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Sent: 02 July 2002 08:49
Subject: 99: Re: Managing gene flow in the South.
I am a doctorate in agricultural economics and presently working as a research associate.
Though my knowledge in genetic engineering is limited, I would like to express my views in agreement with Dr Glenn Ashton (message 98, June 29). Being developing nations, the south cannot afford neither their money nor their time for such doubtful technologies. Though the technology may help in enormous increases in production per unit area, it is not assuring that there will not be any negative environmental/ecological consequences. Hence, I personally feel that a responsible scientist should think about the long term effects/results of technology rather than concentrating on current profits.
EPW Research Foundation,
e-mail: tulsi_lr (at) hotmail.com
Sent: 02 July 2002 09:42
Subject: 100: Gene Flow and GM Forestry
Dag Lindgren, Professor of Forest Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
The response from forestry has been meagre at the end of the planned debate, so I feel a need to comment.
There are always exceptions and it is difficult to generalise, but I will still try to focus on some considerations which often may be relevant for forestry. Most points could be discussed concerning conventional breeding also, I do not comment on that here.
- A rather large part of the forest is still perceived as Nature. Gene
conservation in forest trees is partly made in situ. Forest trees are often
key species to major ecosystems. Forests stand for centuries and cannot
easily be replaced within a few years. Such factors sometimes make gene flow
from GM forests appear problematic.
- Much forest plantation is with native species or related species got near where they are planted. This increases the probability and potential consequences of gene flow.
- Many forest trees are wind-pollinated. Gene flow by pollen over distances of several hundreds of kilometres may then be common or at least possible.
- Improvement of forest trees usually does not (yet) mean that their ability of self-generation is significantly reduced. Contributions from the old stand to the new are sometimes a consideration even after clear cutting and planting a new stand. Vital trees may arise from seeds dispersed far from a plantation. [A stand is a community of trees sufficiently uniform in species composition, age, arrangement, and condition to be distinguishable as a group from the forest or other growth on the adjoining area, and thus forming a silviculture or management entity. (Definitions taken from the Province of British Columbia glossary: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/pab/publctns/glossary/glossary.htm )...Moderator].
- Forest trees are expensive to field-test and the test results will have limited reliability. Only few replications in space and time and few tested individuals can be afforded. Environments where a forest variety is planted are typically variable and heterogeneous. Thus, the consequences of genetic engineering and gene flow will be less predictable for forestry than for agriculture.
- Forest trees have long rotation times. Field-testing is typically done spanning much less than a full rotation (in contrast to agriculture where a new cultivar is typically tested for several rotation times before marketing). This makes the consequences of GM and subsequent gene flow uncertain and somewhat unpredictable. [A rotation is the planned number of years between the formation or regeneration of a tree crop or stand and its final cutting at a specified stage of maturity...Moderator].
- Theoretically, using sterile trees can eliminate gene flow. The extent of gene flow can certainly be much reduced by using such techniques. But, to prove absolute sterility, long field-testing under variable conditions is often needed, and this is expensive, complicated and time consuming. Improvement in sterility means less emphasis for improvement in other characters, and the other improved characters will be later available, and may also cause difficulties in the sexual long term breeding. The requirement for sterility is likely to lead to increased use of vegetative propagation with a few well-tested sterile clones. Using selected exotics for GM forestry may eliminate gene flow to native species.
- Forest trees typically spread little pollen and seeds early in the life cycle (the juvenile stage). Thus, reducing rotation time in plantations, so rotation become short compared to the natural life cycle, can be a useful technique to limit gene flow.
- The future is unpredictable and GM trees may remain in the forest for a long time once planted. That contributes to the uncertainty of the consequences of future gene flow.
- Efforts to limit gene flow from GM forests may favour exotics; short rotation time, few clones; and lead to reduced improvement in non-GM characters.
- Gene flow from GM forests seems less risky with exotic species and short rotation time. This may perhaps favour use of GM trees in developing countries.
Dept of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
SE 901 83 UMEŇ,
e-mail: Dag.Lindgren (at) genfys.slu.se
Sent: 02 July 2002 10:02
Subject: 101: Re: Gene flow from GM canola
This is from Tom Nickson in response to Peter Jenkins (message 93, June 28) and his reference to recent gene flow reports from Canada.
In crafting my earlier message (message 24, June 7), the words used were carefully chosen to communicate precisely. To reiterate, the term "risk" was used in the context of ecological risk assessment where the hazard would be harm to a valued ecological attribute. The detection of gene flow from approved transgenic plants in seed sources at low levels does not constitute an ecological risk. This probability was identified in decision documents issued for herbicide tolerant canola products by Canadian authorities at the time the approvals were granted. The conclusion, based on examination of the data, was that this new canola was no more weedy than its conventional counterpart; and that volunteers could still be controlled using approved methods.
The issue indicated by Mr. Jenkins seems to be more related to the broader acceptability of transgenes in general rather than on evidence of ecological risk. These recent reports cite opinions of concern based on the detection of GM in several sources. Perhaps the most contentious place of detection would be in organic where transgenes have been designated as unacceptable based on personal preferences. This is a good example of where acceptability has been rejected for personal reasons, and transgenes are fundamentally unacceptable. As a result, detection of a transgene at any level affects the perception of some people's ideas of purity.
We have read extensively in this conference about transgenes being contaminants or adventitiously present depending on one's perception. We also know from science that detection of gene flow is a function of the crop, distance and how closely one cares to look (sample size and detection method). I believe that science can not address the question of the perception of an individual who deems that detection at any level is unacceptable as a matter of belief. In the most extreme case in society, the question may become one of whose beliefs have greater value, since assuring zero is technically not possible at 100% certainty?
I believe that personal beliefs are integral to risk assessment in the broadest sense of the term, not simply a science-based ecological risk assessment. This is why I feel that broad dialogue is critical to development of biotechnology for both the developed and developing world. Furthermore, personal beliefs must be clearly distinguished in discussions of scientific data and data interpretation. In addition, a decision based on personal belief is valid, but we need to recognize that no decision is risk-free. If, in the extreme case, the developed world does not develop the GM technology because its population believes the risks present from gene flow are unacceptable, zero risk to the environment from GM is guaranteed. As a consequence, zero benefit to the developing world is also guaranteed.
Thomas E. Nickson, Ph.D.
Ecological Technology Center
Monsanto Company, V2B
800 N. Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63141
thomas.nickson (at) monsanto.com
Sent: 02 July 2002 11:24
Subject: 102: Re: Managing gene flow in the South.
This is Jane Morris from South Africa.
I am concerned that the views of Glenn Ashton (message 98, June 29) and Tulasi Lingareddy (message 99, July 2) should not be taken as representing the consensus view of countries in the "South".
So far there have been few inputs from developing countries into this conference, and a balanced view from a developing country perspective does not seem to have emerged. There is no reason why developing countries should not be able to undertake an informed risk assessment. If this is done properly, then these countries do not need to fear that they are more exposed to risk than countries in the developed world.
Although many would suggest that a risk/benefit analysis is not feasible or appropriate, I would argue in favour of such an approach. If the potential benefits for developing countries can be clearly defined, then we should not deny the consumer those benefits in an environment when the risks are low or negligible. As an example, we make these mental trade-offs every time we drive a car. How would you like to be told that you can't drive a car? Even though you know that it causes a certain amount of environmental pollution, you are prepared to accept the trade-offs involved. Therefore, it is important to get to grips with the potential benefits of GMOs for the developing world, in terms of improved nutrition, less use of toxic chemicals, improved yield etc etc..... On the negative side, one of the problems that is now forcing many developing countries to rethink their attitude towards GM crops is the potential loss of export markets - the erection of invisible trade barriers is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Having said all this, I would at the same time like to push for the developed world to assist the developing world in introducing new genetic technologies which can provide means for improved development of plant and animal varieties through non-transgenic methods. The developing world is in danger of getting left behind in the post-genomic revolution. Here in South Africa, we are embarking on a major initiative to introduce genomics, proteomics and related technologies - but budgetary constraints are a real problem! Nevertheless, it is essential that we develop these technologies, which can be of major assistance to breeders without necessarily having to go the transgenic route.
E Jane Morris PhD
African Centre for Gene Technologies
P O Box 75011
Tel: +27 12 841 2642
Fax: +27 12 841 3105
Cellular: +27 82 566 2210
e-mail: jmorris (at) csir.co.za
Sent: 02 July 2002 11:51
Subject: 103: Re: Gene Flow and GM Forestry
Berthold Heinze, forest geneticist at the Federal Office and Research Centre for Forests, Vienna, Austria.
I would like to make a very short comment on one of Prof. Lindgren's (message 100, July 2) statements. I generally agree with many of his comments. However, at the beginning of his message, he states that " - A rather large part of the forest is still perceived as Nature. Gene conservation in forest trees is partly made in situ. Forest trees are often key species to major ecosystems. Forests stand for centuries and cannot easily be replaced within a few years. Such factors sometimes make gene flow from GM forests appear problematic."
I think that the fact that forest trees stand for centuries lowers any perceived risk from gene flow dramatically, compared to annual crops! Forests cannot and will not be replaced within a few years. This means that seeds carrying transgenes will, in any given year, not be able to replace mature trees except for a very tiny part of the whole forest area. Therefore, monitoring of "escaped genes" would be rather easy to do (even young trees do not run away ...). Measures to counteract such gene flow, if preferred, would be easily implemented as well (with a chainsaw ...). My own view is that just because of the very long generation times of trees, gene flow from any GM trees can be seen a bit more relaxed.
Institute of Forest Genetics
Austrian Federal Office and Research Centre for Forests
A-1140 Vienna, AUSTRIA
Tel. +43 1 87838-2219 Fax -2250
Berthold.Heinze (at) fbva.bmlf.gv.at