24 August 2001
Monsanto denies rogue gene danger

By Tom Allen-Stevens

GM GIANT Monsanto has denied recent claims by Greenpeace that research into its Round-up Ready soya casts doubt on the crops safety.

The research, carried out by Belgium scientist Marc de Loose, revealed some previously undetected strands of DNA in the modified soybean genome.

These differed to the sequence of DNA found in conventional soya, prompting a call from the environmental group to suspend sales of the GM soya in Europe.

No-one knows what this extra gene sequence will produce in the soybean, and what its effects will be, said Greenpeace chief scientific adviser Doug Parr.

This newly-discovered DNA was not inserted during the modification process, Monsanto biotechnology development manager Colin Merritt told FWi on Friday (24 August).

It is just DNA from the soybean itself that has been rearranged. This often occurs during a normal, natural breeding programme anyway.

He explained that the gene fragments have only just recently been detected because of advances in the detection methods used.

The regulatory authorities around the world were told about this research last year and have since concluded there is no implication for the safety assessments.

In a recent interview, Dr de Loose confirmed that the findings of his research backed up the original safety assessments.

This [evidence] means that the sequence is stable and all the data concerning safety are still valid in my opinion,” he told Reuters.

Five or six years ago the GM soya was assessed to gauge whether it posed any greater threat to human health or the environment than conventional soya.

Carried out by the Advisory Committees on Releases to the Environment and for Novel Foods and Processes, both bodies concluded then and now that it does not.