Redesigning the World: Ethical Questions about Genetic Engineering

See also Volker Lehmann, “Patent on seed sterility threatens seed saving,” Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No. 35 (June, 1998): 6-8;  Rural Advancement Foundation Internationals (RAFI) news releases on “Terminator Technology” <>; and Martha L. Crouch, “How the Terminator terminates: an explanation for the non-scientist of a remarkable patent for killing second generation seeds of crop plants” Rev. ed. Edmonds, WA: Edmonds Institute, 1998 <>.
    Zeneca BioSciences (UK) has recently applied for a patent of their own version of the Terminator. See Rural Advancement Foundation Internationals (RAFI) news release ‘… and now, the “Verminator”!: Fat Cat Corp. with Fat Rat gene can Kill Crops’ (Aug. 24, 1998) <>.
35. “The first samples of transgenically grown biodegradable plastics, or polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA’s), have been shipped to plastics companies in the United States and Europe. Metabolix Inc., of Cambridge, MA, has patented transgenic technology in the U.S. that inserts genes into transgenic highly efficient fermentation systems and field crops to produce plastics, which will eventually be cost competitive with petroleum-based plastics used in packaging, diapers, containers, bottles, and garbage bags. A number of companies and research institutions in the U.S. and Europe are working to patent transgenic plants for plastic production…. University of Warwick scientists in England have made breakthroughs in transgenic plastic production, while researchers in Canada are close to making plastics from similar transgenic plants.” (BIOINFO: an Agricultural Biotechnology Monitor, Vol IV, No. 3, March, 1996)
36. Dr. John Fagan, a molecular biologist, has warned that the new constituents that are used in these plastics are oils that are probably toxic to animals and humans. Thus when cross-pollination occurs with wild brassica, the wild plants produce things that are toxic to the deer, rabbits, and other wildlife, as well as humans. (Personal communication)
37. Geneticist Joseph Cummins warned: “The questionable experiment is to insert a gene for scorpion toxin into an insect virus then to spray the tinkered virus onto produce crops in the field. The tinkered virus is now highly potent in destroying insects both pests and their natural predators and the pollinators. The scorpion toxin may not be threatening to humans as a toxin when it is eaten but its impact on cuts and open sores is a concern. Such toxins are frequently allergens as well as nerve toxins. Food allergy causes effects ranging from migraine headache to death. The danger from a small field test is tangible provided the experiment is not well thought out and controlled. Genetic recombination is a significant concern in such experiments. The scorpion toxin gene can be spread by recombination to insects that suck blood as well as insects that suck plant juice. The virus that acquires a toxin gene will achieve a new ecological niche and is likely to be a formidable parasite.” (Gene Tinkering Blues 1:3, August 1996)
38. In the People’s Republic of China, Professor Chen Zhang-Liang, Director of the National Laboratory of Protein Engineering and Plant Genetic Engineering and Vice-President, Peking University, directs a laboratory “that is transplanting human protein genes into tomatoes and sweet peppers to control ripening. (Arthur Fisher, “A Long Haul for Chinese Science” (Popular Science, Special Issue: Chinese Science and Technology, August, 1996, p. 42.)
39. See “Surrogate Fathers,” New Scientist, January 31, 1998.
40. IP/Biodiv News, 1-24-97. For further information on the dangers of xenotransplants, see Alix Fano et. al. “Of Pigs, Primates and Plagues: a Layperson’s Guide to the Problems with Animal-to-Human Organ Transplants,” NY: Medical Research Modernization Committee, n.d.
LONDON (AP) — Britain barred the transplant of animal organs to humans on Thursday, saying the risk of disease transmission must be better understood. The decision came after a report by a government-appointed panel of experts,
which was chiefly concerned that animal viruses in the transplanted organs could introduce new diseases into humans…. Pigs are known to harbor several retroviruses — the family of virus that includes HIV — one of which was only discovered in the last two years. Research has shown that some of them can infect animal cells in the laboratory…. But Britain has made it clear that emergency legislation will be brought in if necessary to halt human trials…. The pigs are bred with human genes that cause their organs to be coated with human molecules, which is meant to prevent the most severe form of rejection in a human patient…. (Associated Press, Jan. 16, 1997)
42. Ho (1996) reporting on information from New Scientist (June 18, 1987): 29.
43. Horizontal gene transfer refers to “the transfer of genes to unrelated species by infection through viruses, through pieces of genetic material, DNA, by being taken up into the cells from the environment, or by unusual mating taking place between unrelated species. (Mae-Wan Ho, Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare, p. 13)
44. Andrew Kimbrell, The Human Body Shop the Engineering and Marketing of Life (NY: HarperCollins, 1994), pp. 142-157.
44a. ibid., p. 191.
45. See Jeremy Rifkin, Biotech Century, pp. 24-25.
46. “Jonathan Slack, professor of developmental biology at Bath University and a leading embryologist, says he can now create headless frog embryos relatively easily by manipulating certain genes….He said the breakthrough could be applied to human embryos because the same genes perform similar functions in both frogs and humans. Using intact cloned human embryos to grow organs would be out of the question because they would have to be killed and this would be equivalent to murder, Slack said… Slack’s ideas have angered some academics. Professor Andrew Linzey, an animal ethicist at Oxford University, denounced his research.” This sort of thinking beggars belief. It’s scientific fascism because we would be creating other beings whose very existence would be to serve the dominant group. It is morally regressive to create a mutant form of life,” Linzey said. Other scientists, however, support Slack in raising the profile of such controversial research…. Lewis Wolpert, professor of biology as applied to medicine at University College London, said Slack’s suggestions were perfectly sensible and could in principle be possible. “There are no ethical issues because you are not doing any harm to anyone. “It is a question of whether it is acceptable or not to the public and that depends on the ‘yuk’ factor.” (“Headless frog opens way for human organ factory,” London Sunday Times, October 19 1997.)
Textbooks say that DNA in food should be digested and destroyed. But Dorfler and his student Rainer Schubbert found that when they fed a bacterial virus called [1]M13 to a mouse, sections of its genetic material about 700 DNA “letters” long–large enough to contain a gene–survived to emerge in faeces. The researchers wondered whether a few of these genetic snippets had managed to penetrate the mouse’s cells. They took cells from the mice and probed them with a dye molecule that lights up when it binds to the M13 DNA. The probe lit up inside cells not only from the intestine, but the spleen, white blood cells and liver. “They weren’t hard to find,” says Dorfler. “In some cases as much as one cell in a
thousand had viral DNA.” Usually the DNA does not stay long inside the cells. After 18 hours, most cells had somehow ejected the viral intruders. But Dorfler speculates that occasionally some foreign DNA may remain. (New Scientist, Jan. 4, 1997).

Check Also

Report: Why west turns blind eye to terrorist-besieged Syrian Shiite cities of Fu’ah, Kafriya?

Right on the heels of the recent Syrian army’s successes in its anti-terror push in …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *