Genetically Modified Organisms and Field trials OLD News
Extracts from EEIN 1991-1994. Latest news is at the bottom. Provided by Eubios Ethics Institute , at
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A review on our knowledge of gene transfer is Davies, J. (1990) "Interspecific gene transfer: where next?" TIBTECH 8: 198-203. The implications for release of microorganisms into the environment are discussed, and the mechanisms so far observed for gene transfer in nature and in the laboratory. A summary of the European laboratory safety standards for microorganisms is in TIBTECH (1990) 8: 345-7. Another paper of interest is Pickup, R.W. & Saunders, J.R. (1990) "Detection of genetically engineered traits among bacteria in the environment", TIBTECH 8: 329-35. It describes the different methods that have been used.
US vice-president Qualye made a statement on four new principles of regulatory review of biotechnology (Biotechnology 8 (1990), 889). They emphasis the idea that federal regulation should be product-based, not process-based, and that regulation should be based on judging the performance of new compounds/organisms rather than setting design controls. There are still several states in the USA that require additional state permits for field trials of GMOs (Biotechnology 8 (1990), 1064). Meanwhile in Germany, the formerly East German authorities imposed tough control on factories using recombinant DNA organisms (Nature 346 (1990), 502). In other parts of Germany the construction of several factories for producing recombinant DNA produced products has resumed after earlier delays (Biotechnology 8 (1990), 992-3).
African countries have emphasized that they are unable to impose the same level of regulation on biotechnology trials as in the more industrially developed countries, rather economics will be more important (Biotechnology 8 (1990),793). Many African countries do not recognise patent coverage, so using PCR technology they will be able to reisolate genes, and make their own models of transgenic crops should such varieties be commercially unavailable to them.
A Biological Weapons Anti-Terroism Act was made law in the USA in earlier 1990 (Lancet 336 (1990), 495), but research into biological weapons at US government institutions continues. The real threat is not between countries, but for terroism using inexpensive pathogenic organisms.
Field trials of a rabies vaccine in the USA are underway, and appear to be going successfully (Biotechnology 8 (1990), 897). There will soon be major trials of a recombinant Rinderpest vaccine that should be more effective than earlier vaccines (Biotechnology 8 (1990), 1007-1009).
A simple procedure for phenotype-based, or risk-based, regulation of the field release of GMOs is discussed by Miller, H.I. et al. (1990) "Risk-based oversight of experiments in the environment", Science 250: 490-491. It has been described as a common sense approach (Biotechnology 8:1229). A recent book from SCOPE includes a collection of essays on the topic of GMO release. Mooney, H.A. & Bernardi, G. eds., Introduction of Genetically-Modified Organisms into the Environment (SCOPE 1990, Wiley).

An editorial on the regulations and the commercial use of GMOs in Europe and Britain is in Enzyme Microb. Technol. 12 (Dec 1990), 915. It looks positively at the new product based regulations, but asks what we should consider harm or risk to the environment to be. The environment will be changing whatever technology we use, and what should we consider to be important risks of the release of GMOs?
The results of the genetically modified Petunia field experiment in Germany (SG 159) from 1990 was not what was expected: D.MacKenzie, "Jumping genes confound German scientists", NS (15 Dec 1990), 14. 30,000 red petunias were planted and the frequency of a "jumping gene" was being tested, which would be seen by the appearance of white flowers. However, they found a ten times higher frequency of white flowers than expected from jumping genes because methylation of the red pigment gene occured which turned off the gene causing the white colour to occur. The effect was very variable with some plants having mixed flowers, and it may also be affected by environmental changes. A trial involving 20,000 petunias is proposed for 1991 to test the environment factors that may affect the methylation of genes, in particular.
The German company BASF AG has been given a license to produce recombinant TNF (Nature 349 (1991), 349. This is only the fourth German license for industrial production (others have been given to different companies to make TPA, erythropoietin andthe anti-clotting drug Saruplase). This will encourage the German biotechnology industry
After several years the first field release experiment in Japan of a GMO has been approved. It will be of TMV resistant tomatoes, at the National Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences in Tsukuba: Nature 349 (1991), 360. Tomatoes are being grown in an open field surrounded by unaltered plants to investigate natural pollination, and ecological effects.
One of the important group of data that is of application to using new disease resistance genes, is to look at the level of resistance found in bacteria to drugs, such as antibiotics. It has been found that bacteria isolated in some countries contain very high levels of resistance to antibiotcs, for example in Hungary 50% of isolated pneumococci from all patients, and 70% from children, were resistant to penicillin, and many were also resistant to other antibiotics (JAMA 265 (1991), 14-5). Under high selection pressure the bacteria have made sophisticated changes in metabolism to make them resistant to the antibiotics, involving multigene systems (not just mutations or acquisition of plasmids). In some strains the cell wall enzymes have been remodeled, thus are no longer sensitive to penicillin. Gene transfer has occured, allowing the generation of such resistant bacteria. Bacteria resistant to every antibiotic that is used have been found, this should make us more careful in our use of future selective agents, including genes encoding resistance to disease, or insecticidal proteins.
A paper discussing the transfer of genes between bacteria is J.M.Smith et al. (1991) "Localised sex in bacteria", Nature 349:29-31. It is specifically discussing the role of gene transfer in evolution,and reviews recent evidence. Bacteria differing in their DNA sequence by up to 20% do exchange chromosomal DNA, but this exchange is usually of small lengths of DNA so that it does not change the electrophoretic patterns people have seen which initially suggested that bacteria do not exchange DNA. There are certain groups of bacteria that do not appear to exchange DNA, but the definition of species in bacteria is much wider than that of eucaryotes.
Also of interest for GMO risk assessment is a paper by C.H.Sandt & D.S.Herson (1991) "Mobilization of the genetically engineered plasmid pHSV106 from Escherichia coli HB101(pHSV106) to Enterobacter cloacae in drinking water", Appl. & Env. Microbiology 57: 194-200. In most gene transfers plasmids are used that are nonconjugative, however, in this case the gene was transferred from a nonconjugative plasmid to a conjugative plasmid present in the same cell, before being transferred to a different bacteria. One potential medium of mass and efficient gene transfer to humans is drinking water, which is the medium used for these experiments. Filter-sterilised drinking water was used and it was found that gene transfer is possible to a bacteria that can live in the environment. They also suggest that the separation of the marker gene from the gene of interest can occur, which requires screening methods to test for the actual gene of interest rather than antibiotic marker genes. The frequency of gene transfer was very low, so that the actual risk is low.
Another paper of interest for risk assessment is S.M.Knudsen & O.H.Karlstrom (1991) "Develop-ment of efficient suicide mechanisms for biological containment of bacteria", Appl. & Env. Microbiology 57: 85-92. They used the relF gene from Eschericihia coli controlled by lac promoters. In their system the killing efficiency was unaffected by temperature or medium, and the system appears to be useful for future construction of suicide mechanisms for genetically engineered bacteria.
Plant cell tissue culture is another important technique of biotechnology. The problems of incorporating this into plant breeding are discussed by D.R.Miller et al. (1991) "Transferring in vitro technology to the field", Biotechnology 9: 143-6. The development of field testing and selection is discussed.

