Tuesday, August 13, 2002

The circle of life I started wondering about this Trewavas guy after reading another article he wrote for Nature in 1999:
Attempts to introduce genetically modified (GM) foods have stimulated, not a reasoned debate, but a potent negative campaign by people with other agendas who demonize the technology. These opponents ignore common farming practice and well-investigated facts about plants, or inaccurately present general problems as being unique to GM plants. Almost without exception, opponents of GM foods are not plant biologists.
[I will refrain from dissecting the various fallacies for now; and to be fair, I should point out that he makes some very good points; but note the hysterical tone].

Then my friend Mr. Google told me that he was the guy who put a jellyfish gene into potatoes to make them glow when they need water. More recently he sent a letter to UC Berkeley professors "to request that Berkeley relinquish [Ignacio] Chapela's position simply because the reputation of science will have been damaged." Chapela was the lead author of the study that showed transgenes in wild Oaxacan corn, published in, and later effectively disowned by Nature. [By the way, no one has disputed that they did indeed find transgenes in Oaxacan corn -- the issue is what happened to the genes after they got there]. It has been suggested that the attack on Chapela was politically motivatd, because he was a prominent opponent of the $25 million Novartis/Berkeley Dept. of Plant and Microbial Biology "partnership," now administered by Syngenta (a Novartis spinoff), which sponsored the food section on Nature's website.

Update:In fact, Chapela's science has been attacked to the extent that it does call into question the existence of transgenes in Oaxacan landraces, in this highly critical editorial in Trangenic Research from February, although Chapela and Quist appear to have addressed the problems with PCR using DNA-DNA hybridization in their response to the criticism in Nature. Of course I have no idea what any of this technical shit means. See Kara Platoni's excellent article in the Express for more nefarious details. Other info here (consumer) and here (industry).

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