|20 August 2005
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
20 August 2005
Dear Friends and colleagues,
RE: Close Scrutiny Needed for GM Microorganisms
The University of Wisconsin has applied to the US government for the release of genetically modified (GM) Erwinia carotovora bacteria containing antibiotic resistance marker genes in environmental field tests. Similarly, the University of Kentucky has proposed to field test GM Neotyphodium, an endophyte fungus living inside ryegrass.
A number of GM microbes bearing antibiotic resistance markers have been released commercially in the United States; these include Sinorhizobium, Agrobacterium and Psuedomonas. However, little effort appears to have been made to monitor the consequences of these releases.
While GM crops have received worldwide attention, there has been little public awareness or debate on the release of GM microorganisms. Yet, close scrutiny is warranted. For example, with GM bacteria, there is a real risk of horizontal gene transfer, as the process is commonplace among bacteria.
According to Prof. Joe Cummins, Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, the environmental release of these GM microorganisms, which contain antibiotic resistance marker genes, should be a “matter of grave concern”. In the two articles attached below which were submitted to the US government on behalf of the Independent Science Panel, he explains his concerns and why he believes the applications should be rejected.
With best wishes,
Chee Yoke Heong and Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama