Scientific and bioethic complaints against the genetic enginering


11 Δεκ 2012 (πριν από 5 χρόνια και 5 μήνες)

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3. Südosteuropäisches Bioethik

Integrative Bioethik und Verantwortung für nicht

Mali Lošinj, 20.

September 2007.


Complaint Against Genetic Engineering

Marijan Jošt

Agricultural College Križevci, Croatia


Today it is clear that the general public opinion is against the genetic engineering (GE) of
plants, animals and drugs, as well as genetically

ingredients in food. Sadly, the
main support for GE comes from some educated academic people; even w
hen their
profession is far from molecular biology and genetics, their belief in science is so firm that
they rule out any logical criticism and proclaim resistance to GE as non

The mistakes of GE and the wrong scientific approach of molecular
biologists will be
presented in this paper from the viewpoint of a plant breeder.

Besides the scientific mistakes on which the GE is based, bioethic reasons against the
acceptance of genetically modified organisms (GMO) will be explained according to the
ošinj declaration.

And last but not least, the economic and political background of genetic engineering will
be elucidated.

Key words: Genetic engineering, science, bioethic.


Science has never been more powerful than it is today, and in t
he future it is going to be
able to do a lot more things than it is going to be allowed to do

Does it mean that
science is less responsible today, especially when genetic engineering is in question?
Genetic engineering is raising a whole range of ethi
cal issues, and a new breed of
‘bioethicists’ have been enlisted to consider not only genetic engineered (GE) crops, but
especially animal and human cloning, genetic screening for diseases, pre
natal and pre


implantation diagnosis, experiments on human emb
ryos, xenotransplantation, and gene
replacement therapy.

The public have expressed deep concerns about ‘playing God’;
about exploiting human beings and animals, and the re
emergence of genetic
discrimination and eugenics.

Genetically modified o
rganisms (GMO) are currently being commercially used in crop,
forestry and agro
industry sectors, and soon will be commercially used in livestock and
aquaculture. In pharmacy, biotechnology is probably the most commercialized activity
today, but public is

not complaining to much. Why?

Major GM crop producers are United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil and China, and
GM soybean, maize, cotton and canola are the major crops grown. The vast majority of
GM crops cultivated were modified for only two traits:
herbicide tolerance and insect

Without any scientifically or empirically verified evidence (Proof of safety is much more
difficult than proof of hazard

advocates of agricultural biotechnology claim that
genetically engineered (GE) or gen
etically modified (GM) crops are the answer to world
hunger and will give security to an ever increasing population.
But public acceptance of
genetic modification in plants and animals, as well as acceptance of GM food products is a
major issue that ca
nnot be ignored today.
[8, 9]

The deep public opposition to genetic
engineering in Europe is based on experience with previous food scandals (BSE, hormone
beef) which were not handled well by governments and regulators, and which have leed to
a mistrust of

people in their regulating agencies.

Resistance to GM crops and food are
big. In some cases individual African countries have refused to accept food aid derived
from GM crops. In recent years, the importance of public participation in decision
has been increasingly recognized.

One of the lessons to be learnt from studies of public
attitudes to GM crops and foods was that "Public concerns need to be taken into account
by all the operators of the industry, including R&D, marketing, commerce and

Governments and international bodies also need to take these concerns into account when
elaborating risk
related regulations".

From an early statistics about public perception of genetic engineering as a serious food risk

we can see

wide range from United States (14%) to Sweden (65 %). (Fig.1.)


Fig. 1. Perception of genetic engineering as a serious food risk (in %)

United Kingdom
United States

(Food Marketing Institute , 1995.)

One of the eary survay comparing the atitude in EU shows that biotechnology a
wareness is
clearly correlated to educational level. However, if the most highly educated groups show the
highest acceptance of biotechnology, it must also be noted that the most active poilitical
opponents of agrofood biotechnologies belong to the same g
roups. (OECD 1992).

