Redesigning the World: Ethical Questions about Genetic Engineering

23. The first genetic engineers called for a moratorium in the Asilomar Declaration of 1975, precisely because they were afraid of inadvertently creating new viral and bacterial pathogens. The worst case scenario they envisaged may be taking shape. Commercial pressures led to regulatory guidelines based largely on untested assumptions, all of which have been invalidated by recent scientific findings. For example, biologically “crippled” laboratory strains of bacteria can often survive in the environment to exchange genes with other organisms. Genetic material (DNA) released from dead and living cells, far from being rapidly broken down, actually persists in the environment and transfers to other organisms. Naked viral DNA may be more infectious, and have a wider host range than the virus. Viral DNA resists digestion in the gut of mice, enters the blood stream to infect white blood cells, spleen and liver cells, and may even integrate into the mouse cell genome. (“Scientists Link Gene Technology to Resurgence of Infectious Diseases. Call for Independent Enquiry,” Press Release 6.4.98 from Professor Mae-Wan Ho: <>).
See also Mae-Wan Ho et. al. “Gene Technology and Gene Ecology of Infectious Diseases” Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 10:1 (May, 1998): 33-59.
24. See Richard Preston, “Annals of Warfare: the Bioweaponeers”, New Yorker (March 9, 1998): 52-65. See also Judith Miller and William T. Broad, “Iranians, Bioweapons in Mind, Lure Ex-Soviet Scientists” New York Times, Dec. 8, 1998 <>; and “Frontline: Plague War” <>.
25. See Dr. Garth and Dr. Nancy Nicolson’s Institute for Molecular Medicine website for details: <>.
26. Quoted from email I received from Dr. Lederberg in spring, 1998.
27. William J. Broad and Judith Miller, “Germ Defense Plan in Peril as Its Flaws Are Revealed” (NY Times, August 7, 1998). See also Wendy Barnaby, “Biological Weapons and Genetic Engineering” (GenEthics News, Issue 18, June/July 1997).
28. The original says “resistance to herbicides” but “resistance to pesticides” is clearly meant.
29. “THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: The Environmental Costs of Genetic Engineering” <>.
30. “The most immediate and easily observable impacts of transgenic plants on the ecological environment are due to cross-pollination between transgenic crop-plants and their wild relatives to generate super-weeds. Field trails have shown that cross-hybridization has occurred between herbicide resistant transgenic Brassica napa and its wild relatives….” Ho, Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare?, p. 133. Some evidence indicates that transgenic plants have a greater ability to pollinate other plants than ordinary plants, which increases the danger of the emergence of superweeds. See J. Bergelson, C.B. Purrington & G. Wichmann, “Promiscuity increase in transgenic plants” Nature 395, no. 6697 (Sept. 3, 1998) 25, and “Genetically Engineered Plant Raises Fears of ‘Superweeds’ (Associated Press) printed in the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 3, 1998).
31. For example it is public knowledge that there is a revolving door between Monsanto Corporation, one of the major transnational forces in genetic engineering, and the White House:
…Mr. Mickey Kantor, former United States Trade Representative and, until January 21 of last year, the Secretary of Commerce for the United States, has been made a member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation, a leading transnational biotechnology firm. The appointment was confirmed by a staff member of Mr. Kantor’s Washington, DC law firm. Mr. Kantor joins others in the US who recently changed job assignments from service in government to positions in the biotechnology industry. Marcia Hale, earlier this month, moved from assistant to the President of the United States for intergovernmental affairs to senior official with Monsanto to coordinate public affairs and corporate strategy in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Also putting on the industry hat this month was L. Val Giddings. Less than two weeks ago, Giddings’ went from being a biotechnology regulator at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/APHIS) to being the vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Giddings, who had been a member of the U.S. delegation at the first meeting of the Open Ended Ad Hoc Working Group on a Biosafety Protocol, attended last week’s second meeting on the protocol as the representative of BIO. (Emailed news release from Beth Burrows of the Edmonds Institute entitled “Government Workers Go Biotech, ” May 19. 1997. Also posted on the Internet at <> and <>.)
Burrows distributed the following addendum at the biosafety negotiation meetings in Montreal, August 17, 1998:
Once again, this time in alphabetical order, we note with interest the following changes in job assignments:
David W. Beier . . .former head of Government Affairs for Genentech, Inc., now chief domestic policy advisor to Al Gore, Vice-President of the United States.
Linda J. Fisher . . .former Assistant Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, now Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto Corporation.
L. Val Gidings . . . former biotechnology regulator and (biosafety) negotiator at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/APHIS), now Vice President for Food & Agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
Marcia Hale . . . former assistant to the President of the United States and director for intergovernmental affairs, now Director of International Government Affairs for Monsanto Corporation.
Michael (Mickey) Kantor. . . former Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce and former Trade Representative of the United States, now member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation.
Josh King . . . former director of production for White House events, now director of global communication in the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.
Terry Medley . . . former administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture, former chair and vice-chair of the United States Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Council, former member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food advisory committee, and now Director of Regulatory and External Affairs of Dupont Corporation’s Agricultural Enterprise.
Margaret Miller . . . former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, now Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)*.
William D. Ruckelshaus . . . former chief administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), now (and for the past 12 years) a member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation.
Michael Taylor . . . former legal advisor to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Bureau of Medical Devices and Bureau of Foods, later executive assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA, still later a partner at the law firm of King & Spaulding where he supervised a nine-lawyer group whose clients included Monsanto Agricultural Company, still later Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the United States Food and Drug Administration, and now again with the law firm of King & Spaulding.

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