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TWN Biotechnology and Biosafety Series No. 5

Slipping through the regulatory net: 'Naked' and 'free' nucleic acids

Authors: Mae-Wan Ho, Angela Ryan, Joe Cummins, Terje Traavik
ISBN: 983-9747-74-6
Year Published: 2001
No. of pages: 26
Price: US$8.00 (inclusive of postage cost by air mail)

The TWN Biotechnology and Biosafety Series is a series of papers published by the Third World Network. It is aimed at deepening public understanding of ecological and safety aspects of new biotechnologies, especially of genetic engineering.

About the book:

Biotechnological processes are creating an increasing variety of naked/free nucleic acids that are released unregulated into (and which persist in) the environment. They are by definition, xenobiotics - substances foreign to nature. Research findings in gene therapy and vaccine development show that naked/free nucleic acids constructs are readily taken up by the cells of all species including human beings. These nucleic acid constructs can become integrated into the cell's genome and such integration may result in harmful biological effects, including cancers.

Of current and serious concern is with regard to 'contained use'. Industrial contained users release large volumes of untreated transgenic microorganisms, which they judge to be 'safe', directly into the environment. Moreover, transgenic wastes consisting of killed microorganisms but containing large amounts of transgenic nucleic acids, are being recycled as food, feed and fertilizer, or disposed of in landfills. These practices are precisely those that can enhance horizontal transfer and recombination of transgenic nucleic acids, and should no longer be permitted.

About the authors:

Dr Mae-Wan Ho is Senior Research Fellow of the Open University, UK, Fellow of the US National Genetics Foundation, and co-founder and director of the Institiute of Science in Society (ISIS).

Angela Ryan read Molecular Biology at King's College, London, was Research Fellow in molecular biology at the Open University for ISIS and is undertaking a Masters in Science, Culture and the Environment at the University of London.

Dr Joe Cummins is Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He has a PhD in Cellular Biology and has taught genetics at several universities in the US.

Terje Traavik is Professor and Head of the Department of Virology, at the Institute of Medical Biology, University of Tromso, Norway and is co-founder and scientific director of GENOK-Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology.

Contents:

1. 'Naked' and 'free' nucleic acids
Naked nucleic acids in genetic engineering biotechnology
Free nucleic acids resulting from genetic engineering biotechnology

2. DNA persists in all environments

3. The potential hazards of naked nucleic acids
Hazards of naked nucleic acids

4. The horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA
Reasons to suspect that transgenic DNA may be more likely to spread horizontally than non-transgenic DNA

5. The hazards of horizontal gene transfer
Potential hazards from horizontal gene transfer of naked/free nucleic acids

6. Conclusion

Endnotes

Appendix

 

 


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