Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Latter-Day Luther Nails Troubling Thesis to GM Farm & Food Citadels

© 2011 - by Steven McFadden

After trucking across the high plains for five hours, and casting my eyes over perhaps 100,000 acres or more of winter's still deathly gray industrial farmland, I came face to face with the newly famous Dr. Don M. Huber in the cave-dark meeting room of the Black Horse Inn just outside the American Heartland village of Creighton, Nebraska.

On the morning of March 24, along with about 80 farmers and Extension agents, I listened as Huber discoursed with erudition and eloquence upon industrial farming practices that may be impacting nearly every morsel of food produced on the planet, and that subsequently may also be having staggeringly serious health consequences for plants, animals, and human beings.

Huber is emeritus soil scientist of Purdue University, and a retired U.S. Army Colonel who served as an intelligence analyst, for 41 years, active and reserves. In Nebraska, he stood ramrod straight for three hours with no notes and spoke with an astonishing depth and range of knowledge on crucial, controversial matters of soil science, genetic engineering, and the profound impact of the widely used herbicide glyphosate upon soil and plants, and ultimately upon the health of animals and human beings.

Dressed in a conservative dark suit and tie, Huber set the stage for his presentation by observing that he has been married for 52 years, and has 11 children, 36 grandchildren, and a great-grandchild on the way. He then began his formal talk framed by a PowerPoint slide bearing a Biblical quote: "All flesh is grass." - Isaiah 40:6. With this he emphasized the foundational reality that the biotech grains we eat, as well as the biotech grains eaten by cows, hogs, and chickens, are grown in vast herbicide-treated fields.

For the domineering giants of industrial agriculture - multinational corporations, universities, and governments - Huber's assertions about the impact of glyphosate, and the mounting scientific questions about GMO crops, may be as significant and disrupting as Martin Luther's "heretical" act in 1517. That's when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany to challenge the systemic problems in the almighty institutions of his era.

Luther disputed the claim that spiritual forgiveness from sins could be legitimately sold for money. Huber and other researchers say they are accumulating evidence that - along with the 2010 report of the U.S. President's Cancer panel which bluntly blames chemicals for the staggering prevalence of cancers - raises profoundly challenging questions about the chemical and genetic-engineering practices of industrial agriculture. The challenge, if it holds up, has implications not just for agricultural institutions, but also for the primary food chain serving the Earth's population.

Not an altogether new controversy, the complex matters of industrial agriculture, genetic engineering and the far-flung use of herbicides has been ominously and exponentially accentuated in the last year by virtue of its ominous context: last summer's epic oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation-ripping 9.0 earthquake in Japan earlier this month, with its subsequent tsunami and nuclear meltdown which is contaminating the nation's water and food chain, in combination with the statistical reality that on our planet of nearly seven billion people, over a billion human beings - one of every six of us - is hungry.

All of this was brought into prominent public focus - both sharp and fuzzy - in January of this year by the unlikely matter of alfalfa.

Challenges to the Web of Life

The seminar with Dr. Huber, sponsored by Knox County Extension and the Center for Rural Affairs, commenced on a somber note. The moderator announced that Terry Gompert, 66, a veteran Extension educator and respected advocate for sustainable agriculture, and a man who had played a key role in organizing the conference, had just suffered a massive heart attack.  A moment of silence followed before Dr. Huber began his presentation. Mr. Gompert died on March 25, the day after the conference he organized.

At the conference, Huber's talk was highly technical, yet he had easy command of voluminous technical detail. For many, it must have sounded like an alien language as he spun out the esoteric terms: zwitterion, desorbtion, translocation, rhizosphere, meristemic, speudomanads, microbiocidae, bradyrhizobium, shikimate, and more.

Huber spoke about a range of key factors involved in plant growth, including sunlight, water, temperature, genetics, and nutrients taken up from the soil. "Any change in any of these factors impacts all the factors," he said. "No one element acts alone, but all are part of a system...When you change one thing," he said, "everything else in the web of life changes in relationship."

That brought him to the subject of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide, most commonly recognized in the product named Roundup®. Because it is so widely used, Huber said, it is having a profound impact upon mega millions of farm acres around the world. More than 155 million acres of cropland were treated with glyphosate during the 2008 growing season, and even more by now. Subsequently, Huber said, this chemical is having a sweeping impact on the food chain.

He asserted that glyphosate compromises plant defense mechanisms and thereby increases their susceptibility to disease, that it reduces the availability and uptake of essential nutrients, that it increases the virulence of pathogens that attack plants, and that it ultimately reduces crop vigor and yield (Yield Drag).

Most dramatically, Huber reported on what he described as a newly discovered pathogen. While the pathogen is not new to the environment, Huber said, it is new to science. This pathogen apparently increases in soil treated with glyphosate, he said, and is then taken up by plants, later transmitted to animals via their feed, and onward to human beings by the plants and meat they consume. The pathogen is extraordinarily small. It can be observed only via an electron microscope operating at 38,000 power of magnification. It has yet to be phenotyped or named, though that work is almost complete and will be announced in a matter of weeks.

Huber warned that ignoring these emerging realities may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious.  It could also, and apparently already is, he said, compromising the health and well-being of animals and humans.

The Stratosphere of Controversy

What propelled Huber, glyphosate and biotech crops into the stratosphere of public attention earlier this year was a pending decision on alfalfa (hay) by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The "queen of forages," alfalfa is the principal feedstock for the dairy industry. The USDA was being asked to approve unrestricted use of genetically engineered alfalfa seeds, which could result in as many as 20 million more acres of land being sprayed with up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides each year.

Because alfalfa is pollinated by bees that fly and cross-pollinate between fields many miles apart, the biotech crop will inevitably contaminate natural and organic alfalfa varieties.

Dr. Huber wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack asking for a delay in making the decision, and for the resources to do further research. In his letter, Huber raised questions about the safety of glyphosate. Huber's letter also warned of the new pathogen, apparently related to the use of glyphosate, which appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. He said laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of the organism in pigs, cattle and other livestock fed these crops, and that they have experienced sterility, spontaneous abortions, and infertility.

"I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high-risk status," Huber wrote. "In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency." Vilsack set Huber's letter aside for later consideration, and on January 27 he authorized the unrestricted commercial cultivation of genetically modified alfalfa. Immediately thereafter, the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the USDA, charging that the agency's approval of genetically engineered alfalfa was unlawful.

While Huber's letter of warning was not intended for public consumption, it was leaked and immediately went viral on the Internet. In a matter of days Huber became a lightning rod, attracting intense attention from both the scientific community, and the general public, which is    understandably concerned about the genetically engineered food it has never wanted and - since GM food is unlabeled - never been able to identify. The prospect of a new and virulent pathogen sweeping through the food chain was profoundly unsettling

Meanwhile, researchers were deeply upset that they were not first notified by Huber of the new pathogen - as is customary - before the matter became public knowledge. They felt they had been blindsided. Huber says that his letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack was leaked, and thus its publication was not his doing.

Huber became the focus of tremendous pushback. His message of urgent concern and the need for delay until more research was completed was unwelcome in many corporate and university citadels, and was deemed heresy by some vested in the multi-billion dollar industry of GMO crops.

The biggest beef researchers have with Huber is that he has not yet made data available for scientific scrutiny. Many researchers, including some at Purdue, say Huber's data and hypotheses, when studied, are not likely to hold up to peer review, and that in general his allegations are exaggerated.

When contacted for comment on Huber's concerns, Monsanto, maker of Roundup® (glyphosate) and producer of Roundup Ready® seeds, sent a link to a host of professional criticisms of Huber's work as well as to their official corporate statement: "Independent field studies and lab tests by multiple U.S. universities and by Monsanto prior to, and in response to, these allegations," the statement reads in part, "do not corroborate his claims."


Glyphosate is a particularly strong broad-spectrum toxin with the power to kill many kinds of plants that have been designated as weeds. As a chelator, or binder, glyphosate changes the physiology and thereby makes plants susceptible to plant pathogens. Roundup Ready® plants are tolerant of glyphosate because technology inserts a new gene. While the RR plants do not die after the toxic herbicide is sprayed over farm fields, the plants do suffer a reduced efficiency in some crucial regards, according to some researchers, changing the nutrient balance in plants. When that change occurs, all subsequent relationships - including the diet of livestock and humans - is changed.

The extensive use of glyphosate and the rapid, widespread use of GM crops resistant to it, have intensified the deficiencies of essential micronutrients, and some macronutrients. This is leading, Huber argues, to weaker and more disease-prone plants, animals, and people. In his presentation, he offered a list of about 40 diseases that, he says, tend to increase in farm fields where glyphosate is used. Those plant diseases include Sun Scald, Leaf Chlorosis, Tomato Wilt, Apple Canker, Barley Root Rot, Bean Root Rot, Wheat Take All, Wheat Head Scab, Wheat Glume, and Grape Black Goo.

Subsequently, he hypothesized, the decrease in nutrients and the increase in the new pathogen in food lead to empty calories, which likely explains increases in allergies, and chronic diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The list of diseases that Huber suspects may be affected by glyphosate and the new pathogen is, he said, increasing as growers and pathologists recognize the cause-effect relationship:

* Increase in cancers of the liver, thyroid, kidneys, tests, and skin melanomas.

* Increase in allergic reactions in general, and an increase of up to 50% in soybean allergies in the USA in the last three years.

* Increase on an epidemic-scale in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease, perhaps as much as 9,000% over the last 30 years. Specialists say they expect the incidence of Alzhiemer's to spike far higher over the next four years.

* Increase in the incidence of Parkinson's disease, which researchers say, is being provoked in part by the factor of chemical pesticides.

What Has Changed?

As if it were a mantra, during his three-hour talk Dr. Huber often raised a rhetorical question: What has changed?  If all of these troubling conditions are on the rise for plants, animals and humans in recent years, then what has changed to bring it about?

The most apparent change, he answered, is that glyphosate and genetically engineered plants are out widely in the world. According to Huber, farm animals, including cattle, pigs, horses and chickens that are fed GM crops grown on glyphosate-treated fields have shown an alarming increase in sterility, spontaneous abortions, and stillbirths. By way of anecdotal evidence, he said he gets two to three communications a week from farmers and veterinarians about this troubling phenomenon. "We can no longer ignore the increase in livestock infertility, stillbirths, and spontaneous abortions over the last three to four years," he said.

GMO feed grown on glyphosate treated fields tends to irritate the stomach of livestock, such that many farm animals are fed daily rations of bicarbonate of soda in an attempt to sooth their stomach lining. Huber showed a slide bearing images of dissected hog stomachs; one from a hog fed GMO feed and the other conventional feed. The GMO hog had a rudely inflamed mass of stomach and intestinal tissue.

A handout from Dr. Huber that was made available at the Nebraska seminar cited 117 peer-reviewed scientific studies that raise serious questions about the impact of glyphosate. These studies have reached critical mass, Huber said, and they could no longer be discounted or ignored. Yet, there are also a substantial number of studies stating that glyphosate and GMO crops are safe and ought to be the cause of no concern.

What Is this Stuff?