The RAC of the US NIH has relaxed the containment restrictions on nonpathogenic GMOs with a history of safe industrial use; Biotechnology 9 (1991), 214. Another comment on US GMO release regulations is in Science 251 (1991), 1023-4. In February in the Federal Register the USDA published "Proposed USDA Guidelines for Research Involving the Planned Introduction in the Environment of Organisms With Deliberately Modified Traits"; Biotechnology 9 (1991), 326. They include points to consider to aid researchers, and divide releases into five classes. The EPA is finalising their more formal regulations, but the situation remains unsettled.
There are other suggested relaxations being considered after a report on national biotechnology policy by the President's Committee on Competitiveness; Nature 349 (1991), 726, 729; Science 251: 1183; Biotechnology 9 (1991), 313, 322-3. They oppose the introduction of any new legislation. The report committee is chaired by Vice-president Dan Qualye, and suggests freedom of market forces in the development of biotechnology products. Also see p. 33 for comment on the Orphan Drug Act. The US federal funding for biotechnology is increasing by about 8% in 1992 in the proposed budget; Biotechnology 9 (1991), 218.
The Japanese Ministry of Education released new regulations for experiments with recombinant DNA, including the field release of GMOs, at the end of April 1991. They cover research work at any of the Ministry's Universities and Institutes and research that is funded by them.
Two books on the introduction of GMOs to the environment are reviewed in Nature 349 (1991), 578. They are Introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms into the Environment, SCOPE 44, ed. H.A.Mooney & G.Bernardi (Wiley 1990, pp.201, US$110), and Assessing Ecological Risks of Biotechnology, ed. L.R. Ginzburg (Butterworth-Heinemann 1991, pp.379, US$80). The earlier book is from a 1987 conference, and is thus somewhat dated.
Some comments on protection against biological weapons, and the efforts to ban their production is in JAMA 265 (1991), 700, 705; also see Nature 350 (1991), 117 for a book review.
A British program called PROSAMO (Planned release of selected and modified organisms) involves trials of new varieties including GMOs in different sites in Britain to test their survival in the wild and what effects their introduction may have; Science 251 (1991), 878. It has been underway for about 3 years. They are also testing pollen transfer. The program is half funded by private companies, who hope that positive results in terms of safety will affect the policy of the regulation of GMOs and speed up the introduction of larger scale releases of new varietes including GMOs.
A book review of Risk Assessment in Genetic Engineering: Environmental Release of Organisms, eds. M.Levin & H.S.Strauss (McGraw-Hill 1991, pp.403, US$40) is in Nature 350 (1991), 284. It describes the US situation for risk assesment and several case histories.
A book review of Technological Risk, by H.W. Lewis (Norton 1990, pp. 353, $23) is in Nature 349 (1991), 749. It looks at the quantification of risk in many uses of science and technology, and in other regulations that attempt to safe lives. Another recent book is Setting Safety Standars. Regulation in the Public and Private Sectors, R.E.Cheit (Berkerley: Uni. of California Press 1990, 300pp., US$35), which is reviewed in Science 251 (1991), 1114.
A general paper on the genetic instability of bacteria, with explanation of the role of plasmids and how they can transfer between bacteria, sometimes making new "species" is by J.Postgate, "The malleable microbe", NS (16 Feb 1991), 30-33. The process of gene transfer in the environment is important in determining the safety of GMOs. Bacteria can take up genes from a common gene pool, and shuffle them between themselves. The average mutation rate is not known, but it can be very rapid, and the bacterial world can be viewed as an artefact of the rest of the biosphere, and human activity may have created many of the current species. On the topic of gene transfer in plants see A.T.Whittemore & B.A.Schall (1991) "Interspecific gene flow in sympatric oaks", PNAS 88: 2540-4. Studies suggest that chloroplast genes are exchanged more frequently then nuclear genes.
A major review on bacterial drug resistance is G.A. Jacoby & G.L.Archer (1991) "New mechanisms of bacterial resistance to antimicrobial agents", NEJM 324: 601-12. It gives substantial lists of the known resistance mechanisms and many references.
The resistance of insects to insecticides is also very important, and is important to the release of GMOs. In a paper M.Raymond et al. (1991) "Worldwide migration of amplified insecticide resistance genes in mosquitoes", Nature 350: 151-3, see also 107-8, a study of mosquitos indicates that the initial evolution of resistance occurred soon after the insecticide was used, and it spread very rapidly.

A new report released in New Zealand is D.Macer, H.Bezar & J.Gough, Genetic Engineering in New Zealand: Science, Ethics and Public Policy (approx.90pp.), Centre for Resource Management paper No.27, 1991, ISBN 1-86931-076-4). Copies can be obtained from the Centre for Resource management, P.O.Box 56, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand (FAX Int+64-3-3252156), and the cost is $13.50 plus p&p. It summarises New Zealand genetic engineering reseacrh, the attitudes of New Zealanders, the ethical and safety concerns and recommends policy in the area of genetic engineering.
A summary and comment on the German genetic engineering law is in Biotechnology 9: 435-7. The confusions within the law are discussed, and clarifications are recommended, and some seem necessary for it to comply with the October 23rd deadline for reaching the standard demanded by the European directives. A discussion paper in German on the release of GMOs, from the viewpoints of genetics and ecology is in Naturwissenschaften 78: 154-7. Meanwhile in Europe there are still calls to include GMOs under existing laws, and not to classify them on the basis of their method of production; NS (4 May 1991), 13.
There have been many approved releases of GMOs in the USA recently. One release, of a modified TMV virus in North Carolina has been held up by legal challenges; Biotechnology 9: 417. The proposed release involves the use of TMV as a vector to transfer useful proteins into crops for production of those proteins. The proteins that were included were hemoglobin (alpha and beta), alpha-amylase, and although the USDA approved it in January, it has been held up (see p.44).
A British program called PROSAMO (Planned release of selected and modified organisms) involves trials of new varieties including GMOs in different sites in Britain to test their survival in the wild and what effects their introduction may have; EEIN 1: 32; Science 251: 878. Their first report found that GM plants appear not to be invasive or persistent in field trials, but their trials on potato, oilseed rape, and this year on maize, continue; Bioetchnology 9: 406. A trial of transgenic potatoes in New Zealand in which the pollen transfer was measured is J.L.Tynan et al.(1990) "Low frequency of pollen dispersal from a field trial of transgenic potatoes", J. Genet. & Breed. 44: 303-6.
The British Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has produced its 14th report, entitlted GENHAZ. A system for the critical appraisal of proposals to release GMOs into the environment (55pp., 12, London: HMSO June 1991). It has been awaited for the last year, so the report is welcome. It is a method to help analyse the hazards in experiments involving GMOs, based on the sytsem used to analysis risks form other areas, such as the chemical industry. It is useful, and presents some practical steps to follow in the release and the design of experiments involving the release of GMOs.
Our knowledge of gene transfer in field environments is still very poor, and this is the topic of a comment by B.Dixon in Biotechnology 9: 403. It is discussing the paper by T.A.Kokjohn et al., "Attachment and replication of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteriophages under conditions simulating aquatic environments", J. General Microbiology 137: 661-7. Phages are important for the naturally occuring bacteria in water, which in turn are important for the planktonic community. These phages are also important for the transfer of genetic information between species, and thus important factors in the possibility of gene transfer in the environment. The acquisition of viral genes in eucaryotes is the subject of a paper in Nature 351: 78-80.
Related is a paper by J.H.Paul et al. (1991) "Gene transfer in marine water column and sediment microcosms by natural plasmid transformation", Applied & Env. Microbiology 57: 1509-15. This is important for the plasmid-mediated transfer of genes, and the authors call this transfer "genetic pollution". Unlike other types of pollution, this pollution can grow and spread in the enviornment and among ecosystems.
Of interest are A.Contreras et al., "Conditional-suicide containment system for bacteria which mineralize aromatics", Applied & Env. Microbiology 57: 1504-8. Although the use of genetically enginnered microorganisms may be important to remove pollutant substituted benzoates they should not transfer the gene to indigenous populations which may damage natural ecosystems, hence the use of suicide systems. A letter on the regulation and biotechnology and risk assessment methods is in Science 252: 629-30.
Regarding the resistance question (EEIN 1: 32), see F.Nosten et al., "Mefloquine-resistant falciparum malaria on the Thai-Burmese border", Lancet 337: 1140-3.
The transfer of viruses to countries through the transfer of wildlife is not a new phenomenom. The problem recently stopped the reintroduction of some tamarin monkeys into Brazil, because one of the monkeys was found to have antibodies to callitrichid hepatitis virus, which is unknown in Brazil; Nature 351: 89. It would be good to reintroduce animals from captivity back into the wild, but the safety must be examined.

