Tag Archives: DNA

Extreme Genetic Engineering is here: man-made DNA

In a paper published today in the journal Science, the J. Craig Venter
Institute and Synthetic Genomics Inc announced the laboratory creation
of the world’s first self-reproducing organism whose entire genome was
built from scratch by a machine. Synthetic biology refers to the
construction of novel life-forms using synthetic DNA made from off-the-
shelf chemicals – a form of “extreme genetic engineering”.

ETC Group News Release 20 May 2010 www.etcgroup.org

Synthia is Alive and Breeding: Panacea or Pandora’s Box?

As Craig Venter announces lab-made life, ETC Group calls for Global
Moratorium on Synthetic Biology.

In a paper published today in the journal Science, the J. Craig Venter
Institute and Synthetic Genomics Inc announced the laboratory creation
of the world’s first self-reproducing organism whose entire genome was
built from scratch by a machine.(1) The construction of this synthetic
organism, anticipated and dubbed “Synthia” by the ETC Group three
years ago, will stir a firestorm of controversy over the ethics of
building artificial life and the implications of the largely unknown
field of synthetic biology.

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Legal setback for Monsanto in Argentine soy dispute

LUXEMBOURG, March 9 (Reuters)

U.S. biotech giant Monsanto’s (MON.N) EU patent on its Roundup Ready soybean seeds should not extend to cover imports of processed soybean meal into the 27-nation bloc, an adviser to Europe’s top court said.

The opinion from Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi must still be confirmed by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in a final ruling. But it is a setback for Monsanto in its legal battle to secure royalty payments on the use of its seeds.

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Traditional seed supply found to have GM DNA

If you read nothing else read this – April

What is new about the Gone to Seed report?

Gone to Seed reports, for the first time, that the traditional seed supply for important food crops is contaminated with DNA from genetically engineered crops. UCS tested six traditional varieties each from three crops—corn, soybeans, and canola—and found that most of them carry pieces of DNA from genetically engineered varieties.

Why is contamination of the traditional seed supply important?

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Bt crop: Insect-resistant crop variety engineered to produce an insect toxin originally found in a soil bacterium. YieldGard, NaturGard, KnockOut, and StarLink are trade names of some Bt-corn varieties.

DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid, the linear macromolecule that makes up the genetic material of most organisms. DNA usually exists as a double-stranded helix.

Gene: Functional unit of hereditary material usually carried on chromosomes and passed from parent to offspring. A gene codes for proteins (the molecules that are responsible, alone or in combination, for traits exhibited by plants such as seed color and shape, height, and insect resistance).

Genetic engineering: Molecular-level techniques capable of combining genes and regulatory sequences and transferring them into an organism. These techniques, which may be used to transfer genes between unrelated organisms or to remove and rearrange genes within a species, are also called  transgenic, gene splicing, and genetic modification techniques.

Herbicide-resistant variety: Plant variety resistant to the otherwise toxic effects of herbicides.

Pollen: Dust-like material, produced by the male parts of flowers, which contains male sex cells.

Primer set: Short pieces of DNA added to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) mixtures to “find” the pieces of target DNA that will be copied. Primer sets are synthesized to match sequences at the beginning and end of the target DNA, thereby defining the exact segment to be subsequently duplicated by a DNA-copying enzyme.

Traditional seeds represent the portion of the seed supply that is presumed not to be genetically engineered. Such seeds are important to conventional farmers exporting crops to countries that reject  genetic engineering; to organic farmers who are barred from using genetically engineered seeds; and to society as a whole as an insurance policy against the possibility that something might go awry with genetic engineering.

How did the contamination occur?

UCS is not sure. We do know that there are two major routes by which the DNA we detected could move into seed supplies: physical mixing  of seeds or seed parts, and pollen, which is carried by wind or insects to the female parts of plants and gives rise to new seeds. But we do not know whether seed mixing or pollen flow or both account for the engineered genetic material we found in traditional varieties in our study.

What kinds of genetically engineered elements are contaminating traditional varieties of seeds?

Again, we do not know. We could only test for a few genes—those that are used in popular herbicide- resistant and Bt varieties of genetically engineered crops—and we did detect some of those genes. But there are many other genes that could potentially contaminate traditional seeds that we could not test for. Gone to Seed lists hundreds of genes and traits that have been moved into varieties of soybeans, corn, and canola, such as genes added to corn to produce drugs for people and animals and to alter the crop’s starch, oil, and protein makeup.

If corn, soybeans, and canola are safe to eat, why would anyone be concerned about the low levels of seed contamination that UCS found?

Well, first, we’re not sure what the levels of contamination across
the seed supply really are, although the limited data in our study suggest that it is low. One reason we advocate a large follow-up study is to obtain better estimates of the levels of contamination.

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Animals Fed Genetically Modified Foods are Different

January 15, 2010

GM Watch

In a landmark ruling, the NZ Commerce Commission has accepted evidence from Prof Jack Heinemann, from an exhaustive review of the literature and on the basis of his own extensive professional experience, that animals fed on GM components ARE different from those which are reared using non-GM feed. This is a direct challenge to EFSA and FSA, who have maintained consistently that there are no differences between GM- fed and non-GM-fed animals, and that there is therefore no need for labelling or segregation of feed supplies to meet consumer demand for GM-free products.

This issue came to a head because of complaints that NZ poultry producer Inghams claimed, in a high-pressure advertising campaign, that its chickens contained no GM ingredients, in spite of using up to 13% GM soy-based feed. In one of its adverts, Inghams said: “Research confirms that animals that consume feed with a component of GM are no different compared to animals that have been fed a low GM or GM free diet.”

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