Glyphosate is the most used herbicide in the USA. Every year, 5 to 8 million pounds are used on lawns and yards, and another 85 to 90 million pounds are used in agriculture. It is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, especially weeds known to compete with crops grown widely across the Midwest. Initially sold by Monsanto in the 1970s under the trade name Roundup®, its U.S. patent expired in 2000, and thus glyphosate is now marketed in the U.S. and worldwide in different solution strengths under various trade names. Because these products may contain other ingredients, they may have different effects.

Glyphosate inhibits a key enzyme that is involved in the synthesis of amino acids in the plant.  Many fungi and bacteria also have this same pathway. Aromatic amino acids in plants are the building blocks for many of their defense compounds.

Some crops have been genetically engineered to be resistant to it (i.e., Roundup Ready®). Such crops allow farmers to use glyphosate as a post-emergence herbicide against both broadleaf and cereal weeds, but the development of similar resistance in some weed species is emerging as a costly problem.

Glyphosate kills plants by interfering with the synthesis of the amino acids which are used by the plant as building blocks in for growth and for defense against disease and insects. Plants that are genetically engineered to tolerate the glyphosate contain a gene that provides an alternative pathway for nutrients that is not blocked by the glyphosate herbicide. But this duplicate pathway requires energy from the plant that could be used for yield, thus many GMO crops experience Yield Drag - a reduction in yield.

Huber had several recommendations for growers, especially a much more judicious use of glyphosate, as small a dose as possible. He said farmers also need to provide supplementary nutrients to counteract its effects and thereby to restore plant resistance to toxins and diseases.

He mentioned that there are other herbicide products on the market, but they are more specific to particular weeds and degrade more swiftly, whereas glyphosate is broad spectrum and thus kills many types of weeds, and also endures for a longer span of time in the soil and plants.

"Slow down," Huber said. "It takes time to restore soil biota if a field has been treated with glyphosate. We have 30 years of accumulated damage, so it may take some time to remediate all of this."

"There are a lot of serious questions about the impacts of glyphosate that we need answers for in order to continue using this technology," he continued. "I don't believe we can ignore these questions any more if we want to ensure a safe, sustainable food supply and abundant crop production."

Primary Realities of Our Genetically Engineered Planet

In his presentation at the Black Horse Inn Huber was convincing in his demeanor, encyclopedic in his knowledge, precise and eloquent in his delivery.  Late in the morning as he spoke of the fertility and yield issues, the complications for farmers, and the increased prevalence of disease, his eyes momentarily welled up with tears. Then as he concluded his talk he received a standing ovation from the assembly of about 80 Nebraska farmers and Extension staff.

Still, Huber's personal integrity and his positive reception, at least at the Black Horse Inn, may be of small consequence in the face of a tsunami of criticism arising from the citadels of corporations and universities. None of that will be resolved until the data he and others have gathered passes peer review.

The primary realities in the GM and glyphosate debates are corporate avidity, scientific uncertainty, and overwhelming public disapproval. Many peer-reviewed articles suggest that biotech crops and foods are harmless; many suggest otherwise. The jury is still out. However, as Huber was arguing, the number of published articles showing that glyphosate and the biotech crops grown in its chemical soup cause harm to livestock is rising rapidly.

Studies showing the public has little taste for genetically engineered foods, and especially not for unlabeled    and thus unidentifiable genetically engineered foods,  remain convincing. According to reports from Food & Water Watch, 90% of Americans want GM foods labeled, and 91% say the FDA should not allow genetically modified pigs, chicken and cattle into the food supply. To date, the main parties keen about promoting unlabeled GM foods, and their herbicidal aides, are multinational corporations and their investors.

"Before we jump off the cliff,"  Huber said, "we need to have more research done. It takes a lot to reverse the problems." Many observers would argue, convincingly, that we have already jumped off the cliff.

Huber sought just $25,000 to do sequencing to establish the phenotype of the newly identified pathogen, and then to name it. But no government, university, or corporation would provide that relatively paltry amount of money. Finally, a private individual came forward and made the money available. Then the lab that was originally keen to do the phenotyping backed out. The issue had become a hot potato and they did not want the controversy. Still, Huber persevered, and he said they should have the phenotype established, and then be able to name the pathogen, in a matter of weeks.

"Let me emphasize that all of this is not a calamity," Huber said, surprisingly, near the end of his talk. "Agriculture is the most critical infrastructure for any society. American agriculture has undergone a revolution and it will continue to progress.

"Still, I saw no reason to rush into the critical alfalfa decision and to thereby cause so many more acres to be treated with glyphosate," he said. "Why take a chance until we get the answers? Research needs to be done... There is lots of new data that needs to be considered, lots of new studies that cannot be ignored."


Preemptive Action Seeks Ruling That Would Prohibit Monsanto From Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Contaminated By Roundup Ready Seed

NEW YORK – March 29 2011 – On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed.    The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past.

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald.    Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it.  The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's transgenic seed should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”

Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop.  For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually extinct as a result of contamination.  Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa now face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops, too.  Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.

In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement.  One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don't meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT's Ravicher, plaintiffs' lead attorney in the case.  Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

“Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that's not possible, and it's actually in Monsanto's financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher.  “Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB's and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not.  Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”

The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds, LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm's Sprouting Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC; Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas; Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc; Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.; Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature's Way Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.

Many of the plaintiffs made statements upon filing of the suit today.

Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association based in Montrose, Colorado, said, "Today is Independence Day for America.  Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting Monsanto on notice.  Monsanto's threats and abuse of family farmers stops here.  Monsanto's genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now.  Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace - to decide what kind of food they will feed their families - and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to choose.    Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of invasion by Monsanto's genetic contamination and without harassment by a reckless polluter. Beginning today, America asserts her right to justice and pure food."

