Science in Society Archive

Guardian Debate - 28th Feb 99

Angela ryan

Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at UCL last night admitted that he didn't agree with the release of GMOs into the environment because of what evolution was going to do with them. "If the vectors can get in; they can get out again" and I quote. Jones spoke of the "leaking of genes" being a real hazard to the environment. He said that there was once a time when biologists thought that the nature of species was simply a matter of reproductive biology. "We now know that this is wrong; genes can leap and move about in the most extraordinary way." Molecular analysis is demonstrating that genes move horizontally within nature and that this natural genetic evolution explains the build up of antibiotic resistance; a clear example of horizontal gene transfer. "Genes hop arround and we need to consider this aspect of GM plants, advance the arguments and do more science." says Jones.

I asked him why more molecular biologists who understood this weren't adding their voices to this debate. He didn't know the answer but agreed that scientists could take more responsibility for their science and avoid the pitfalls of "know nothing journalists" mis-representing the issues. He agreed that a paradigm shift was underway in molecular genetics and that our understanding of biology was moving towards a more holistic view as a result of molecular phylogeny.

Article first published 1999

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