Although most developing countries are currently not involved in developing GMOs, their
governments (like in Croatia) may nevertheless be required to regulate and develop
policies about them because of the possibility of releasing
imported GM varieties or
importing "GM food".


reasons against the acceptance of GMO

The mistakes of genetic engineering and the wrong scientific approach

Genome is fluid and dynamic. Genes function organically, in entangled networks th
respond from moment to moment to the changing context of the whole organism in its

Genetic engineers understands genes as mechanical elements operating in


fixed circuit boards, but they are wrong. Present scientific knowledge do not suppo
genetic engineering. Let me list just a few of facts:

Genetic determinism

„1 gene = 1 protein“:
Craig Venter, and his company Celera,
using the public funds to sequence the Human genome, finished research in 2000. The
report was a big surprise: The
"book of life" turns out to have as few as 30 thousands
genes. If „one gene to one protein“ theory is correct, how to explain that 250 thousands
proteins in human body are made by only 30 thousands genes.

Facts of Life

[15, 17, 18, 33]

The human genome

has about 30 thousands genes.

There are 250 thousands proteins made by the 30 thousands genes.

More than 95% of the human genome is ‘junk’ DNA. (?)

The coding regions for proteins occupy only 1.1% of the human genome.

There are more than four million g
enetic differences between humans found so far.

There are only 300 unique genes in the human genome, which are not in the mouse.

During evolution 113 genes have been transferred into the human genome from bacteria.

1778 genes have been identified responsi
ble for diseases, from asthma to Alzheimer’s.

"We simply do not have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to be right,"
said Venter, The wonderful diversity of the human species is not hard
wired in our genetic
code. Our environments are


in biological systems single causes often produce multiple effects. A single
initial action (definite protein synthesis controlled by definite gene) determines multiple
primary effects,; each primary effect becomes the starting poi
nt for several or many
secondary effects; and the compounding of effects continues through subsequent steps in
the process.

The unpredictable consequences (multiple pleiotropic effects) of introducing a new genetic
trait or quality include alteration
s in existing gene expression, function, relationships,
regulation of metabolic pathways, synthesis of proteins and chemicals, and alteration of
enzymatic and other molecular, cellular and organismic processes. These complex
relationships between genes tha
t make up the genome or genetic constitution of plants and
all life forms mean that it is bad science to believe that it is safe to insert an artificially
constructed (and patented!) gene carrying a desired trait like herbicide or insect


Quantitative inheritance

based on multiple gene systems and polygenes):

The individual members of the multiple gene systems produce the same growth substance
or similar ones. Their combined actions are cumulative, and their phenotypic end
product a
itative character. A well known example is developmental sequence which takes
place in a series of steps in the synthesis of aminoacid arginine in
. The
synthesis of this aminoacid involves at least seven steps, and each step is controlled bay
different gene.

Polygenes in the strict sense are characterized as chromosomal genes which individually
have minute phenotypic effects, but which collectively, in polygenic system, have
measurable cumulative effects expressed as quantitative character
s. Example: dosage effect
of gene for provitanin
A content in corn. The effects of the polygenes on the phenotypic
character are generally small in comparison with the effect of environmental influences.
It is important to know that nearly all main eco
nomic traits in plants are quantitatively
inherited. It means: inserting just one foreign gene in majority cases will have no expected

Many scientists have concluded that there are no simplistic explanations for diseases in
terms of single genes,

because the action of each gene is modified and affected by many
other genes. Craig Venter’s Celera has identified over 4 million single nucleotide
polymorphisms, or SNPs

variants of genes that differ by a single base. It means: each
person is genetical
ly unique (except for identical twins at the beginning of

Instability of transgenic plants is well
known and actively researched. Transgenic
constructs integrate at random into the host genome, and in a scrambled configuration,
ing of repeats, rearrangements and deletions.

Molecular genetics is the only one (today favored) branch between many of genetic
branches (quantitative genetic, population genetic, evolutionary genetics, mutation genetic,
cytogenetics etc.). Molecular gene
ticist have specific, very narrow, mechanistic approach
and should be working in team with other scientist to achieve holistic oversight of the
problem. In such a team work they will understand that many (if not all) of their ideas are

not supp
orted by present scientific knowledge. Unfortunately, the mechanistic


paradigm still dominates in western science and the global society at large.