Dr. Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director of plaintiff Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) said, “Consumers indicate, overwhelmingly, that they prefer foods made without genetically modified organisms.  Organic farms, by regulation, may not use GMOs, while other farmers forego using them for other reasons.  Yet the truth is that we are rapidly approaching the tipping point when we will be unable to avoid GMOs in our fields and on our plates.  That is the inevitable consequence of releasing genetically engineered materials into the environment.  To add injury to injury, Monsanto has a history of suing farmers whose fields have been contaminated by Monsanto's GMOs.  On behalf of farmers who must live under this cloud of uncertainty and risk, we are compelled to ask the Court to put an end to this unconscionable business practice.”

Rose Marie Burroughs of plaintiff California Cloverleaf Farms said, “The devastation caused by GMO contamination is an ecological catastrophe to our world equal to the fall out of nuclear radiation.  Nature, farming and health are all being affected by GMO contamination.  We must protect our world by protecting our most precious, sacred resource of seed sovereignty.  People must have the right to the resources of the earth for our sustenance.  We must have the freedom to farm that causes no harm to the environment or to other people.  We must protect the environment, farmers livelihood, public health and people’s right to non GMO food contamination.”

Ed Maltby, Executive Director of plaintiff Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) said, “It's outrageous that we find ourselves in a situation where the financial burden of GE contamination will fall on family farmers who have not asked for or contributed to the growth of GE crops.  Family farmers will face contamination of their crops by GE seed which will threaten their ability to sell crops as organically certified or into the rapidly growing 'Buy Local' market where consumers have overwhelmingly declared they do not want any GE crops, and then family farmers may be faced by a lawsuit by Monsanto for patent infringement.  We take this action to protect family farms who once again have to bear the consequences of irresponsible actions by Monsanto.”

David L. Rogers, Policy Advisor for plaintiff NOFA Vermont said, “Vermont’s farmers have worked hard to meet consumers’ growing demand for certified organic and non-GE food.  It is of great concern to them that Monsanto’s continuing and irresponsible marketing of GE crops that contaminate non-GE plantings will increasingly place their local and regional markets at risk and threaten their livelihoods.”

Dewane Morgan of plaintiff Midheaven Farms in Park Rapids, Minnesota, said, "For organic certification, farmers are required to have a buffer zone around their perimeter fields. Crops harvested from this buffer zone are not eligible for certification due to potential drift from herbicide and fungicide drift. Buffer zones are useless against pollen drift.  Organic, biodynamic, and conventional farmers who grow identity-preserved soybeans, wheat and open-pollinated corn often save seed for replanting the next year. It is illogical that these farmers are liable for cross-pollination contamination."

Jill Davies, Director of plaintiff Sustainable Living Systems in Victor, Montana, said, “The building blocks of life are sacred and should be in the public domain.  If scientists want to study and manipulate them for some supposed common good, fine.  Then we must remove the profit motive.  The private profit motive corrupts pure science and increasingly precludes democratic participation.”

David Murphy, founder and Executive Director of plaintiff Food Democracy Now! said, “None of Monsanto’s original promises regarding genetically modified seeds have come true after 15 years of wide adoption by commodity farmers. Rather than increased yields or less chemical usage, farmers are facing more crop diseases, an onslaught of herbicide-resistant superweeds, and increased costs from additional herbicide application. Even more appalling is the fact that Monsanto’s patented genes can blow onto another farmer’s fields and that farmer not only loses significant revenue in the market but is frequently exposed to legal action against them by Monsanto’s team of belligerent lawyers. Crop biotechnology has been a miserable failure economically and biologically and now threatens to undermine the basic freedoms that farmers and consumers have enjoyed in our constitutional democracy.”

Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for plaintiff The Cornucopia Institute said, “Family-scale farmers desperately need the judiciary branch of our government to balance the power Monsanto is able to wield in the marketplace and in the courts.  Monsanto, and the biotechnology industry, have made great investments in our executive and legislative branches through campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists in Washington.  We need to court system to offset this power and protect individual farmers from corporate tyranny.  Farmers have saved seeds since the beginning of agriculture by our species.  It is outrageous that one corporate entity, through the trespass of what they refer to as their 'technology,' can intimidate and run roughshod over family farmers in this country.    It should be the responsibility of Monsanto, and farmers licensing their technology, to ensure that genetically engineered DNA does not trespass onto neighboring farmland.  It is outrageous, that through no fault of their own, farmers are being intimidated into not saving seed for fear that they will be doggedly pursued through the court system and potentially bankrupted.”

More information about PUBPAT's suit against Monsanto's seed patents can be found at PUBPAT > Monsanto Seed Patents.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dark side of giving: The rise of philanthro-capitalism

Naren Karunakaran, ET Bureau
The Economic Times
25 Mar, 2011

A few years ago, Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, had a chance meeting with Som Pal, former member of the Planning Commission and earlier minister of state for agriculture, and was bowled over by his sage-like views on developmental issues. The president promptly invited Som Pal to his blighted country to suggest policy measures to get out of a developmental quagmire. Som Pal travelled to Rwanda; he was hosted at the presidential palace and allocated an entire office during two long stints.

Rwanda was sitting on a food security crisis in spite of having fertile land and favourable climatic conditions. "A set of policy guidelines and an action plan were quickly crafted. I held out a promise to Kagame - Rwanda could be food surplus in a short time," recalls Som Pal.

His plans were, however, rendered futile, as a hostile system overwhelmed him, even attempting to buy water hand-pumps at $12,500 apiece. "Most African leaders are only keen on projecting the agony of their people for international support in dollars," laments Som Pal. "A complete nexus between institutions, large corporations and narrow, vested interests are at work." Elements of this trend can be seen in India too.

Since then, Som Pal has had several brushes with Kenya and Zambia too; the story runs along similar lines. How then would he evaluate the much celebrated Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) - an initiative driven by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the oldest and the largest philanthropic repositories, respectively, in the world? The Gates Foundation alone has committed $264.5 million to AGRA.

