Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hawaiian GMO Success Story

The story of how transgenic technologies saved the Hawaiian papaya industry of the papaya ringspot virus The Story of GM Papaya in Hawaii (scroll to end to see article):

The papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) was discovered in Puna in 1992 where 95% of Hawaii's papaya was grown. Previously, PRSV had decimated the growing areas of Oahu, and a small outbreak on Kauai had been eradicated. In 1995 the PRSV was widespread in Puna and the total Hawaii papaya production fell from a peak production of 58.2 million lbs in 1993 to 35.6 million lbs in 1998, a decrease of 39%., but the decrease in Puna was greater at 52%.

The effect on our growers had a significant impact on the economy of the whole Island and the State. Papayas had been the biggest business in Puna. Luckily for the Papaya Industry, visionary scientists had begun looking at new biotech ways of developing disease resistant plants. The transgenic papaya developed by Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, then at Cornell University..., and University of Hawaii researchers, Richard Manshardt and Maureen Fitch, was released in Puna in 1998. The transgenic papaya was transformed in 1991 but it took seven years to get through the US regulatory system and into the fields.

There is no doubt that the transgenic papaya saved the papaya industry in Hawaii and now constitutes about 60% of all papayas grown in Hawaii.. Oahu is also recovering from the PRSV disaster that started for them in the 1940's. That virus problem had led to the growth of the Papaya Industry on the Big Island. Furthermore, these transgenic papaya have been used as a genetic source to produce new varieties that are especially suited for growing on Oahu.

Visit the Genetic Science Learning Center, "helping people understand how genetics affects their lives and society," to learn more about:
  • The Basics and Beyond What is DNA? What are chromosomes? What are cells made of?
  • Genetic Disorder Corner What are genetic disorders and how are they caused? What do genetic counselors do?
  • The Biotechniques Laboratory Belly up to our interactive lab bench and practice basic molecular biology techniques.
  • Stem Cells in the Spotlight Stem cells are the body's main building blocks. Explore the biology of stem cells, their potential uses in medicine and some of the challenges facing stem cell research.
  • Pharmacogenomics: Drugs Designed for You What if your doctor could choose medical treatments, guaranteed effective, based on your genetic makeup? Explore the future of genomics-based medicine.
  • Cloning in Focus What's the real story with cloning? Find out how it's done, examine potential uses for cloning technologies and explore the related ethical, legal and social issues.
  • Gene Therapy: Molecular Bandage? Can we cure diseases by fixing faulty genes? See how gene therapy works, examine its possible uses and consider some of the major obstacles to success.
  • Do Try This at Home! Hands-on activities for home or the classroom.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Save 5000 Lives a Day

Hat tip for all the links below to AgBioView.

Just in case you were interested, How to Save 5000 Lives Every Day:

Globally, up to 800 million people suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which is a major health problem in South-East Asia and Africa. Every year between 800,000 and two million people die as a result of this deficiency, most of them children and pregnant women. The deficiency is also the leading source of preventable blindness in the world, causing over 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness a year along with millions of cases of xerophtalmia, a condition that causes night blindness and can lead to further eye problems.

Our friend and science colleague Professor Ingo Potrykus and his team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have spent the last decade developing golden rice, a strain into which a genetic construct containing two daffodil genes and one bacterial gene have been inserted to produce beta-carotene, which the body can break down into vitamin A. Potrykus and his team have overcome all intellectual-property licensing restrictions associated with the research to enable golden rice seeds to be given free to people in developing nations. However, despite the life- saving potential of this new strain of rice and widespread endorsements from many scientists, health organisations, nutritionists, media outlets such as Time Magazine and CNN, and even the former US president Bill Clinton, there are still individuals and groups who continue to criticise golden rice.

Greenpeace is just one of the groups which showers golden rice with undeserved criticism.

By the time golden rice is finally approved in the countries where it is most needed, it is likely that many more millions of children will have been blinded or died as a result of vitamin A deficiency.

However, there is some encouraging news on the golden rice front, Syngenta sees development of vitamin-rich GM rice:

"The use of maize will hasten regulations because the issue of allergenicity and toxicity will no longer be delved very stringently because daffodil is not being eaten, but maize is food," he said.

What is good about the use of corn gene is it has raised betacarotene level to 37 micrograms (MG) per gram compared to only 1.6 MG per gram betacaro-tene content in daffodil.

"That’s an increase of 23 times," Alfonso said who explained that scientists have shifted to inserting gene with betacarotene gene in rice instead of a gene with Vitamin A since human intake of excessive Vitamin A is known to lead to toxicity.

On the other hand, when taken by human, excess betacarotene is only disposed of by the body rather than poisons it.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Political Science

Hat's off once again to Steve Milloy for an excellent exposé of the latest political science pronouncement (emphasis on political) from the National Academy of Sciences: Trillion-Dollar Radiation Mistake?

No one disputes that exposures to very high levels of radiation can cause health problems ... but it's not clear at all that more typical, low-level radiation exposures pose any risk at all.

For the sake of being able to somehow characterize low-level radiation exposures as a risk, the panel simply assumed that because high-level exposures to radiation increase risk of health effects -- like the slightly elevated cancer risk observed in the atomic bomb survivors -- then any level of radiation exposure is a cancer risk.

The regulations limiting human exposure to low-level radiation are not known to have prevented a single health effect in anyone despite decades of use. But they have cost more than $1 trillion in the U.S. alone, according to Radiation, Science and Health.

The overly-stringent Federal regulations that will continue to be enforced because of this recommendation, along with the rash of new regulations that will undoubtedly follow this solemn pronouncement, may not save any lives, but they wdefinitelytely cause your money to radiate so heavily that the government will insist on separating it from you -- for your own good, of course.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The myth of DDT vs reality

Malaria has killed more people, especially children, than any other infectious disease in history.

British scientists at Oxford University recently reported that in 2002 there were 515 million people infected with the most dangerous strain of malaria. Malaria deaths could easily exceed the 3 million people killed annually by AIDS.

The myth of DDT versus the reality of malaria in Africa

DDT has controlled malaria in Africa in the past and it can do so again. Environmentalists, however, are working overtime to make sure that doesn't happen: President Could Help Tsunami Victims With Stroke of Pen.

More about the POPs treaty: Environmentalists may be hazardous to your health