The irony is
that contemporary western science across the disciplines is rediscovering how nature is

dynamic and interconnected. There are no linear causal chains linking genes and
the characteristics of organisms.

Reasons against the acceptance of genetically modified organisms

In spite of the fact that ethics is largely a metter of each person'
s independent judgment

because morality is largely defined by religion, genetic engineering is raising a whole
range of ethical issues, and a new breed of ‘bioethicists’ have been enlisted to consider not
only genetic engineered crops, but also animal an
d human cloning, genetic screening for
diseases, pre
natal and pre
implantation diagnosis, experiments on human embryos,
xenotransplantation, and gene replacement therapy. The public have expressed deep
concerns about a man ‘playing God’.

In Japan Ma
ekawa and Macer recognize three main approaches to bioethics


Prescriptive bioethics tell us what is ethically good or bad.


Descriptive bioethics explains our view of life, and moral

interactions and responsibilities with living organisms.


Interactive bioethics is debate between people about descriptive

and prescriptive bioethics.

To obtain a balanced opinion from the community, it is important to hear from persons in a
range of positions with different occupations. So, during one y
ear, they conducted a group
discussion about genetic engineering. The only point where they are complete unanimous
was: "Practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of
human beings, shall not be permitted." In all other ques
tions they had different opinions.
This example shows, that democratic decisions in bioethics have not great value. Why?
Because the Nature low, the only law which regulate life is constant, and can not be
changed or adapted to democratic believe of the ma

Several recent studies have shown that the nutritional value and safety of GE crops and
foods are to be questioned, and their consumption is to be avoided for health,
environmental and ethical reasons.
Nutritionists and health experts are linking

the rise in
human food allergies to the increased consumption of GM foods and food additives,


especially soy products that contain novel proteins

Many hazards are already evident
from existing scientific findings. These include immune reactions to GM

constructs and
creation of new viruses due to recombination between artificial gene therapy vectors and
dormant viruses in the genome.

Drug and antibiotic resistant infectious diseases have come back with a vengeance within
the past 25 years. Infect
ious diseases are responsible for one
quarter of the 53.9 million
deaths in the world, second to cardiovascular disease. One likely contributing factor that
has yet to be named by the scientific establishment is the rise of commercial genetic
engineering w
ithin the same period. Genetic engineering, in agriculture, pharmacy and
medicine, uses the same tools and makes the same kinds of artificial constructs.

Also, the environment safety is often questioned. The main concern is gene flow from
GMO to wild

species. Gene flow refers to the exchange of genes among populations and
not simply to the dispersal of pollen or seeds, and may be facilitated unknowingly by
human intervention. Certain items are of particular interest:

How frequently and at what rate ma
y gene flow occur from GM to non
populations. For the crop sector (where an estimated 53 million hectares of GM
crops were cultivated in 2001), how frequently is gene flow from GM to non
populations currently taking place?

Whether the potential cons
equences are greater for wild relatives, landraces or
improved populations.

Whether the potential impacts of gene flow from GM populations producing human
pharmaceuticals (such as human vaccines from bananas or human interferons from
hens) are different t
han from GM populations modified for agricultural traits.

What could be the potential socio
economical or environmental impacts of gene
flow from GM to non
GM populations.