"They are using the pitiable condition of the African people to get a foothold into the continent," explains Som Pal. "Their large philanthropic resources are being utilised to further the interests of business." In countries with weak governance mechanisms, like in Africa, it becomes a lot easier.

Proponents of chemical-free and GMO-free (genetically modified organisms), sustainable agricultural practices like Som Pal are beginning to feel uncomfortable about AGRA and a host of big-ticket philanthropic initiatives across developing countries. As are an increasing number of independent policy wonks and scientists across the world.

For instance, the Gates Foundation's sheer clout is taking it, intentionally or unintentionally, to places where policy, business and philanthropy intersect. There are its business and investment links with large companies that are driven by the profit motive. There is its growing stranglehold in the policy-making space across emerging markets, especially in education, healthcare and agriculture.

The $23.1-million investment by the Gates Foundation in Monsanto, the world's largest producer of GM seeds, is a small example of a trend.

Civil society organisations see it as vindication of what they had always suspected: the unstated agenda of pushing GM crops into Africa. In recent times, though, following strident protests, Bill Gates appears to have tempered his views on agriculture; he talks about picking the best from organics and tech-driven agriculture.

The Gates Foundation's insistence that its investments and grants ought to be seen separately has also attracted considerable flak. The question is asked: how can it be a 'passive investor' in companies such as Monsanto when its avowed goal is doing good with philanthropic monies? "Doubts about his (Bill Gates) larger motives, despite some good outcomes of his charity, are beginning to cloud my thinking," concedes Mira Shiva, a public health activist. Two emails sent by ET to the Gates Foundation, on December 29 and March 22, went unanswered.

In his blog postings and writings, Eric Holt-Gimenez, director of the US-based Food First: Institute for Food and Development Policy, labels it 'Monsanto in Gates' clothing'.

He describes how AGRA, as a prelude to the introduction of GMOs, is laying the ground for a conventional breeding programme - labs, experiment stations, agronomists, extensionists, biologists and farmer seeds. He points out that about 80% of the Gates Foundation's allocation to Kenya has gone into biotech research; in 2008, about 30% of its agri-development funds went into promoting and developing GM seeds.

GRAIN, an international non-profit that supports community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems, has been wary of public-private coalitions like AGRA and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

It says their research programmes feed into the growth strategies of corporations; further, the programmes often adopt elements of business models of those very companies.

Delhi-based Shalini Bhutani, till recently representing GRAIN, sees a design in the Gates Foundation's announcement of the Borlaug Institute for South Asia in Bihar, following a recent visit by Bill Gates. "The involvement of this set of players in the promotion of GM rice is too well known," she says. AGRA, it is often charged, has been created with little civil society or farmer engagement. Protests are now breaking out across the continent. The Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, with a membership of 65 civil society and farmer organisations, tried to block the import of a 40,000 tonne consignment of GM maize into the country last year.

Food First is concerned that US agencies, acting in tandem with MNCs, are gaining muscle by the day. The Casey-Lugar Global Food Security Act - a legislation that seeks to tie foreign aid to GMOs - is often cited. Or, that the newly appointed head of USAID is a former Gates Foundation employee.

A set of powerful voices - in business and in philanthropy - are beginning to talk of a new GM-led green revolution despite the ravages of the previous green revolution techniques, which were grounded in similar principles, in India. In the Punjab, Haryana and western UP belt, soils are degraded, and yields and groundwater levels are plunging, causing deep socio-economic challenges.

The onslaught continues despite numerous studies indicating that GM crops are no panacea. A few years ago, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) - a multi-stakeholder consultation that lasted three years, and involved 900 experts from 110 countries - concluded GM crops are no solution to the world's food security challenges.

Second Only to the US

Concerns aired by agriculturists are finding an echo in another arena in which philanthropic capital, in recent years, has catalysed remarkable progress: healthcare.

It has delivered results in access to medicines, research in neglected and tropical diseases, development and distribution of vaccines to low-income countries, maternal, neonatal and child health, and nutrition.

The Gates Foundation and its partners have re-invigorated health issues and given them a global profile like never before. Since 1994, the foundation has invested over $13 billion in healthcare alone, representing 60% of its giving to date.

In public health, other than the US government, there is no donor as influential as the Gates Foundation. It has emerged as the second largest donor to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This can be seen both ways: donor money has infused life into a nearly bankrupt entity, but it is also causing much consternation.

Effects of the structural changes being pushed by the new interests will be seen years or decades down the line.

"The very mandate and constitution of the WHO is being undermined," says KM Gopakumar, legal advisor and senior researcher of the Third World Network in India.

Speaking to the media in Bangalore this week, Warren Buffett, who has committed most of his $50 billion wealth to the Gates Foundation, admitted it takes a long time to see the full results of philanthropic work.

While it is conceded that it would be downright impudent to look a gift horse in the mouth, the concentration of power in the hands of new philanthro-capitalists is causing alarm; especially on issues around equity and social justice, on the accountability of donors and its impact, maybe unintended, on global institutions and processes.

"The rapid demise of public sector policy-making in key areas of public health, and the reliance on the Gates family and its staff, is impoverishing debate over public health priorities," says James Love, director, Knowledge Economy International (KEI), a US-based not-for-profit that seeks better outcomes to the management of knowledge resources. It is borne out by occasional outbursts from people within the system.

Concentration of Power

Some time ago, the head of WHO's malaria research revealed that the increasing dominance of the Gates Foundation was stifling diversity of views among scientists and that it could seriously impede the policy-making function of the world body. He was dismayed by the foundation's decision-making process: "A closed, internal process, accountable to none other than itself".

