8/12/2005

Horizontal Gene Transfer Happens

Horizontal Gene Transfer Happens - A Practical Exercise in How Scientific Evidence Must be Interpreted and Used in Accordance with the Precautionary Principle and Sound Science

by Mae-Wan Ho

At first, they said horizontal transfer of genes to unrelated species couldn't happen, then they said "just because it happens in the laboratory doesn't mean it happens in nature". Recently, Prof. Katz of Jena University found in field studies that GM genes may have transferred from GM pollen to bacteria and yeast in the gut of baby bees (The Observer, 28 May, 2000).

That study is not yet published.

But, researchers have earlier found evidence of horizontal gene transfer of GM genes to soil bacteria in the field where GM sugar beet was planted

German geneticists Frank Gebhard and Kornelia Smalla began a series of experiments in 1993 to monitor field releases of GM rizomania-resistant sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) for persistence of the GM construct in the soil and for horizontal gene transfer. They found that the GM construct has persisted in the soil for at least two years after the plants were grown and harvested, and different parts of the GM construct may have transferred to unknown soil bacteria.

GM sugar beet litter introduced into the soil led to an increase in both the Km resistant and total bacterial populations. Most of the kanamycin resistant bacteria are those that already exist in the soil, as antibiotic resistance is widespread. Though the authors did not comment on it, the proportion of resistant bacteria did increase significantly between 1.5 and 2 years, suggesting that this increase may be due to the transfer of kanamycin resistance marker genes from the GM construct to soil bacteria. It takes time for litter to rot and the DNA contained to be released.

Horizontal Gene Transfer Happens

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