The magazine Nature (2001) published the first scientific report on discovery o
f a high
frequency transgene insertion into a Mexican corn gene

indicates that introgression
events are relatively common, and that the transgenic DNA constructs are probably
maintained in the population from one generation to the next, endangering th
e corn gene


Recently the Third World Netvork Biosafety Information Service (2007.) reported: Japan
does not produce any GM crops. But because it imports GM canola from Canada, GM
contamination has already occurred (around ports of import, around

factories where canola
oil is extracted, as well as along canola transportation routes), and is reportedly spreading
to a wide area throughout the country and at a greater extent than was expected. The GM
canola imported from Canada is all herbicide toler

either to Monsanto's 'Roundup' or
to Bayer CropScience's 'Basta'. Detected GM canola was tolerant to both Roundup and
Basta. As there is no GM canola variety currently available which has transgenes for both
types of herbicide tolerance, this GM cano
la must have been crossed at the spot where it
was spilled. Beside this, winter killed canola in Canada, in Japan can survive for several
years (due to warmer winters) and became perennial bushy tree, spreading GM pollen year
after year. Thus, the environm
ental impact caused by spilled GM canola seeds is
potentially very serious.

The economic and political background of genetic engineering

Some of the largest life science companies are strategically positioned to control much of
the global bioindustr
ial market in coming century.
In 1998. the top ten multinationals from
each branche were controling: 81 percent of the global agrochemical market, 37 percent of
the global seed market, 47 percent of the global pharmaceutical market and 43 percent
y pharmaceutical trade.
As results of competition and globalization, smaller
number, but much bigger multinationals control larger and larger percentage of global
market today. What will happen if a major multinationals decides to abuse its powers?

can it be controlled?

There is already such a rogue multinational: Monsanto. Under Monsanto's prodding, the
United States has started a billion dollar trade war designed to punish the European Union
for trying to protect its citizens from carcinogenic p
roducts by barring import of Monsanto
hormonal meat and milk products.

The project to sequence the entire human genome has cost the public 3 billion US$, and
hundreds of millions of pounds in the UK. Now, scientists are telling us this is just the end
of the beginning, and much more money is needed before the goods can be delivered in
terms of miracle cancer cures, eradication of disease, genetic enhancement, gene therapy.


But even if the goods can be delivered against all odds, they will be beyond th
e means of
the average taxpayer because private companies are aggressively staking out their claims
on our genome. The human genome is already covered with dozens of times more patents
than there are genes, because multiple patents are being granted over t
he same stretch of
DNA. Such patents are seriously distorting healthcare and stifling scientific research and
[31, 33]

Some 740 patented gene tests are already in the market, and hundreds more in the
pipelines. For cases where such tests can
help to diagnose and treat patients, exorbitant
license fees have prevented them from being used. On the other hand, healthy people
testing positive are denied employment and health insurance. Insurance companies in the
UK can now require individuals to re
veal the results of genetic tests. At the same time,
prenatal and pre
implantation diagnoses are eliminating human fetuses and embryos
carrying genes said to pre
dispose them to cancer as adults. Governments are diverting
large amounts of tax money into hu
man genomic research which benefit the corporations.
This is the real disaster for public health, which will end up marginalizing and victimizing
those most in need of care and treatment.

More than a decade of somatic ‘gene therapy’ has met with no s
uccess. On the contrary,
there have been deaths and numerous adverse events, the causes of which remain largely
unknown. Many hazards are already evident from existing scientific findings. These
include immune reactions to GM constructs and creation of new

viruses due to
recombination between artificial gene therapy vectors and dormant viruses in the genome.

Genetic determinists and other prominent scientists as well as some ‘bioethicists’ are
advocating human germline gene therapy and human cloning. They
see the creation of a
rich class of human beings. The rich will pay to genetically enhance their offspring,
in the same way that they are paying for expensive private education. Consequently, there
will be a genetic underclass

children of the poor

that will eventually become a separate,
inferior species. Today social inequity should be translated into genetic inequity of
tomorrow. Fortunately, this genetic determinist fantasy will never come to pass.

Human cloning came back on the agenda as c
ompanies and their scientists pushed for
approval of ‘therapeutic’ human cloning, the creation of human embryos for the purpose of


providing cells and tissues for transplant. In 2001, the UK became the first Government in
the world to pass a law that makes

this legal, even though the available scientific evidence
indicates that such human cloning is totally unnecessary and immoral.