There has been controversy associated with the leaked release of draft SCOPE guidelines on field release in the USA; Biotechnology 9: 603; Science 252: 1489. The guidelines are still being developed, as are EPA guidelines. However, the SCOPE guidelines, on White House stationery, entitled The scope of Federal Oversight to Regulation of Biotechnology: Planned Introductions of Organisms into the Environment , instruct agencies not to regulate GMOs unless there is an "unreasonable risk". The number of draft documents, and recent reports in the USA is somewhat confusing. It is expected that the EPA guidelines, when released will make the situation clearer, and be more useful than the political debate caused by different reports being released. The draft also proposes that federal agencies consider "social needs" when evaluating the risks of planned introductions. This phrase sometimes scares those who are developing new products and varieties because this can result in political lobbying decisions being involved. However, it is not strange to consider social needs, and it should be seen as desirable. if we are taking a risk, albeit small, we should be expecting a shared social benefit because all people and the environment are taking the risk. A letter on the regulation of biotechnology is in Science 252: 1599-1600.
The latest European Community document, Promoting the Competitive Environment for the Industrial Activities based on Biotechnology within the Community, maintains the European view that the Commission has the right "to take a contrary view to the scientific criteria in light of the general Community policy and objectives", i.e. to examine the social benefit of proposals; Biotechnology 9: 504. A comment on GENHAZ is in Biotechnology 9: 499. A review on the European standards for GMOs and their product regulation is in Science 252: 1366-8.
The regulations for GMOs in New Zealand are being revised, but there are signs that the regulations for transgenic animal experiments may be over stringent and impose high costs on containment. The regulations want an isolation ground around transgenic sheep and goats, with a double fence with a 2m boundary between them. They also want wastes to be disposed of, which is unrealistic.
While the regulations are still being developed, the US EPA has approved for sale its first genetically engineered pesticide. Mycogen can begin selling MVP and M-Trak, which contain dead and encapsulated Pseudomonas fluorescens containing the Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal protein gene; Nature 352: 365; NS (10 Aug 1991), 22. The toxins can stay in the field for about a week, much longer than without treatment. MVP and M-Trak are developed for use on different vegetables.
A recent conference report which includes data on many field releases of GMOs, is available; D.R. MacKenzie & S.C. Henry, eds., Biological Monitoring of Genetically Engineered Plants and Microbes, Proceedings of the Kiawek Island Conference, Nov 27-30, 1990 (US$10, 301pp., Agricultural Research Institute, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814-7123, USA). It provides results of many GMO trials, and how the field performance could be modeled. Three more books on risk assessment in genetic engineering are reviewed in Science 253: 89-90.
Papers on gene transfer experiments include C. Winstanley et al., "Use of a xylE marker gene to monitor survival of recombinant Pseudomonas putida populations in lake water by culture on nonselective media", Appl. & Env. Microbiology 57: 1905-13. They observed large variation in results depending on water quality, indicating that it may be very difficult to predict behaviour in the environment. See also EEIN 1: 46; NS (29 June 1991), 24 for the transfer of genes in water. The release of GMOs will be a topic included in the 1992 Brazil conference on the world environment..
A report on the opinion of scientists involved in recombinant DNA research towards the controversy in their field is reported in Science, Technology and Human Values 16: 70, see Biotechnology 9: 595 for comments. There were some ambiguous questions in that survey, which included a general result that many scientists agreed that "widespread public attention to recombinant DNA research has been beneficial to progress in the field".
The safety of HIV virus for laboratory studies is the subject of a letter in Science 252; 1231. It suggests the use of attenuated HIV viruses to lower the risk of accidental infections, and AIDS cases (there have been at least 2 cases).
A paper highlighting some of the problems in the verification of the chemical weapons treaty is in Nature 351: 515-6.

A report from a recent conference on the release of genetically engineered microorganisms (GEMs) is in Biotechnology 9 : 915. Although there are some products being sold, and more to be approved, it will still be some years before they take up reasonable shares of the commercial markets for pesticides and bioremediation. A letter on EC biotechnology policy is in Science 253: 834-5. A useful book looking at the issues associated with GMO release is J.R.S. Fincham & J.R. Ravertz, Genetically Engineered Organisms. Benefits and Risks (Milton Keynes: Open University Press 1991, 158pp., ISBN 0-335-09618-2). It is a report by a working group of the British Council for Science and Society, and is well written, succinctly covering many of the issues.
In Japan, the company Suntory has been granted approval by the Science and Technology Agency to grow genetically modified petunias in a glasshouse. The petunias have cucumber mosaic virus coat protein gene, to attempt to make them resistant to infection. This is only the second release of a GMO permitted in Japan. The Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Tsukuba, should also receive general permission (from the Ministry of Education) to grow genetically modified plants in a glasshouse, very soon. This will be the first glasshouse to be so licensed in Japan. Meanwhile, several court cases by opposition groups to genetic engineering laboratories in Tsukuba (P4) and in Tokyo (P3), are underway to seek "compensation" for experiments conducted there (though no harm has been proven).
A letter on Bacillus thuringiensis and pest control is in Science 253: 1075. A letter on the safety of biocontrol agents, and the need to limit the specificity of introduced GMOs is in Nature 353: 394. The case of the snail introduction for biocontrol that went wrong is commented on in Nature 353; 489. A general review on biotic interchange (between ecosystems) is in Science 253: 1099-1104.
Of relevance for interspecies gene transfer is the paper M.A. Houck et al., "Possible horizontal transfer of Drosophila genes by the Mite Proctolaelaps regalis ", Science 253: 1125-9; see also p.1092-3. About 4 decades ago Drosophila acquired mobile genetic elements, called P elements, and since then they have spread to most wild populations. As well as having evolutionary implications, it must also add caution to the transfer of some genetic elements to insects that have known parasites that could act as vectors for gene transfer.
Insect population levels may be able to be controlled by the introduction of sterile insects into the population or of genetic traits causing sterility. Related is M. Turelli & A.A. Hoffmann, "Rapid spread of an inherited incompatibility factor in California Drosophila", Nature 353: 440-2. For a model of invasion of a new insect; J. R. Carey, "Establishment of the Mediterranean fruit fly in California", Science 253: 1369-73; and on the politics of pest control of the "medfly"; Science 253: 1351.
A letter on the attitudes of scientists to recombinant DNA opponents is in Biotechnology 9 : 1004, by the author of a recent report. A report on the accidental laboratory infection of a laboratory worker with recombinant vaccinia virus in London is in Lancet 338: 459. They call for the vaccination of workers at risk with Vaccinia virus, because a secondary immunisation (accidental) would have less risk for their health. On the disposal of infectious waste from research or hospital facilities see NEJM 325: 578-82.
A review of the biological weapons treaty is in J. American Society of Microbiology 57: 358-61. It has some discussion of the ethical issues. The biological safety standards in the US Department of Defence biowarfare research labs is being improved; Science 253: 727. A letter on chemical and biological weapons is in JAMA 266: 652. On methods to verify the biological weapons treaty see NS (12 Oct 1991), 14; and a call for a tougher treaty; NS (7 Sept 1991), 20. Iraq admits it had biological weapons, NS (24 Aug 1991), 12. A claim that China is a supplier of biological weapons to other countries is in the Washington Post (18 Oct 1991), A21.

