Monday, January 28, 2013

Hazardous Virus Gene?

ISIS, the Institute for Science In Society, is reporting that:
A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientist has just discovered that major GM crops and products the regulatory agency has been approving for commercial release over the past 20 years contain a potentially dangerous virus gene. The gene – Gene VI - overlaps with the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter. The CaMV 35S promoter is the commonest, most widely used regulatory sequence for driving gene expression in GM crops. This momentous discovery was published in a little known journal during the holiday season at the end of 2012 [1], and would have passed unnoticed had it not caught the attention of Jonathan Latham and Alison Wilson of Independent Science News. They described the finding and carried out a proper retrospective risk assessment on the Gene VI fragment in a report posted on their website [2]. This attracted so much public attention that EFSA and its counterpart Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) are said [3] to have jointly “shredded” the scientific paper on which Latham and Wilson’s report is based.
EFSA and FSANZ say the allegations that the viral Gene VI hidden in the CaMV 35S promoter might not be safe for human consumption and could disturb the normal functioning of crops are completely false. A spokesperson from FSANZ states: “Human exposure to DNA from the cauliflower mosaic virus and all its protein products through consumption of conventional foods is common and there is no evidence of any adverse health effects.”
Ironically, the first author of the scientific paper [1] Nancy Podevin is from EFSA, while the second author Patrick Du Jardin is at University of Li├Ęge in Belgium; and EFSA GMO Panel is acknowledged for “advice given”. The main thrust of the paper is in fact a screening of Gene Vi amino acid sequence against existing databases for known allergens and finding none; thereby offering false reassurance while the real hazards are swept under the carpet.
1. Podevin N and du Jardin P.  Possible consequences of the overlap between the CaMV 35S promoter regions in plant transformation vectors used and the viral gene VI in transgenic plants. GM Crops and Food 2012, 3, 1-5.
2. Latham J and Wilson A. Regulators discover a hidden viral gene in commercial GMO crops, Independent Science News 21 January 2013,
3. “Alarming GM study shredded by authorities”, Kondinin Group, 24 January 2013,
4. Ho MW, Ryan A, Cummins J. Cauliflower mosaic viral promoter – a recipe for disaster? Microb Ecol Health Dis 1999, 11, 194–7.
5. Ho MW, Ryan A, Cummins J. Hazards of transgenic plants with the cauliflower mosaic viral promoter. Microb Ecol Health Dis 2000, 12, 6–11.
6. Ho MW, Ryan A, Cummins J. CaMV35S promoter fragmentation hotspot confi rmed and it is active in animals.  Microb Ecol Health Dis 2000, 12, 189.
7. Ballas N, Broido S, Soreq H, Loyter A. Efficient functioning of plant promoters and poly(A) sites in Xenopus oocytes. Nucl Acids Res 1989, 17, 7891–903.
8. Burke C, Yu XB, Marchitelli L, Davis EA, Ackerman S. Transcription factor IIA of wheat and human function similarly with plant and animal viral promoters. Nucleic Acids Res 1990, 18, 3611–20.
9. Ho MW and Cummins J. New evidence links CaMV 35S promoter to HIV transcription. Microb Ecol Health Dis 2009, 21, 172-4.
10. Latham J and Wilson A. Potentially dangerous virus gene hidden in commercial GM crops. Science in Society 57 (to appear).

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