In 2007, Britain's
embryology regulators have approved in principle the creation of embryos by injecting
human DNA into emp
ty animal egg cells
[18, 20]

Another development is xenotransplantation; the transplant of animal organs into human

a multi
billion dollar business venture built on the anticipated sale of patented
techniques and organs, as well as drugs to over
come organ

However, there is
scientific reports of virus crossing from pig to human cells

The creation of ‘humanized’
pigs by genetic engineering to supply spare organs for transplant into human beings is so
clearly a case of bad science

and big business putting the world at risk from pandemics of
viruses that cross from pig to human beings. It should be banned immediately,

due to existing scientific evidence about safer, more humane and effective alternatives.

At the

(1999) annual Scientific Conference of the International Federation of Organic
Agriculture Movements (IFOAM),
more than 600 delegates from over 60 countries voted
unanimously for a declaration against the use of genetically modified organisms in food
production and agriculture

The delegates called on governments and regulatory agencies
throughout the world to
immediately ban genetic engineering

in agriculture and food
production since it involves:

Negative and irreversible environmental impacts.

ease of organisms of an unrecallable nature.

Removal of the right of choice, both for farmers and consumers.

Violation of farmers' fundamental property rights and economic independence.

Practices, incompatible with the principles of sustainable agricult
ure (IFOAM).

Unacceptable threats to human health.

Up to now, independent science is almost non
existent. Science has become more and
more closely tied to industrial interests that too often conflict with public good and public
safety. Many prominent sc
ientists from all over the world share a deep concern over the
commercialization of genetic modification and other technologies without the due process
of thorough scientific assessment, informed public consultation and public consent. They
are calling on
the European Commission
to support independent science in its next round


of science funding
, and to ensure maximum transparency and democratic input in deciding
funding and research priorities.

The request is for establishing funding criteria that in
clude ethical and safety
considerations before the research is funded (Next round of public research funding

Framework Programme 7, 2007 to 2013). They are demanding a redistribution of the
research budget away from industry and technology driven areas l
ike genomics towards
sustainable agriculture, ecology and energy use in sustainable systems, and holistic health.
In particular, they would like to see top priority given to scientists working with local
communities to revitalize and protect traditional ag
ricultural and healthcare systems.

Establishing broad funding criteria that put public interest ahead of ‘wealth creation’ is

No member of any committee making decisions on funding priorities should
have, or should recently have had, a financia
l interest in the outcome of the decision being
made. The following criteria should be used in setting priorities for areas of research, and
in funding specific programmes:


Does it contribute to public good?


Is it ethical?


Is it safe?


Will it contribute t
o furthering fundamental understanding of nature?

Too often, questions on safety are being raised

the research has been done, and the
technology has been commercialized. At that stage, it is very difficult to reach a consensus.

In GB, the Medical Re
search Council (MRC), which dispenses public funds for biomedical
research, has been promoting ‘health genomics’ at great expense, after hundreds of
millions have been squandered on the human genome project that has yielded little more
than start
up compan
ies for the biotech industry. Worse still, it intends to set up a large
human DNA ‘BioBank’ as follow
on from the human genome sequence that has now been
mapped and sequenced. In 2003, the MRC is to spend US $700 million. More than that, it
has been pointe
d out that the project was simply misguided by genetic determinist
ideology, and consequently, the database would prove largely useless and would only serve
to fuel the resurgence of eugenics. On March 2003, however, the highly influential House
of Commons

Selective Committee on Science and Technology (SCST) finally released a
strongly worded report that bears out most of criticisms. The MRC stands accused of
"making capricious funding decisions", of "inconsistent and inadequate communication",


and spending

too much on big projects, leaving little for individual researchers in
universities. The BioBank is characterized as a "politically driven project".

Croatia is not an exception

In an essay, published 2005 under the title: “
Bioethik under den Bedingung
en des

Fallbeispiel Kroatien

the historic overview of happenings from the
scientific meeting “Challenges of Bioethics“ (Cres

September 1998) up to these days
were given.

