Science in Society Archive

Bioweapons and GM Control Must Go Together

The basic tools and materials for making bio-weapons are the same as those used in ‘legitimate’ GM applications, as Dr. Mae-Wan Ho points out. But while bio-weapons are made under strictly contained conditions, many dangerous experiments are being done without adequate safety precautions, and hazardous GM products released into the environment as if they were safe.

The Bush administration saw the need for tighter control of both GM and bioweapons last November, just before the Fifth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Unfortunately, it is pursuing a dangerous course by refusing to enter into multilateral agreements in the BWC or the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol. We call on all governments to support and strengthen both of these international agreements as a matter of urgency.

There are already signs of how the lack of precaution and foresight in genetic engineering is endangering health (see ISIS News 11/12 for many relevant reports

There have been numerous serious breaches of safety regulations in university laboratories in Britain researching dangerous pathogens such as dengue fever virus, AIDS virus, TB bacteria, and lethal encephalitis virus.

Lethal viruses have been created in the course of genetic engineering experiments, including a GM mousepox virus that killed all its victims, a mutant Ebola virus more lethal than the natural virus, and a hybrid super-virus between the human and monkey AIDS virus that kills rhesus macaques in weeks.

AIDS vaccines that effectively act as slow-acting bio-weapons, by compromising the immune system and creating new pathogens, are undergoing mass clinical trials around the world.

A common gene therapy vector made from adenovirus caused toxic shock, killed teenager Gelsinger in a clinical trial, and causes cancer in mice.

The most common gene transfer vector system for plants, made from the soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, can transfer genes into the human genome, with the potential to cause genetic damage including cancer.

The soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, from which endotoxin (Bt) genes are extracted and widely incorporated into GM crops as bio-pesticide, is a close relative of the anthrax bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, and exchanges genes with it, with the potential to generate new more deadly pathogens. At least some Bt genes are already known to be toxic or allergenic for human beings.

To support this statement, please e-mail your intention and details to Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. Visit I-SIS website for the list of current signatories to GM & Bioweapons, Scientists call for international watchdog

I-SIS News 13 index

Article first published February 2002

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