--Dan Worley in Sunny Puerto Rico--
>Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 21:10:08 -0500
>From: Richard Wolfson <email@example.com>
>Subject: Biotech Bacteria
>Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD
>Reprinted with permission from the March 1998 issue of Alive: Canadian
>Journal of Health and Nutrition, 7436 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby, BC V5J
>Biotech Bacteria Highlights Limitations of Risk Assessment
>Rhizobium meliloti is a nitrogen-fixing bacterium. It naturally colonizes
>the roots of legumes, converting nitrogen from the air into soluble
>nitrates that plants can use.
>A new variety of the bacterium has now been genetically engineered. It
>contains additional genes coding for the nitrogen-fixing enzyme, in the
>hopes of increasing yields. (Whether the genetically altered bacteria can
>actually enhance yields is under question.) The new bacteria were also
>given foreign antibiotic-resistant genes.
>The altered bacteria were approved by the USA Environmental Protection
>Agency (EPA) on September 16, 1997, and can be used in alfalfa fields
>throughout the USA starting in the spring of 1998.
>Approval Process Faulty
>An expert scientist's evaluation of the EPA's official scientific review
>showed that the risk assessment for environmental effects contained little
>hard data. He said it was simply "speculation" that the organism would be
>The review didn't adequately address issues like whether or not the
>bacteria would alter the ecology or fertility of the soil, or cause
>increases in antibiotic-resistant organisms. The basis for approval was
>that "the parent organism has been used without ill effect."
>It is alarming that there is no standard process in the United States or
>Canada to evaluate the hazards of GE organisms. There are no formal risk
>assessment methodologies, no science policies, no significant debate on the
>scientific and social issues of genetic engineering, no understanding of
>the full range of hazards from GE organisms, and no significant discussion
>of or consultation with the public to determine what constitutes
>"unacceptable risk." There is no method to even measure magnitude of risks.
>Each risk assessment for genetically engineered organisms is done on an ad
>hoc basis by different scientists in different departments or different
>agencies. Some of these agencies have conflicting missions- to promote and
>to regulate; to consider "benefits" as well as "risks." There is rarely
>any formal peer review, and even when peer review panels are put together,
>they are often biased.
>In the early 1990's, a genetically engineered `bacterium used to produce
>ethanol from wood pulp escaped into the soil, rendering whole wheat fields
>incapable of growing crops, and endangering animal life. The bottom line
>is that we are confronted with perhaps the most powerful technology ever
>known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever
>to its consequences. The technology is being promoted by the very agencies
>that are supposed to be protecting human health and the environment, in the
>face of concerns by many respectable scientists.
>Without appropriate scientific oversight by regulators, the only effective
>control of biotechnology will be political: a raising of public
>consciousness, especially that of the economically powerful public.
>Scientists are needed to point out the detailed technical problems with
>genetic engineering in food. It is also crucial for citizens to use their
>collective power to say "no." Tell your food outlets and political
>representatives that you do not wish to consumer genetically engineered
>For further information on biotechnology and its hazards, see the website:
><http://www.concentric.net/~Rwolfson/home.htm> or email:
>Richard Wolfson, PhD
>Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
>for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
>Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
>500 Wilbrod Street
>Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
>Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
>contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
>previous genetic engineering news items
>Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months
>See website for details.
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