In 1998, all scientists attending the meeting signed a letter

to the Croatia
Parliament with the
„Appeal for ethic and low regulation of genetic engineering in food
production and food distribution
”. The Croatian Parliament reacted promptly and after two
months a Conclusion about moratorium on GMO seed planting “eve
n in experimental
purpose” was brought. (However, the next year, by permission of the Ministry of
Agriculture, a small plot trials with GM corn were planted, and a month later destroyed!)

Since than at least five declarations or appeals about genetic engi
neering were brought at
duifferent professional congresses or scientific meetings in Croatia.

The action of the Croatian government to promote 'GMO free Croatia' as tourist destination
(Fig. 2.), provoke strong reaction from US Embassy in Zagreb.
On N
ovember 28 2001,
the Minister of environment protection received the letter titled: “
United States Views on
Croatian Interim Legislation on Genetically Modified Organisms and Products
”. Friends
of the Earth International in press statement of December 17 e
xplained: “
Treating by WTO,
the US and Argentina are trying to block moratorium on GMO in Croatia, Bolivia and Siri

The pressure was continued; on January 10, 2002 in Vienna, the US attaché for agriculture
organized a press briefing about GMO food

production. The strongest arguments used
were: ‘sound science’ and threats by WTO. He completely ignored the
Biosafety Protocol
rules (Montreal, 2000) according to which,
each country has the right, based on
‘precautionary principle’, to refuse import of
GMO on grounds of threat to human health
and biodiversity
. He also forgot that the Bios
afety Protocol is not to be subordinated to
rulings of the World Trade Organization (The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade
(TBT ) and SPS measure.


Fig. 2.

Transparent at the highways

promoting Croatia as GMO free turistic destination,

remooved after strong oppression from US Embassy in Zagreb

It is hard to understand why the last Croatian Low about Genetically Modified Organisms
(Official Gazette No. 70
/2005) was brought in hurry and very quietly, with no word in
public media. This draws attention to existing pressure from abroad.

In spite of the facts (the survey from
Večernji, list Jan. 20, 2002) that shows: 80.7 percent
Croats do not accept GMO, in
all State offices, agencies and departments pro
oriented officers are appointed. So, it is not a strange happening described: After
publishing results of survey undertaken in Slavonia region, that from 33 food samples
analyzed from groceries, 14 contai
ns GMO ingredients (2004), the director of the
Department for Public Health in Osijek was fired. T
he order was given by the minister of
health (September 17, 2004).

The same minister is deserved for the decision of
obligatory vaccination of all newborn

children with recombinant (GM) hepatitis B vaccine
(2007) in spite of many reports in the medical literature that recombinant hepatitis B
vaccine is causing many health problems in children and adults.
[21, 22, 34, 40]

The existing Croatian Law about GMO

requests declaring food with mo
re than 0,9 percent
of GM ingredients, but in our groceries there are not such a declaration. Does it mean that
there are no GM ingredients in our food? Today, the only, by Government authorized
GMO testing laboratory of Dep
artment for Public Health in Zagreb declare (based on over


3 thousands analyzed samples) that there are no GM ingredients in our food. This is hard to
believe, but it is the only official laboratory in Croatia. Beside, on TV the responsible
person from the

laboratory declare himself explaining that GMO are not harmful to health
or to the environment.

Standard corporation operating policy is to corrupt national governments and their


It is obvious, in Croatia today, a minor group of scientists

and politicians
support GMO. The reason WHY, we could only imagine, and we can only hope that in the
national anticorruption campaign the situation should be much clearer soon.

Fig. 3. Croatia: GMO free districts (green) declared in 2008.


By de
cision of its majority, Croatia follows the European trends
to declare

GMO Free
Regions. In 2008 sixteen districts (over three quarter of Croatia) had been declared as
GMO free regions, and soon the number should
. In June 2004 at the Symposium
oethics and New Epoch, held in Mali Lošinj, a new document: “
The Llošinj Declaration
of Biotical Sovereignty”

was signed, describing also the violation of biotical
sovereignty in Croatia.



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's address

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