In Japan, the Central Pollution Management Committee of the Ministry for the Environment has released its report on the regulation of GMOs (16th December). They have decided that there will not be a special law in Japan, like the law in Europe, to regulate GMOs. The Committee remained split on this question, throughout its 16 meetings since June 1989. The report is in Japanese, and reviews the regulations in the USA and Europe, and is a split decision. Japanese newspapers reported the findings in the headlines, there will be no special bill to regulate GMO release.
There are already various regulations on GMO release (see EEIN 1: 32), and considering the characteristics of GMOs, the two views of the report were expressed (lawyers favouring a special bill, and scientists favouring product based examination using existing laws). It will be easier for scientists to have guidelines than a bill, because it is very difficult to alter a bill to meet the situations created by new and changing technology. There was nothing very concrete proposed in the report, they may establish a specialised committee. In the recent public opinion survey conducted in Japan (EEIN 1: 71-3), the regulation of biotechnology was one topic addressed. The results will be presented in a forthcoming report (see p. 14), but the general opinion seems to be split between government regulation, and government plus industry regulation, with a few others expressing the need for public and third party involvement.
There is some Japanese protests against particular genetic engineering facilities, particularly against a P3 virus research lab in downtown Shinjuku, Tokyo, and J. Rifkin recently visited the protestors to support them; Japan Times (26 Dec 1991), 18. However, there has been little court success for the protestors.
On European regulations over genetic engineering and biotechnology see Biotechnology 9: 1056-61, 1017. Few of the member states of the EC had implemented the draft directives, by the 23rd October, when they were supposed to have some regulations in place. It still looks unlikely that the regulations for recombinant products will be unified, at least for a long time. It summarised the probable dates for EC countries to implement regulations on contained use of GMOs, and release, and the administering authorities. Also on biotechnology regulation see a review of European Study Service, Biotechnology: EEC Policy on the Eve of 1993 (Belgium 1991, 390pp, BFr 11,800), in Nature 353: 711. This report is said to be out of date in some areas. There are some concerns over the recent new British regulations on genetic engineering, about the cost of implementation; Nature 354: 5. The costs of approval will need to be met by the researchers, and estimates range upwards of 2,000 per application. The Department of the Environment plans to charge the same fees for academics and industry. Denmark and Germany also propose to charge similar fees, but most countries are not yet to that stage of regulation.
On the developing US EPA release rules see Biotechnology 9: 791. The drafts are opposed by most universities, whereas industry was in favour. However, the whole situation of release of GMOs in the USA remains in a state of change, because of recent policy changes (EEIN 1: 59).
All biological defense research work in the USA that goes on in high containment level facilities will be subject to public review, following a court case; Science 254: 1289. Also on biowarfare see Science 254: 523 (see EEIN 1: 74).

Field Trials of GMOs
Australia became the first country to allow nation-wide sale of a GMO; Nature 353: 687, though the Nogall product has been sold in New South Wales since 1989; SG 137. It is used to counter Crown Gall disease, and the produce, Biocare Technology, is awaiting the results of applications to Japan and the USA.
Field trials by a company, Agriculture Canada, of genetically modified plants, for 52 tests, have have raised concerns there; GEN (Nov/Dec 1991), 10.
One trial of transgenic tobacco plants in North Carolina, USA, in summer 1991, involved the production of pharmaceuticals in plants. Tobacco plants produced either tricosanthin, an antiviral compound (Compound Q), used to treat AIDS patients, or the enzyme amylase for the food industry; GEN (Nov/Dec 1991), 1, 55. The trial suggests that from one acre of tobacco the profit for growing tobacco to produce food industry enzymes is $10-50,000, before processing. There is research also on potato and alfalfa. The advantage of using plants over animals is the much speedier scale-up, months instead of years.
Reviews on plasmid loss in bacteria are D.K. Summers, "The kinetics of plasmid loss", TIBTECH 9: 273-8; and P.K.R. Kumar et al., "Strategies for improving plasmid stability in genetically modified bacteria in bioreactors", TIBTECH 9: 279-83. Summers considers both the situation in fermentation and in field release, whereas Kumar et al. is applied to bioreactors.
On soil ecology, see R.A. Jones et al., "Effects of genetically engineered microorganisms on nitrogen transformations and nitrogen-transforming microbial populations in soil", Applied & Environmental Microbiology 57: 3212-9. No significant effects of five GEMs on ammonification, nitrification and denitrification in the soil were measured.
A book review of Fincham & Ravertz, Genetically Engineered Organisms (EEIN 1: 74) is in TIBTECH 9: 365-6.
On a meeting review of molecular interactions between gut epithelial cells and pathogenic microorganisms see Cell 67: 651-9. On animal-bacterial mutualism (symbiosis) , in the squid, see Science 254: 1491-4. On the definition of a species see SA (Nov 1991), 14.

In Japan, general approval has been granted for the release of tomatoes resistant to TMV made by genetic engineering for growth at fields of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but it is not expected that this F1 stock will be commercially used. The transgenic plants were released in a special enclosed area two years ago, and from the results of that experiment and international trends, they have extended the permission to a general permission. The plants will be able to be grown on isolated fields, surrounded by buffer zones, but without any special system of fences and security. The progress in field releases is very slow in Japan.
On the obstacles to Canadian biotechnology, including patent policies, and regulations, see Biotechnology 10: 122; Science 254 (1991), 1720. There are about 350 biotechnology companies in Canada, but they experience long delays. A recent report by a Canadian biotechnology group is summarised.
A bioindustry group in the UK has criticised the recent UK Dept. of the Environment draft regulations on the handling and release of GMOs; NS (8 Feb 1991); 20. They have also criticised other policies in Europe, including commercial issues; Nature 355: 289. A computer program to aid researchers find out which regulations apply to field tests of GMOs in the USA is introduced in Biotechnology 10: 146.
A method for removing selection genes from plants made by genetic engineering is mentioned in the section on Plants, above. This would ease people's fears about the release of GMOs and possible transfer of antibiotic resistance genes that were used as selection markers.
On the release of viruses for biological control of insect pests, including genetically engineered strains, see Nature 355: 119. The results from the release of recombinant rabies virus in Belgium appear to be encouraging, and there are needs for this vaccine in many countries; Lancet 339: 52.
A finding that some laboratory strains of E. coli can grow faster than strains taken from patients is mentioned in Biotechnology 10: 111. The laboratory strains may be less adaptable, but it still is an interesting surprise and more such studies should be done to look at the ideas of biological containment. A method for identifying microbes based on rRNA is introduced in Biotechnology 10: 124.

A book on the use of biotechnology to help villages in the developing countries is Reaching the Unreached: Biotechnology in Agriculture, a dialogue, ed. M.S. Swaminathan, ISBN 033392 192 5, 371pp. (India: MacMillan 1991). It is the proceedings of a dialogue held in Madras in January 1991 on how to make biotechnology reach the poor. It describes the concept of biovillages, and the results of some international experience with contributions from workers from several countries. It is recently published and contains some useful data, and experience.
A report recently written in New Zealand on an evaluation of the use of herbicide tolerant plants is A.J. Connor et al., Impacts of developing herbicide-resistant plants (Lincoln University: Centre for Resource Management: October 1991), 38pp.). They judged the possible gene flow from crops to weeds as a negligible threat, and provided analyses to say that the amount of herbicides used will be reduced by the use of such crops, even if herbicides are required to kill all the plant material after harvest. The report states that there will be marked environmental and protection advantages in using the new technology. The address of the Centre for Resource Management is P.O. Box 56, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand.
On the commercial development of biopesticides see Biotechnology 10: . In India there are several biopesticides being produced on a large scale, and from my brief visit to India there appears to be more concern about the use of biopesticides than there is in industrialised countries. For information on a bioinsecticides production facility contact: Dr. K. Jayaraman, Centre for Biotechnology, Anna University, Madras 600 025, India.
A recent edition of Nature & Resources 27 (3), 1991, is focused on Biotechnology: promises and pitfalls. It is a UNESCO publication, (Editor, UNESCO, 7 place de Fontenoy, 75700 Paris, France). It includes articles on: "Biotechnology for sustainable development", "Tissue cultures: in vitro biosphere reserves", "Biotechnologies, microbes and the environment", "Culture collections: safeguards against extinction", "Conserving microbial gene pools for sustainable development". As is discussed in the summary of the recent COSTED conference in this issue, no single national policy is the best but developing countries need to chose their own policy to utilise what resources they have.
A list of papers presented at a recent conference in Miami, on the theme, Advances in gene technology: feeding the world in the 21st century, is in Biotechnology 10: 56-9. It includes a number of interesting papers in biotechnology and genetic engineering, and a book has also been published. A discussion of the commercial concerns related to this goal is in Biotechnology 10: 47-50.

