 
2. NH Fares and AK El-Sayed (1998) Fine structural changes in the ileum of mice fed on delta-endotoxin-treated potatoes and transgenic potatoes. Natural Toxins, 6, 219-233.
2 SWB Ewen an A Pusztai (1999) Effects of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine. The Lancet, 354, 1353-1354. 
2 Transgenes in GM soya survive passage through the human small bowel but are completely degraded in the colon (2002) Trudy Netherwood, susana M Martin-Oure, Anthony O'donnel, Sally Gockling, Harry Gilbert and John Mathers 
3. Whitehead Institute For Biomedical Research 1997-09-14
First Images Of Key Viral Protein Could Lead To New Strategies For Human
Gene Therapy 
'Bubble Boy' Gene Therapy Halted
... leukemia-like side effect from gene therapy that cured him of the rare
but deadly "bubble boy ... Gesture Your Mouse Goodbye. Last Battle ... a
type of virus that permanently invades ...

ERMA Annual reports on compliance of controls on GMF98001from PPL (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002)
Extra references:
Huang C Y, Ayliffe M A and Timmis J N, Direct measurement of the transfer
rate of chloroplast DNA into the nucleus.

Horizontal gene transfer of viral inserts from GM plants to viruses, Jonathan R Latham and Ricarda A Steinbrecher  LSN in response to a GE Free Press Release dated 22.5.03 entitled ERMA refuses soil-testing despite plan for more GE sheep  HGT claims unfounded 23 May LSN release �The risks of horizontal gene transfer from animal faeces is so low that most scientists around the world who know about this subject agree that the consequences of it ever happening are vanishingly small�, Chairman of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston said today.

�The accusations being made by GE Free NZ against PPL Therapeutics are irresponsible and unfounded speculation. They are nothing more than an attempt to create distrust. Claire Bleakley should come up with substantiated facts to justify the assertions she is making. Her inability to do so shows that she has no basis.

�This behaviour clearly repeats the irresponsible behaviour of certain anti-GE activists and we are inevitably going to see more of this in the coming months as we get closer to the moratorium expiring on applications for the commercial release of genetically modified organisms�, concluded Dr Rolleston.

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