Thursday, August 11, 2005

Anti-GE proponents suffer another blow

One of the most common talking points you get from those opposed to GE is the supposed 'destruction' of wild Mexican maize by transgenes that were introduced into the country. This comes from a paper published in Nature (D. Quist and I. H. Chapela Nature 2001, 414:541–543) originally, where the authors claimed they could detect transgenes in wild maize and not only that, but claimed that the transgenes in question were entrenched in the genomes and were essentially permanent. This predictably caused a considerable row and the paper was crucified in Nature with criticism of the inverse PCR technique used to detect the transgenes being heavy.

Now Nature reports that the original work has been replicated by other researchers, attempting to find two of the transgenes that were reportedly found in the original research. The new paper by S. Ortiz-GarcĂ­a et al in PNAS found that there were no transgenes at all in the seeds that they tested (150,000 seeds). This result essentially buries Quist and Chapelas claim that the transgenes were 'entrenched' in the Mexican maize population and will be yet another drawback for the anti-GE lobbies crusade. I would of course expect, that if Greenpeace were being honest about GE they would immediately retract claims made in this piece on the risks of importing GE maize into Mexico:
Further proof of contamination came on 29 November 2001 when the journal, Nature, published research by David Quist and Dr. Ignacio Chapela providing detailed scientific information on the contamination of native maizes by transgenic maize genes (transgenes) in Oaxaca. Dr. Chapela, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley confirmed:
Noting particularly the lack of discussion given in the greenpeace document to the problems other researchers had with the Quist and Chapelas papers methodology, not to mention that Nature released a statement that they would have not published the paper had their reviewers been aware of such problems. With the collapse of this paper and the lack of detectable 'entrenched' transgene contamination of wild maize the remainder of the arguments in that news release also collapse. As it always seems to end, doing repeatable science and properly testing hypotheses before making ill-supported alarmist claims wins once again.