The results of nationwide opinion surveys in Japan on attitudes to genetic engineering that I conducted, and others that the Agency for the Environment conducted, are reported in a new book (Attitudes to Genetic Engineering: Japanese and International Comparisons ), advertised on the back page of this newsletter, that will be available from mid-May. They suggest that there is support for the environmental application of GMOs in Japan, especially of plants.
The US government is deregulating many areas of business, including biotechnology. The regulatory scheme will be based on risk, not on the method of manufacture; Biotechnology 10: 248, 358; Science 255: 911; Nature 356: 1-2; NS (7 March 1991), 10. The document prohibits special regulations for genetic therapies, and food, drugs and pesticides made from recombinant DNA, unless there is "unreasonable risk". As expected, biotechnology companies approve of the approach, but the scope policy statement doesn't clarify the regulations, these must await the release of regulations that have been held up awaiting the policy release statement. The EPA is expected to soon publish its guidelines for field release.
German regulations have gone in the other direction, and required that scientists who will work with recombinant DNA must attend a three day course on safety and law, even if they have already performed such experiments for a long time; Science 255: 524-6; Lancet 339: 606-7. This approach confuses safety with regulations, we need to look at the safety of any experiments and overregulating may only cloud over other areas of safety which the regulators neglected to consider, but the scientists will be too busy and defensive to think about all of these because they have to spend all their energy on filling out the application forms.
Their are fears that unemployed Russian and other former Soviet scientists who were involved with biological weapons research may work for smaller unstable countries who want to develop biological weapons. Methods to check compliance with the 1972 Convention banning offensive biological weapons research are being attempted, but it may be difficult to prevent all such research; NS (21 March 1991), 8, (28 March 1991), 14.
A microbe engineered to degrade chloro- and methyl-aromatics was found to survive in a natural ecosystem; R. Pipke et al., "Survival and function of a genetically engineered Pseudomonad in aquatic sediment microcosms", AEM 58: 1259-65. A laboratory trial of gene transfer between microorganisms is N.B. Shoemaker et al., "Evidence for natural transfer of a tetracycline resistance gene between bacteria from the human colon and bacteria from the bovine rumen", AEM 58: 1313-20. On global antibiotic resistance surveillance; NEJM 326: 292-7, 339-40.
A study of practices in the Netherlands for the washing of laboratory lab coats from genetic engineering research has found some interesting results; NS (21 March 1991), 11. Dirty lab coats had been sent to local laundries, where the first step was a soak in 35 C water. The soak water was then drained into the local sewers, before washing the coats. Scientists isolated viable E. coli from dried coat material, up to two years after coat use, including survival of the K12 strain. The wash water was flushed to the sewers where gene exchange with bacteria in the sewers could occur, thereby making the release of genetic material into the environment quite possible. Others should look at how their lab coats are washed!
A trial to examine the spread of genes in radish has found that some genes were transferred up to 1km from the genetically engineered radishes; NS (21 March 1991), 21; Conservation Biology 5: 531. They used modified white radishes with marker plots of wild radish planted in plots up to 1km away. Most transfer took place at very short distances, but long distance transfer was also observed, via pollen. As plant breeders have long known, the isolation distances for different crops vary greatly.
The procedures used in the recent approval of field trials of transgenic catfish in the USA are discussed in Biotechnology 10: 492. The regulatory process for transgenic fish in the USA is still being developed.
The outcrossing rate of foxtail millets is reported, with implications for transgenic crop release, in Theor. Applied Genetics 83: 940-6. The genetic and behavioural consequences of releasing guppies in Trinidad may also be relevant for modelling the effects of introducing new varieties to the environment; Proc. Royal Soc. London B 248: 111-6, 117-22.
In the USA, the FDA has proposed its guidelines for regulation of foodstuffs made from genetic engineering; Nature 357: 352. The basic process is to avoid extra regulations if there is no reason to suspect a novel substance is in the food. Industry must decide whether a new variety needs pre-market approval by the FDA, and this is one point of criticism. Rifkin has filed a petition demanding that such foodstuffs be labelled if they come from a GMO. There is still much concern about food irradiation and the issue of labelling of foodstuffs made from genetically modified organisms is discussed in Chemistry & Industry (6 April 1992), 243; NY Times (16 June), A24. The US biotechnology regulations (or lack of) are discussed in Science 256: 19; Amer. Soc. Micro. News 58: 251-2.
President Yeltsin recently confirmed that the anthrax outbreak in the former Soviet Union did occur as a result of biological warfare experiments; Japan Times (18 June 1992), 19. Russia has established an internal law banning biological weapons; NS (23 May 1992), 6.

Critiques of the current Bush administration policy on deregulation are in geneWATCH 8(2), 1,3; NS (13 June 1992), 50; while a positive view is in GEN 12(4), 1, 15; Biotechnology 10: 626. See reviews of policy in AJPH 82: 1165-6; NS (11 July 1992), 7. The RAC committee on field testing approval is no longer being used, and it is likely to be closed soon; SA (June 1992), 83. A review of the UK approach to regulation of the release of GMOs is in geneWATCH 8(2), 6, 11. However, environmentalists are still upset over the new UK laws; NS (8 Aug 1992), 6. In Germany there is still much paperwork. The French may be increasing the regulation of genetic engineering laboratories; Science 256: 1765.
A critique of USDA policy on field testing GMOs is in R.P. Wrubel et al., "Field testing transgenic plants", BioScience 42: 280-9. The main critique is that more environmental data should be obtained from the studies. The UK PROSAMO programme is discussed in Biotechnology 10: 830-1, 833. Public confidence is sought in the UK; NS (27 June 1992), 49. A report on the rabies control project using a genetically modified vaccine is in SA (June 1992) 56-62.
A Danish company, GX systems, is focusing on suicide gene technology, to destroy microorganisms after they have performed their function; GEN 12(9), 13, 27.
In Japan , the MAFF and other national centers in Tsukuba have applied for permission to grow a TMV-resistant tomato in unrestricted conditions; GEN 12(9), 22; EEIN 2: 18.
The possibility of gene transfer is one of the principle concerns about release of GMOs. Some papers of relevance include: C.F. Amabile-Cuevas & M.E. Chicurel, "Bacterial plasmids and gene flux", Cell 70: 189-99; V. Ctovsky et al., "Nuclear localization of Agrobacterium VirE2 protein in plant cells", Science 256: 1802-5; R.F. Fisher & S.R. Long, "Rhizobium - plant signal exchange", Nature 357: 655-60.
The American Society of Microbiology is involved in the biological warfare debate;geneWATCH 8(2), 7, 13. Meanwhile the US Army sees itself as a growing investor and user of biotechnology; GEN 12(8), 3, 27. Fortunately these investments may not be in biowarfare, but in biosensors, immunocompetence boosting and bioproduction of materials. Russian biological warfare labs are said to have switched to drug and vaccine production for medical uses; Biotechnology 10: 727; though there is still debate over how far they have changed; Japan Times (2 Sept 1992), 8.. The US Army biowarfare labs are also redirecting research; Science 256: 1751. The chemical weapons treaty debate is discussed in Biotechnology 10: 833; Lancet 340: 45. It is expected to be signed later this year.

