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We have been saying it on this safety page for over 2 years. The UK's DEFRA sponsored trials have now proven us right. Oil seed rape [Canola] is currently too dangerous to be used as a Medical Molecular Crop in open field in open field

Professor Joe Cummins has kindly submitted an article on Biosafety standards in Molecular Farming

How can Environmental Safety in Molecular Crops be achieved ? - Our suggestions as to what we want to see happening. - { we don't want to see food crop contamination }

When looking at the issue of Environmental Safety, it must also be realised that it is foolish to try to have have single legislation which would cover every crop, in every country, for every engineered protein. This is one industry where one size does not fit all. For example many of the newly engineered proteins in plants will occur anyway, naturally, in frequently eaten meat foodstuffs, and will pose little if any danger to the human food chain. Future legislation needs to be on a crop by crop, protein by protein basis. On September 29, 2005 The EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, GŁnter Verheugen, reiterated the need for an open debate on the benefits of biotechnology and the ethical questions surrounding it, but insisted that such a dialogue must remain science-based. We fully agree.

Having said this however, initially we see conventional production methods in 'open field' as being potentially dangerous, unless working with non-food crops like Tobacco or crops with minimal horizontal gene-flow risk, like Potato. We want to see the industry develop, but for the initial stages until potential environmental harm can be fully scientifically assessed, we would see crop isolation as being critical. Contained Greenhouses are ideal. Non-native locations, where the crop may have been grown historically but now is no longer grown, or has never been grown, should also be excellent, provided there are no related weeds

When looking at isolation distances self-pollination must be considered. We do not consider 800m or less as isolation for out-pollinators like maize, unlike some Governments. [ e.g. the UK ] We would not feel happy at under 7 km distance between related Molecular and Traditional food crops that could cross-pollinate by wind or insect , or under 1 km for other crops, except Tobacco, at this stage. Our view is changing as we see further scientific evidence of the potential danger area surrounding certain crops, but we have not yet seen any out pollinating crop contaminated at more than 3.5 km distance by either insect, bird or wind, or a self pollinating crop at more than 80m.
We look at Scientific data on a crop by crop basis for Horizontal Gene Flow, and base our opinion on that eg. JULY 2003 RELEASED MAIZE SAFETY STUDY

From our preliminary findings, we would not be happy to see Rape / Canola used as an ''open air'' Medical Molecular Crop at all. { It has too many weed relatives with which it can cross-pollinate at great distance} and would only be happy with Maize at a 7 km distance from related food crops..The latest research we have seen, done in late 2004 by the Research Institute for Biological Cultivation (FiBL) in Frick, Switzerland and a separate study by the Confederate Research Institute for Agro Ecology and Cultivation, (Agroscope FAL Reckenholz),reinforce this view

We would also like to see those companies who use maize using ''purple'' maize, as an extra precaution, as this would give an easy visual marker for any cross contamination.

Molecular Farming can actually genetically engineer it's own safeguards into Molecular crops. It can [a]'make them different looking' [b] make them sterile [c] add 'reporter genes' [d] use nonfood crops to start with [e] engineer the proteins into the cloroplasts of plants [f] disclose DNA sequences or [g] - specifically with edible vaccine - legislate for administration.


[a] Looking different. - We see Bioluminescence as being a great way of distinguishing Molecular Crops from others. Firefly Luciferase and Green Fluorescent protein [ GFP] have both been engineered into plants, as far back as 1992. Genetically engineering these as markers has two advantages. - There is no destruction of plant tissue and no use of substrates involved in doing this.
The Biopharmaceutical companies using maize could make their crops appear different, and score a PR victory with the public by only using purple, blue or black maize breeds. Cross contamination could be easily seen.

[b] The much discussed Monsanto "Terminator Gene" technology that they intended for food-crop use could be beneficial in stopping contamination of food crops in 'open field'. This technology would stop gene transfer because hybridization relies on fertile gametes of each species - the production of which is suppressed by this gene. Other sterility technologies are in existance.Farmacule Bioindustries is one company that has such technology.Pioneer Hi-bred International 's ''Patent # US6248935: Reversible nuclear genetic system for male sterility in transgenic plants'' describes similar.

[c] Reporter genes, such as PCR { Polymerase Chain Reaction } could be spliced into Molecular crops. These genes are relatively easy to test for at a later stage if contamination is suspected. The only drawback here is the lack of easily visible signs. We are not in favour of Antibiotic resistant Markers, as we believe that these are potentially Environmentally dangerous. [ see BMA WARNING ]
We are excited by the potential offered by "DNA Barcoding" technology

DNA marker technology

Link to a 'New Scientist' article on the topic:

[d] When we look at the amount of recombinant proteins that have been engineered into Tobacco, we are very excited about the potential of using nonfood, leafy plants instead of food crops. Tobacco poses little risk to the environment either, and can be grown in some of the poorest countries in the world. We also see Hemp as being ideal, as the byproduct could be put to constructive uses as Biofuels or Biofibres. It would indeed be ironic if in future Tobacco actually saved more lives than it presently destroys, and that Hemp/Cannabis would be grown as a viable farming crop after 50 years, with the non marijuana strains worth much more than growing pot !.

[e] Technically the most difficult to do, but if the actual proteins can be engineered to locate only in the cloroplasts of plants, this is safe. See the article below, and also the work and research of the Chlorogen company and the work of professor Henry Daniell, the pioneer of chloroplast engineering.
See this article also

[f] We would like to see all companies which have Molecular Crops disclosing the DNA sequences they have inserted. { so that others can monitor any contamination }
This, given the nature of modern Industrial espionage, would be difficult, but we would see a possible tie-in with internationally recognised Patent Offices, where such information could be securely stored pending 'bona-fide', legally established, demands for disclosure.


[g] Consumers, given the choice, will want a pill of freeze dried tomato or banana to eat, rather than the pain of a vaccine injection. We want Edible Vaccines to be administered by health professionals, with qualifications recognised by that countries Government.