More recently, in January 2011, the Peoples Health Movement, a grassroots campaign for health for all, wrote to members of the WHO's executive board, calling attention to a number of issues. This included innovation, intellectual property rights (IPR), millennium development goals, and also the future of financing WHO, especially the unhealthy trend of donor money increasing in proportion to that of contributions from member states.

WHO's recent over-reliance on medicines, diagnostics and other technological fixes is being criticised. "Allocations to the social determinants of health have shrunk greatly," says Mira Shiva. "Water, food, sanitation and other social circumstances have a greater play on the health of the poor." Shiva has been an ardent proponent for the rational use of medicines.

In contrast, a humungous push on vaccines is underway. The Gates Foundation, for example, has allocated $10 billion to this field and describes this as the decade of vaccines. However, the GAVI Alliance, and some of the mechanisms it has fostered, is now under fire.

One such mechanism is the Advance Market Commitments (AMC), inspired and supported by the Gates Foundation. The AMC seeks to provide pharma companies a captive market for 10 years, provided they agree to develop and supply vaccines to developing countries, in millions of doses, at a deep discount.

The pilot AMC of $1.5 billion, funded by the Gates Foundation and G7 countries, for pneumococcal diseases, which kills almost a million children annually, pays $3.50 per dose to the companies in the mechanism (GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer-Wyeth, among others). Recipient countries make a small co-payment. However, instead of developing new vaccines, the AMC brought in vaccines already developed by big pharma, for which costs had been recovered substantially from sales in western markets.

Donald W Light, a distinguished academic and visiting professor at Stanford University, was part of the AMC process, but found himself out of it when his views crossed that of big pharma. Light often dubs it the "advance procurement commitment" for its overwhelming bias towards big pharma and profits. "GAVI is basically setting the markets for big pharma," says Leena Menghaney, campaign co-ordinator (India), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a medical humanitarian organisation that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.

The GAVI Alliance is already in a deep funding crisis. It is expected to scour for $4.1 billion this year, primarily because of action skewed in favour of big pharma. "Leaders of donor nations and GAVI board members should sit with the chairman of Pfizer and GSK to negotiate a new price near $2," says Light. "In the longer run, they should negotiate licensing, technology transfer and other ways to foster price-competition from other low-cost producers."

The suggestion is indeed relevant for the AMC, which disregards the immense potential of small pharma companies in developing countries to bring cheaper vaccines to the world. The Pune-based Serum Institute of India participates in the AMC, but when it requested funding support during its R&D process for a vaccine, it was turned down. Light is in favour of companies in the Serum Institute mould.

Institutional Influence

The Gates influence and stranglehold on global institutions and mechanisms in healthcare are quite evident. It doesn't stop here. Numerous proposals for a 'Medical R&D Treaty' as a more egalitarian alternative to the existing one, which links R&D costs to product prices, has been systematically snuffed out.

The treaty seeks to place global, and country-specific obligations, on funding medical R&D. Each country is expected to extend support on the basis of its national income. "It's regrettable that the Gates Foundation opposes discussions at the WHO on a possible treaty on medical R&D," says James Love. "An initiative that can create new global sustainability standards, promote access to knowledge, and usher much-needed transparency and ethical norms." At a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, Gates said: "I don't know about this treaty. I don't have a position on this."

Interestingly, while large organisations such as the WHO bare a tendency to capitulate easily to pressure, smaller, newer outfits show more spunk. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), a product development partnership, which also seeks funds from the Gates Foundation, has clear firewalls in place.

"We limit funds from a single donor to not more than 25% of our total requirement," says Bernard Pecoul, executive director, DNDi, which is seeking to raise euro 274 million by 2014. The Gates Foundation has committed around $40 million to DNDi. It demanded a board position, but DNDi refused.

But such instances of refusing to bow to big philanthropy are rare. "It's a crisis of accountability today," says Shiva. "It's no more accountability of corporations or philanthropists alone; the government too has a lot to answer.".

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Scientists Discover New Route for GM-gene 'Escape'

ISIS Report 02/03/11 

Genetically modified genes can jump species via wounds, yes horizontal gene transfer happens, and at high frequencies; it is the greatest, most underestimated hazard from GMOs released into the environment Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Gene “escape” a misnomer for horizontal gene transfer

Scientists at Bristol University in the UK announced the discovery of [1] “a previously unknown route” whereby “GM genes may escape into the natural environment.”  “Escape” is a misnomer. There is no need for the GM (genetically modified) genes to “escape”, when genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been released in great abundance and with gay abandon into the environment over the past 17 years. At issue is how fast and how widely the GM genes can spread, and what dire consequences could arise.

The “escape” referred to is horizontal gene transfer – the spread of GM genes by infection and multiplication (literally like a virus) regardless of species barriers; hence the rate of spread is much more rapid, and the extent virtually unlimited.  New combinations of genetic material are created at unprecedented speed; affecting species the most that reproduce the fastest, i.e., bacteria and viruses that cause diseases. Horizontal gene transfer and recombination is indeed a main route for generating new strains of bacteria and viruses that cause diseases. Genetic modification and release of GMOs into the environment is nothing if not greatly facilitated horizontal gene transfer and recombination. It has created highways for gene trafficking in place of narrow by-ways and occasional footpaths that previously existed.

Some of us have long considered horizontal gene transfer to be the most serious hidden and underestimated hazard of genetic engineering, and have alerted regulators accordingly, time and again, since GMOs were first released (see for example [3, 4] (Gene Technology and Gene Ecology of Infectious Diseases, ISIS scientific publication; Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, ISIS publication). The recent “emergency” warning sent by a senior US Department of Agriculture scientist to US Secretary of Agriculture on a suspected pathogen “new to science” associated with GM crops may prove to be a case in point [5] (Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops? SiS 50).