The Calgene Flavr Savr (Flavour Savour) tomato, which contains an antisense gene for polygalactonase to prevent softening, has been given general unrestricted approval for growth in the USA; Federal Register 57 (19 Oct 1992), 47608-16. This means that it is no longer required to apply for field testing permission, and represents the beginning of a new stage in the use of GMOs. It is also a welcome decision, because after assessing the field safety of GMOs, once they are found to be safe they should be made available for people's benefit. The decision on whether the tomato is safe to eat is expected soon from the FDA (EEIN 2: 62), see the later section. A detailed analysis was released in the Federal Register. The release of this tomato will present policy decisions for other countries also.
The EEC biotechnology safety directives on large-scale contained use of genetically modified organisms are compared to US regulations in GEN (Aug 1992), 1, 19. The different regulations may make some US companies unsure of what is required, and some European companies may prefer to perform such work in the US where only good large scale practice is required. There is still uncertainty in the UK about implementing the EC GMO regulations regarding the aspects of openness and patenting; Nature 359: 569.
German researchers and industry are seeking to ease the laws on genetic engineering in Germany ; Nature 359: 93; Lancet 340: 842. The current law requires as much paperwork for experiments of "no risk" category, as those with medium to high risk, and researchers would like to avoid the preparation of paperwork for the "no risk" experiments. The approaches appear to differ based on Lander. While industry has diverted resources to overseas branches or licensees, research institutes cannot. Therefore they are leading a campaign to ease the bureaucratic regulations. Some politicians have supported a proposal, we must await its fate.
A citizen's panel in Denmark has reported that the patenting of transgenic animals should be opposed, and food produced from genetically engineered varieties should be labelled; NS (3 Oct 1992), 5. In the Netherlands, a field test of genetically engineered maize has been sabotaged; NS (22 Aug 1992), 4. All 900 plants, which were herbicide tolerant, had their stems cut, while adjacent transgenic sugarbeet and oilseed rape were untouched. The company says it will delay the market entry for 1-2 years, and follows a similar sabotage last year.
Apparently, illegal medical waste has been transported from Germany to France, and customs are now checking waste entering France; Lancet 340: 477, 541-2.
A report from the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment from the Interim Assessment Group (IAG) for the Field Testing or Release of GMOs, until end of June 1992, reports that there were a total of 24 proposals considered for field tests and 3 for transport of GMOs. Recent trials include an ongoing trial of genetically engineered kiwifruit , and a field trial of transgenic sheep carrying a gene that may improve growth rate. If people have enquiries about the system of monitoring GMO field releases in New Zealand they could contact Dr Abdul Moeed, chairperson of the IAG, Ministry for the Environment, P.O. Box 10362, Wellington, New Zealand.
There has been continuing controversy in Japan about the opening of the new building of the National Institute of Health, in Shinjuku, Tokyo; Nature 358: 703; Attitudes to Genetic Engineering, 76. Rather than moving the research facility to a sparsely populated area, like Tsukuba Science City, the researchers wanted to build it in the heart of Tokyo. Local residents continue to protest, and the other aspects of the story are discussed in the news report. It includes experiments at the P3 level of containment, on infectious diseases. Meanwhile, the court case over the Tsukuba Riken P4 biosafety level laboratory (Attitudes to Genetic Engineering p. 75-77), has finished hearing evidence and will make a decision on payment of monetary compensation (although there has been no accident!) in January 1993. The protesters are not satisfied.
The results of the tests performed on the transgenic TMV-resistant tomato in Tsukuba Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries National Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences research center are reported in Japanese in the Bulletin of the National Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences 8 (June 1992). Next year several field tests are proposed, including melons and rice.
The regulation of transgenic plants in the USA is discussed in an editorial in Science 257: 1327; and reviewed in Biotechnology 10: 967-71. It is reported that by the end of 1992, about 600 field tests will have been conducted involving 40 species of genetically modified plants in about 20 countries of the world. Calls are made for looser regulations, when past cases and experience suggest that there is very little risk. Meanwhile, the state of Minnesota has introduced its own set of guidelines for release of GMOs; Bio 10: 960-1. They will use existing state agencies, and follow North Carolina which introduced their state regulations three years ago. Reaction is mixed. The US National Biotechnology Policy Board has said that overregulation in the USA is damaging industry; Nature 359: 569.
The results of a field trial of transgenic potatoes with what were thought to be neutral-acting genes, GUS-reporter genes and neomycin-resistance gene are described in P.J. Dale & H.C. McPartlan, "Field performance of transgenic potato plants compared with controls regenerated from tuber discs and shoot cuttings", Theor. & Appl. Genetics 84: 585-91. The genes appeared to have no effect of plant performance in the field. The detection of bacteria in soil by direct DNA extraction and PCR is applied in AEM 58: 2717-22. Discussion of how to model the behaviour of transgenic fishes , and whether exotic fishes are models, is discussed in Biotechnology 10: 1090-1.
The case of exotic mussel invasion of the great Lakes in the USA is described in SA (Oct 1992), 11-2. A special issue of the journal Ecological Modelling 63: 1-334 is devoted to ecosystem theory. A review of another relevant topic is W.J. Bock, "The species concept in theory and practice", Zoological Science 9: 697-712. Perceptions of risks and how to educate people about them are in C. Chess & K.L. Salomone, "Rhetoric and reality: risk communication in government agencies", J. Environmental Education 23: 28-33.
A short general review is S. Wald, "Biotechnology, agriculture and food", OECD Observer (Aug/Sept 1992), 4-8. It looks at some OECD publications on the topic. The issue of herbicide-tolerant crops is reviewed in an article J. Dekker & G. Comstock, "Ethical and environmental considerations in the release of herbicide resistant crops", Agriculture and Human Values (Fall 1992), 1-13. They call for much closer examination of the implications of such crops before they are introduced. A special issue of the J. Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 4(2) (1991), 101-222 includes papers on the topics "Ethics and Agricultural Biotechnology: Opposing Viewpoints, ed. G. Comstock. It includes papers on the bovine growth hormone use, justice between intellectual property rights and farmers in developing countries, the structure of scientific research and the common good, manipulating the genome of pigs, intellectual property rights from publicly funded research and ethical issues in biotechnology and agriculture. The journal is available for C$15 from Business office, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Room 039, MacKinnon Building, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.

The USDA has followed up the approval for unrestricted growth of a genetically modified tomato (EEIN 2: 73, 76) with new proposed rules which would mean that field trials of certain classes of GMOs (corn, cotton, tomato, soybean, tobacco) may only need to notify the USDA on the day when they commence trials; Nature 359: 663-4; 360: 94; Federal Register (6 Nov 1992); GEN (15 Nov 1992), 1, 16. If an institutional biosafety committee judged other GMOs to be safe, they would also not require federal overview. See other comments in Biotechnology 10: 1384-5.
The federal government of Germany has agreed to ease the requirements of the gene technology law paperwork; Nature 360: 286. However, a factory for producing insulin that Hoechst wanted to open has been blocked again; Nature 360: 402. An article in German on the problems with over-regulation of genetic engineering in Germany (EEIN 2: 73) is Naturwissen-schaften 79: 482-4. A review of the implementation of the genetic engineering directives of the European Parliament is in Biotech Forum Europe 9: 458-64; also see Biotechnology 10: 1421-6; Science 258: 551; NS (21 Nov 1992), 9. The Dutch government must decide whether the world's first transgenic bull can breed; NS (28 Nov 1992), 8. The bull has a modified lactoferrin gene and could make cows (female) less susceptible to mastitis. The bull was bred by a company Gene Pharming Europe, in Leiden.
The attitudes of scientists working in genetic engineering or biotechnology in the European Molecular Biology Organisation to concerns about genetic engineering has been surveyed and reported in I. Rabino, "A study of attitudes and concerns of genetic engineering scientists in Western Europe", Biotech Forum Europe 9: 636-40; Science 258: 894. From a sample of 400 respondents, 33% considered public attention to have been harmful, 26% saw benefits, and 27% saw it as equally beneficial or harmful. However, 67% reported no harm to their personal research. The views of scientists working in Germany or Switzerland were most negative. The conclusion by most scientists was for a need to be more open to the public, and to inform people what they are doing or planning.
An article on risk communication to the public is in EST 26: 2048-56. It discusses how to develop a method to communicate risk, after finding out what people think is important. In Japan a new Biohistory Research Hall is being opened in April next year, to promote public interest in biology; Science 258: 894.
The results of an experimental release of a genetically engineered microorganism to lake water, and plasmid loss, is reported in AEM 58: 3630-7. A paper on the genetic relationship between plants and their parasites reports gene-for-gene coevolution; Nature 360: 121-5. A review of a meeting on molecular signals between plants and microbes is in Cell 71: 191-9; The Plant Cell 4: 1173-9; Plant Molecular Biology 20: iii-v.

In surveys by Calgene , 66% of consumers in test surveys said that they would pay more for such a tomato if they feel they are getting good value. More comments on the safety of the Calgene tomato are in Biotechnology 10 (1992), 1520-1; Nature 361: 197. In the book Attitudes to Genetic Engineering, I reported that 55% of Japanese public say they have a concern about eating genetically-engineered "meat". A Sept. 1992 survey (N=3,800) reports that 57% of people said that they had concerns about the standards and efficacy of tests for imported beef; Japan Times (18 Feb 1993), 3 - almost the same level of concern. About 60% said that they thought local beef was too expensive, and 60% also said they found the taste of foreign beef the same. As I have reported previously, from time-to-time rumours are released that foreign food imports have chemicals and pesticides, in what some could see as an attempt to keep people paying higher prices for local produce. From the high level of concern, it appears that many people believe such rumours. In the USA, the FDA has changed food labelling requirements; BMJ 306: 83.
China has announced publicly what has been known for some time, that they are growing large scale trials of genetically engineered crops; NS (2 Jan 1993), 3, 4. It is also reported that farmers are already spraying engineered Rhizobia onto crops to increase nitrogen fixation. They plan to launch the world's first genetically engineered cigarette later in 1993. They have produced TMV-resistant tobacco, and also are looking at ways to increase nicotine expression so that people will smoke less for the same amount of stimulant.
As reported in the last issue, the USDA has proposed a notification process to replace a review process for certain types of GMO field release; Biotechnology 10 (1992), 1524. An older review of their past testing policy is in BioScience 42 (1992), 280-9; and other comments on APHIS rules are in Biotechnology 11: 8. New EPA rules apply to small-scale (less than 10 acre) tests of many genetically modified microorganisms in the USA; Nature 361: 193. A review of expected events in 1993 in agricultural biotechnology is in Nature 361: 6; and letters on the issues are in Science 259: 162-3. The balance of environmentalism and biotechnology is discussed in Biotechnology 11: 236.
In the Netherlands , the transgenic bull called Herman, who produces lactoferrin, has been given Parliamentary approval to breed. However, only female progeny will be allowed to survive; Lancet 341: 43; NS (9 Jan 1993), 8. Denmark is regulating the growth and use of transgenic animals, replacing a ban on this technology; Biotechnology 10 (1992), 1526. A book review of Transgenic Animals , is in Science 259: 109. The parliamentary moves in German to soften the paperwork for low risk genetic experiments is reported in BMJ 306: 85-6. A review of European groups opposing biotechnology is Biotechnology 11: 44-8.
French researchers have received wider support for the concept of introducing genetically engineered human disease hosts, such as snails, into the world as a method to control human disease; Science 259: 180-1. The idea is that these would be unable to host the pathogen, and would compete with the existing hosts to lower the number of pathogen-carrying vectors. The first stage is to develop gene transfer techniques for invertebrates, who could also produce many useful substances, as bioreactors. Any future widespread use would require much environmental testing before general release.
Although the chemical weapons ban was signed into law; NS (23 Jan 1993), 7; Nature 361: 105, the issue of verification is still remaining, Nature 361: 382; as is the issue of how to dispose safely of all the existing chemical weapons, Nature 360 (1992), 621-2. However, the US admits that it experimented with the effects of mustard gas on its own soldiers for the last fifty years, and is now seeking out about 4,000 persons for compensation; NS (16 Jan 1993), 8; BMJ 306: 292. The Institute of Medicine in the USA has issued a report accusing the US Dept. of Defense of covering up these past tests, and barring access to important documents, some of which are publically open yet unavailable to review; Science 259: 167.

The finding of residues of taro on stone tools used 28,000 years ago in the Solomon Islands has questioned the origin of world agriculture; NS (12 Dec 1992), 14. Previous reports show agriculture in the Middle East, but it appears to have been more widespread. There are plant residues on Egyptian tools 17-18,000 years old, and there are drainage ditches in New Guinea that are 7-10,000 years old.
The question of biological control of white fly in the USA is discussed in Science 259: 30.

The US USDA has exempted genetically modified corn, cotton, tomatoes, soybeans, tobacco and potatoes from reviews. This would cover 85% of past releases. Researchers should notify intention, and wait for 30 days before commencing. It does not include plants used for drug production (Federal Register , 31 March 1992). The EPA has proposed an amended rule (EEIN 3: 18) for small scale testing of GMOs, that would mean that notification only is required.
A new book on theological issues and genetic technology is Ronald Cole-Turner, The New Genesis. Theology and the Genetic Revolution (Westminster/John Knox Press (USA) 1993, 144pp., US$13). An editorial by D. Kevles on biotechnology, ethics and society is in Biotechnology 11 (March 1992), S11. A letter on the Japanese opposition to the site of the NIH biotechnology and pathology laboratory in downtown Tokyo is in Nature 362: 284. On European opposition to biotech see Biotechnology 11: 420.
A book review of H.D. Crone, Banning Chemical Weapons (Cambridge Uni. Press 1993, 122pp., 28), is in Nature 362: 662. A report on the declassification of WWII chemical- warfare research in the USA is Lancet 341: 819. Disclosures about the secret USSR anthrax experiences are in NS (20 March 1992), 4; Science 259: 1698. A new book , The Microbiologist and Biological Defence Research: Ethics, Politics, and International Security, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 666 (1992), 250pp., includes discussion on history, ethics, conventions and the current situation.
There is fear that British river fish are being affected by high levels of steriods in waste water, to change males to females; Science 259: 1119. The generation of a new phenotype in indigenous bacteria from a genetically modified Pseudomonas bacteria allows detection of gene transfer; AEM 59: 807-14. Hybridisation between different fish species is reported in Nature 362: 444-6. The role of acquired characteristics in inheritance and evolution is discussed in SA (March 1992), 112. If we include viruses, plus some interesting examples of Lamarckian-style hereditary.

An interview with a US scientist who redirected research priorities away from herbicide resistant plants is in Ag Bioethics Forum (Dec 92), 1, 5. A review of insect resistance to chemicals is R.A. Morton, "Evolution of Drosophila insecticide resistance", Genome 36: 1-7. A review of B. thuringiensis insecticidal protein research and how to combat resistance to this toxin is Nature 361: 593-4. Japan has said that it will donate 30 tonnes of pesticide to Cambodia , but studies in Thailand show increased use of pesticide increases pests, and in Indonesia decreased pesticide use is associated with increased rice production; NS (13 March 1992), 5.