Plant wounds hotspots for gene trafficking

The researchers at Bristol University showed that plant wounds, that could be created by insect bites, abrasion and other mechanical damage, are hotspots for gene trafficking due to the wound hormones produced by the plant. Under such circumstances, the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which causes crown gall disease in plants, could enlarge its host range to infect fungi, and insert foreign genes into the fungi’s genome [2]. This has large implications on the safety of GMOs already widely released into the environment.

A. tumefaciens is probably unique among natural plant pathogens in carrying out trans-Kingdom horizontal gene transfer during an infection, and it is this ability that has been widely exploited for creating GM crops, grown on an estimated 134 million hectares worldwide in 2009, and “jumped’ another 10 percent in 2010, according to industry-funded International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) [6].

Research commissioned by the UK Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the 1990s had already revealed that it is very difficult, if not impossible to get rid of the Agrobacterium vector used in creating the transgenic plant [7], and the bacterium is likely to remain dormant even after the transgenic plants are transplanted into the soil. Hence, it is expected to facilitate horizontal gene transfer, in the first instance, to wild-type Agrobacterium in the soil, and further afield.

Disease-causing strains of A. tumefaciens have an extrachromosomal Ti (tumour-inducing) plasmid that enables the horizontal transfer of a segment of the Ti plasmid, the T-DNA, into the plant cell genome when the bacterium’s virulence (disease causing) system is activated by hormones produced by the wounded plant. This feature is exploited in creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), by disarming the bacterium, and incorporating the virulence genes in a ‘binary’ vector that has to be used in conjunction with the disarmed Agrobacterium strain.
In the 1990s, it was shown that the range of organisms transformed by Agrobacterium could be extended if the wound hormone acetosyringone was used to induce the virulence system.
The researchers at Bristol University reasoned that as A. tumefaciens is a soil-dwelling pathogen that often infects plants through wounds, it is conceivable that the bacterium could encounter numerous species of microorganisms, including pathogenic fungi that the same method to gain entry into the plant. The wound sites are likely to be exuding wound hormones such as acetosyringone, so the bacteria are primed for T-DNA transfer.

Experiments confirmed their suspicion in full

They carried out their investigation using the wilt-causing fungus Verticillium albo-atrum, a strong candidate for encounters with Agrobacterium in the plant, as it has a similar wide host range in plants, infecting both root and crown. Previous lab experiments have shown that V. albo-atrum cannot be transformed by Agrobacterium in the absence of acetosyringone. So, if it is presented with Agrobacterium on plant tissue, and transformation does occur, it must be the plant that supplies the wound hormone.

Peeled and sliced potato tubers and carrots, leave- and stem-sections from tobacco plants were used as the plant tissues for testing. After sterilization, they were inoculated with both A. tumefaciens and V. albo-atrum and left at room temperature in a covered agar dish for a minimum of 8 days and a maximum of 42 days.

Successful transformants of V. albo-atrum were obtained from every kind of plant tissue. 2 out of 17 potato slices, 1 out of 15 carrot slices; 14 out of 42 dishes each with 3-5 leaf pieces, and 10 out of 31 stem sections (without agar plate, so as to be as close to the natural condition as possible). These transformants were confirmed with molecular genetic analyses.

Implications on risk assessments of GMOs still understated

The researchers concluded [2]: “This work therefore raises interesting questions about whether the host range of A. tumefaciens in nature is greater than just plants. It is possible that evidence of such events could be looked for retrospectively in the increasing number of genome sequences becoming available....

“In addition, the result may well have implications for the risk assessment of GM plants generated via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, as Agrobacterium can survive within plant tissue through transformation and tissue culture and can therefore be found within regenerated transgenic plants...”

This is an understatement of a serious risk that has been known almost since the first release of Agrobacterium-transformed GMOs into the environment.

The risks are far greater than admitted

We have repeatedly drawn attention to the possibility of facilitated horizontal gene transfer from GMOs created with Agrobacterium vector, which is even stronger than originally envisaged due to other discoveries made since then. I reproduce what we wrote in 2008 [8] (Horizontal Gene Transfer from GMOs Does Happen, SiS 38), which repeats an earlier account [9] (Living with the Fluid Genome , ISIS publication) (see Box).

Agrobacterium vector a vehicle for facilitated horizontal gene transfer [8, 9]

“We have ..provided evidence strongly suggesting that the most common method of creating transgenic plants may also serve as a ready route for horizontal gene transfer [9, 10].
“Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the soil bacterium that causes crown gall disease, has been developed as a major gene transfer vector for making transgenic plants. Foreign genes are typically spliced into the T-DNA - part of a plasmid of A. tumefaciens called Ti (tumour-inducing) – which ends up integrated into the genome of the plant cell that subsequently develops into a tumour.

“But further investigations revealed that the process whereby Agrobacterium injects T-DNA into plant cells strongly resembles conjugation, the mating process between bacterial cells.
Conjugation, mediated by certain bacterial plasmids requires a sequence called the origin of transfer (oriT) on the DNA that’s transferred. All the other functions can be supplied from unlinked sources, referred to as ‘trans-acting functions’ (or tra). Thus, ‘disabled’ plasmids, with no trans-acting functions, can nevertheless be transferred by ‘helper’ plasmids that carry genes coding for the trans-acting functions. And that’s the basis of a complicated vector system devised, involving Agrobacterium T-DNA, which has been used for creating numerous transgenic plants.

“It soon transpired that the left and right borders of the T-DNA are similar to oriT, and can be replaced by it. Furthermore, the disarmed T-DNA, lacking the trans-acting functions (virulence genes that contribute to disease), can be helped by similar genes belonging to many other pathogenic bacteria. It seems that the trans-kingdom gene transfer of Agrobacterium and the conjugative systems of bacteria are both involved in transporting macromolecules, not just DNA but also protein.