A review of the ecology and field trials of transgenic plants is Nature 363: 580-1; and a paper reporting a scientific study is M.J. Crawley et al., "Ecology of transgenic oilseed rape in natural habitats", Nature 363: 620-3. They studied herbicide-resistant rape and kanamycin tolerance and found no evidence that these changes increase the invasion potential. In some characters the transgenic plants were actually less invasive than the wild type. A review also of interest is A.F. Raybould & A.J. Gray, "Genetically modified crops and hybridization with wild relatives: a UK perspective", J. Applied Ecology 30: 199-219. This paper suggests research priorities to address the ecological issues.
Calgene has begun 6 field trials in Canada of genetically engineered canola designed to produce a novel plant oil for food use; GEN (1 Jun), 28. Field trials of transgenic rice in China and Japan and Texas are discussed in NS (12 June 1993), 20. Commercial sales in Europe of a genetically modified gerbera made in Finland that has softer colours are soon expected; NS (8 May 1993), 17. Field trials of a live vaccine for salmon and trout have been completed in Ireland , but there is an apparent reluctance to expand the work; NS (24 April 1993), 18. The vaccine is a mutant of Aeromonas salmonicidia .
A report from a health survey of workers in a recombinant DNA production factory in Switzerland is in Appl. Microbioly & Biotechnology 39: 227-34. The workers showed no biochemical contact with the bacteria or genes used. A review of the recommendations for safe work with cell cultures containing potential human pathogens is in Appl. Micro. & Biotech. 39: 141-7.
In Japan, in Tsukuba Science City, the court challenge to the safety of the P4-level recombinant DNA facility has been decided, with the judge deciding there was no risk. The protestors have decided not to appeal the decision; Yomiuri Shinbun (26 June 1993), 23.
The German government has drafted the revised genetic engineering regulations to speed up applications, but it is expected to be approved after modifications at the end of 1993; Nature 363: 481. In Germany protestors camped in a field to attempt to stop the planting of transgenic potatoes and sugarbeet; NS (8 May 1993), 8. In Holland there is also continuing opposition to the commercial-isation of GMOs; NS (5 June 1993), 8. Environmental protests about biotech in the USA are discussed in Biotechnology 11: 666-7.
The generalisation of standards for biotechnology product manufacturing are debated in GEN (15 Feb 1993), 4, 25. Each company may use modified standards, and accept different quality standards. On the general use of risk analysis see a review in Environment (March 1993), 16-20, 37-9.
A paper examining how clonal bacteria are is PNAS 90: 4384-8. Some bacteria, and parasitic protozoa, are clonal while others are not. On bacterial sex-pheromone-induced plasmid transfer see a review in Cell 73: 9-12. Another review on the genetics of micobes is in PNAS 90: 4334-6. A conditional suicide gene system for E.coli is described in AEM 59: 1361-6.
A book review of G.B. Carter, Porton Down: 75 Years of Chemical and Biological Research (HMSO, 105pp, 10), describes biowarfare research in the UK; BMJ 306: 1208. US biowarfare research is described as second class science and a waste of money in NS (10 April 1993), 6. On the chemical weapons treaty and industry inspections see C&I (18 Jan 1993), 39. The safest procedures to dispose of chemical weapons are being debated; NS (19 June 1993), 16.

A scientific study showing the advanatages to soil quality and farming output of biodynamic methods in New Zealand is in Science 260: 344-9. There should be no hesitation to adopt such practices. A report from the World Resources Institute (1709 New York Ave, N.W., Suite 700, Washington D.C. 20006, USA) argues that if the environmental costs of agriculture are subtracted from the operating profits, most farms in the USA could save US$280 per acre by adopting " Sustainable farming". These practises involve crop rotation, fewer pesticides and alternative plowing methods.
The use of more efficient cycling in farms can also be applied to traditional farams such as a village in China as shown in Nature 362: 788; J. Applied Ecology 30: 86-94. The use of fish farms and marginal land to grow grass for the fish, and to recycle nutrients saved pollution, and earned more money. In Japan carp are being used by some farmers to eat weeds in rice paddies to aviod pesticide use. A report on sustainable agriculture for tropical areas is in EST 27: 1004-5. The use of South American savannas for rice and other crops is discussed in NS (19 June 1993), 36-9. The use of roots for sustainable agriculture is reviewed in C&I (4 Jan 1993), 14-7.
A report on the use of a fungus to control grasshoppers in Australia may change the US practices also is in Science 260: 887. Reviews of different aspects of pesticide use, industry and issues in India are in C&I (15 Feb 1993), 112-8; (1 March 1993), 148-54.
On the intertwined origins of agriculture and civilisation see Science 260: 704-5; Nature 363: 402-3, 435-8; Economic Botany 47: 3-14.

As of 19 July 1993 the USDA had received 142 notifications for release of GMOs, since the 30 April. The number of environmental release permits issued in total was 457, noting that some of these are for multiple sites (up to 89 for the most sites per permit). US regulations are discussed in Biotechnology 11: 876-7; Science 260: 1859.
The OECD has surveyed field releases of GMOs since 1986 and found that of 846 approvals, 483 were for herbicide tolerant plants (57%), with the next most common trait being virus resistance. 34% of the trials were for oilseed rape, next were potato, tobacco, tomato, corn, flax, soybean, cotton, in descending order. The USA and Canada had the most recorded trials.
Releases of genetically modified fish will come under the guidelines of the USDA when a new bill is introduced, research on a Sea Grant program is under the Commerce Dept., so this will formalise regulation; Science 261: 542.
The Austrian proposed bill which will regulate GMOs as well as human genetics has been revised, to remove some bureaucracy from low risk experiments; Nature 364 (26 Aug 1993). The magazine Zeithema (Vienna) has published a special issue on biotechnology to promote discussion. The papers are in Austrian, including one on biotech in Japan by D. Macer.
Experiments off the Florida coast show that marine bacteria take up DNA free floating in seawater; NS (7 Aug 1993), 14. In a study of a Vibrio species, 10% could undergo transformation (uptake of DNA). In a typical estuary of 1 trillion litres, there may be 1011 - 1015 transformations per year with a DNA concentration of 4-50ug free DNA per litre. Horizontal inter- and intra-specific gene transfer is reported in Drosophila in Science 260: 1796-9; in bacteria in Biotechnology 11: 767; AEM 59: 2257-63. A review of J.C. Fry & M. Day, eds., Release of Genetically Engineered and Other Microorganisms , Cambridge University Press, 1993, US$90, is in Biotechnology 11: 937.
In Australia there is concern over the use of viruses to sterilise the red fox and rabbit, in pest control efforts; Science 261: 683-4. A paper looking at the global transport of exotic marine organisms by shipping is in Science 261: 78-82, 34-5. Many of them are taken in as ballast seawater, and are plankton, and these invasions have already been occurring. A review of biological invasions and what we can learn from them is TREE 8: 133-7.

Spain has drafted a bill on GMO release, to bring it into accordance with the EC directives on GMO release, after a long delay; Nature 365: 684. It will not give the autonomous regions a say in the national process, so it is expected to be controversial. In Germany the Social Democrats are threatening to block a bill in the Bundesrat, that was approved by the Bundestag in early October. They object to the phrase allowing release of GMOs without a public hearing.
In New Zealand the bill to establish an Environmental Risk Management Authority (older proposed name was Hazards Controls Commission) is expected to progress after the forthcoming elections. For more details contact the NZ Ministry for the Environment. All new organisms will be assessed prior to release in New Zealand. The statutory Authority will replace the interim committee, which has approved 27 releases of GMOs (plants and animals) or large scale fermentations of genetic engineering organisms.
A general review of options for regulation especially for developing countries is W. Lesser & A.P. Maloney, Biosafety: A Report on Regulatory Approaches for the Deliberate Release of Genetically-Engineered Organisms - Issues and Options for Developing Countries, Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development 1993 (Box 14, Kennedy Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-5901, USA), 67pp.
The floods in the US this summer led to the loss of a transgenic insect-resistant corn trial in Iowa, but no fears of gene transfer are held by the researchers because the corn were not old enough to flower; Science 261: 1271. A review of interest is C.F. Amabile-Cuevas & M.E. Chicurel, "Horizontal gene transfer", American Scientist 81: 332--41. On transposons see Cell 74: 781-6.
Comments on the use of biotech to detect research into biowarfare , and for use in biosensors to detect pathogens, are Biotechnology 11: 979. On chemical weapons see Nature 365: 218; and on searching laboratories to detect such weapons,Science 261: 826.

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