“That means transgenic plants created by the T-DNA vector system have a ready route for horizontal gene escape, via Agrobacterium, helped by the ordinary conjugative mechanisms of many other bacteria that cause diseases, which are present in the environment.

“In fact, the possibility that Agrobacterium can serve as a vehicle for horizontal gene escape was first raised in 1997 in a study sponsored by the UK Government [7, 12], which found it extremely difficult to get rid of the Agrobacterium in the vector system after transformation. Treatment with an armoury of antibiotics and repeated subculture of the transgenic plants over 13 months failed to get rid of the bacterium. Furthermore, 12.5 percent of the Agrobacterium remaining still contained the binary vector (T-DNA and helper plasmid), and were hence fully capable of transforming other plants.

“Agrobacterium not only transfers genes into plant cells; there is possibility for retrotransfer of DNA from the plant cell to Agrobacterium [13]. High rates of gene transfer are associated with the plant root system and the germinating seed, where conjugation is most likely [14]. There, Agrobacterium could multiply and transfer transgenic DNA to other bacteria, as well as to the next crop to be planted. These possibilities have yet to be investigated empirically.

“Finally, Agrobacterium attaches to and genetically transforms several human cell lines [15, 16] (Common plant vector injects genes into human cells ISIS News 11/12). In stably transformed HeLa cells (a human cell line derived originally from a cancer patient), the integration of T-DNA occurred at the right border, exactly as would happen when it is transferred into a plant cell genome. This suggests that Agrobacterium transforms human cells by a mechanism similar to that which it uses for transforming plants cells.

“The possibility that Agrobacterium is a vehicle for horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA remains unresolved to this day.”

Agrobacterium transfers genes into human cells

It is also worth reiterating our comment on the scientific paper [15] documenting that Agrobacterium can transfer genes into human cells [16].

“The paper shows that human cancer cells along with neurons and kidney cells were transformed with the Agrobacterium T-DNA. Such observations should raise alarm for those who use Agrobacterium in the laboratory.

“The integrated T-DNA will almost certainly act as a mutagen as it integrates into human chromosomes. Cancer can be triggered by activation of oncogenes (ie, cancer genes) or inactivation of cancer-suppressing genes. Furthermore, the sequences carried within the T-DNA in the transforming bacterium can be expressed in the transformed cells (the viral promoter CaMV has been found to be active in HeLa cells [17]) ….

“It is clear that little has been done to prevent environmental escape of the transforming bacteria or to quantify such releases. In conclusion, a study of cancer incidence among those exposed to Agrobacterium tumefaciens in the laboratory and in the field is needed. It would be worthwhile to screen workers for T-DNA sequences.”

To conclude

The discovery by the Bristol University researchers barely scratches the surface of the hidden hazards of GMOs from horizontal gene transfer. It is high time for a global ban to be imposed on further environmental releases of GMOs, and all those responsible for releasing them should be brought to book.


1. “Hazards of GMOS: Agrobacterium mediated transformation”
2. Knight CJ, Bailey AM, Foster GD. Investigating Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of Verticillium albo-atrum on plant surfaces. PLOS ONE 2010, 5(10): e13684. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013684
3. Ho MW. Gene technology and gene ecology of infectious diseases. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 1998, 10, 33-59.
4. Ho MW. Genetic Engineering Dream of Nightmare? The Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business, Third World Network, Gateway Books, MacMillan, Continuum, Penang, Malaysia, Bath, UK, Dublin, Ireland, New York, USA, 1998, 1999, 2007 (reprint with extended Introduction).
5. Ho MW. Emergency! Pathogen new to science found in Roundup Ready GM crops? Science in Society 50 (to appear).
6. Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops, 2009, ISAAA,
7. Mc Nicol MJ, Lyon GD, Chen MY, Barrett C and Cobb E. Scottish Crop Research Institute. Contract No RG 0202.The Possibility of Agrobacterium as a Vehicle for Gene Escape. MAFF. R&D and Surveillance Report: 395.
8. Ho MW and Cummins J. Horizontal gene transfer from GMOs does happen. Science in Society 38, 22-24, 2008
9. Ho MW. Living with the Fluid Genome, ISIS/TWN, London/Penanag, 2003.
10. Ferguson G and Heinemann J. Recent history of trans-kingdom conjugation . In Horizontal Gene Transfer 2nd ed., Syvanen M and Kado CI. (eds.) Academic Press, San Diego, 2002.
11. Ho MW. Horizontal gene transfer, book review. Heredity 2003, 90, 6-7.
12. Barrett C, Cobb E, MacNicol R and Lyon G. A risk assessment study of plant genetic transformation using Agrobacterium and implication for analysis of transgenic plants.Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 1997, 19,135-144.
13. Kado C. in Horizontal Gene Transfer 2nd ed., Syvanen M and Kado CI. (eds.) Academic Press, San Diego, 2002.
14. Sengelov G, Kristensen KJ, Sorensen AH, Kroer N, and Sorensen SJ. Effect of genomic location on horizontal transfer of a recombinant gene cassette between Pseudomonas strains in the rhizosphere and spermosphere of barley seedlings. Current Microbiology 2001, 42, 160-7.
15. Kunik T, Tzfira T, Kapulnik Y, Gafni Y, Dingwall C, and Citovsky V. Genetic transformation of HeLa cells by Agrobacterium. PNAS USA, 2001, 98, 1871-87.
16. Cummins J.  “Common plant vector injects genes into human cells.  ISIS News 2002, 11/12, p. 10.
17. Ho MW, Ryan A and Cummins J. CaMV 35S promoter fragmentation hotspot confirmed and it is active in animals. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 2000, 12, 189.