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GMO : Independent Scientists Demand A Ban on GM Food & Feed while All GM Crops Are Tested

Saturday 20 May 2006

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Immune Reactions to Transgenic Protein Serious

Independent Scientists Demand A Ban on GM Food & Feed while All GM Crops Are Tested

The following memo and report were sent to international and national regulators on behalf of the Independent Science Panel.

Please circulate widely, forward to your regulators and policy makers, and the press.

From: Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, member of Independent Science Panel (, Director, Institute of Science in Society (

To: (see list at the end)

I am writing on behalf of the Independent Science Panel (ISP)* to draw your attention to new research findings on the safety of transgenic proteins that need to be urgently addressed.

Specifically, immunological assessments carried out for the first time on a transgenic protein revealed that post-translational processing subsequent to gene transfer into an alien species introduced new antigenicities that turned a previously harmless protein into a strong immunogen. In addition, the transgenic protein promoted immune reactions against multiple other proteins in the diet. The detailed findings are reviewed in the report below.

As practically all the transgenic proteins involve cross-species gene transfer, they will be subjected to different post-translational processing, and hence they too, will have the potential to become immunogenic. And yet, none of the transgenic proteins that have been commercially approved has been tested. This omission is a most serious public health issue.

We call on you to impose an immediate ban on all GM food and feed until proper assessment on the immunogenicity of all the transgenic proteins has been carried out.

*The ISP, launched 10 May 2003 at a public conference in London, UK, consists of dozens of prominent scientists from 11 countries spanning the disciplines of agroecology, agronomy, biomathematics, botany, chemical medicine, ecology, epidemiology, histopathology, microbial ecology, molecular genetics, nutritional biochemistry, physiology, toxicology and virology (http://www.indsp. org/ISPMembers.php)

Transgenic Pea that Made Mice Ill

Raises serious safety concerns on transgenic proteins in general that must be addressed while a ban on all GM food and feed is imposed. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Ten-year project down the drain but are the right lessons learned?

A ten- year project at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) in Canberra Australia bit the dust when peas modified to resist insects caused inflammation in the lungs of mice [1]. The GM peas will be destroyed, said Gene Technology Regulator Sue Meeks.

The gene coding for the protein, a-amylase inhibitor-1 (aA1) in the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. Tendergreen), was inserted into pea (Pisum sativum L.) to make the pea-plants resistant to attack from weevils.

Dr. T.J. Higgins, deputy chief of CSIRO Plant Industry and co-author of the scientific paper reporting the results remarked it is only the second time in the world that a GM project has been abandoned after a gene transfer from one crop to another, and that it demonstrated the effectiveness of strict regulations on research into GM crops.

Greenpeace campaigner Jeremy Tager said: “It just shows the failure of the science in relation to this gene product.”

Director of GeneEthics Network Bob Phelps referred to the project as a “waste of public money” and highlights the growing concern worldwide about the health impacts of all GM foods.

There are indeed important lessons to be learned from the scientific findings [2], which raise serious safety concerns over transgenic proteins in general.

Different processing of transgenic protein

The researchers found that the transgenic protein was processed differently and provoked immune reactions not exhibited by the native protein (see later).

Transgenic aA1 protein was compared with the non-transgenic protein on Western blot, a technique that separates different forms of the protein arising from post-translational processing. Previous studies showed that the native polypeptide in bean is cleaved into two chains, a and b, both of which are glycosylated (carbohydrate chains added), and with one or more amino acids removed from the tail end. This results in major forms of the a- and b-chains with molecular masses 11 646 Da and 17 319 Da respectively, together with minor forms containing alternative carbohydrate chains. The transgene in pea yielded a- and b-chains with molecular masses in the11 000 - 18 000 Da region, but with a banding pattern different from the native protein. More detailed comparisons on mass spectroscopy showed that the transgenic a-chain was less heavily glycosylated; and a form with two fewer mannose residues (11 322 Da) was the dominant in transgenic pea, but the least abundant in bean. The b-chain in the transgenic protein also showed a number of other bands besides the major and minor forms present in the native protein.

Immune reactions to transgenic protein

Mice were given about 25mg of seed meal in suspension, containing transgenic pea, nontransgenic pea, or bean, twice a week for 4 weeks. Seven days after the final feeding, the mice were subcutaneously injected in the footpad with the purified protein antigens: native or transgenic aA1, and the swelling induced in the footpad assessed 24 h later.

In a second experiment, the mice were fed seed meal suspensions as before, and seven and nine days after the final meal, purified transgenic aA1 or buffered saline was introduced into the trachea, and inflammation response was measured in the lungs 24 h later.

The results showed that mice fed on non-transgenic pea or bean showed no inflammation response in the footpad or in the lungs, indicating normal immune tolerance to common food.

Mice fed with transgenic pea, however, showed aA1-specific IgG antibodies at two weeks, rising to significant levels after 4 weeks. There was significant swelling of the footpad, or delayed type hypersensitive (DTH) response, when purified aA1 was injected. Similarly, introducing the antigens into the trachea gave an inflammation response in the lungs.

As a control for the general effect of genetic modification, the footpad challenge experiment was repeated with material from two other GM plants, lupin expressing sunflower seed albumin (SSA) and chickpeas expressing aA1. In contrast to transgenic pea, mice fed transgenic lupin or transgenic chickpea did not give DTH response. This shows that the response to transgenic pea was specific.

The peribronchial lymph nodes of the mice were tested for their response to transgenic aA1. Only the lymph nodes of mice fed transgenic peas responded by producing the inflammation cytokines (cell signalling factors) when challenged with transgenic aA1.

Transgenic protein promotes reactions to other proteins

In order to test if the transgenic protein promotes immune reactions to other proteins in the diet, mice were fed purified transgenic or native aA1, or transgenic aA1 with or without ovalbumin three times a week for 2 weeks. One week following feeding, purified ovalbumin or buffered saline were introduced into the trachea of the mice, and inflammation response in the lungs was assessed as before.

Neither ovalbumin alone, nor ovalbumin in combination with native aA1 caused any inflammation response in the footpad or lungs when the mice were challenged with ovalbumin. However, consumption of transgenic aA1 and ovalbumin together promoted a strong ovalbumin-specific antibody response and predisposed the mice to inflammation when challenged with ovalbumin in both the footpad and the trachea. This suggests that transgenic aA1 did promote reactions to other proteins. In confirmation of that, levels of antigen-specific IgG against other proteins such as pea globulins, lectin, and vicilin-4 were also significantly higher in the serum of mice fed transgenic pea than mice fed non-transgenic pea.

Wider implications on the safety of transgenic proteins that must be addressed

The transgenic pea involved gene transfer between plant species, and is generally thought to be much safer compared with the cross-kingdom gene transfer - bacteria to plant - involved in the GM food crops that now cover tens of millions of hectares worldwide.

A harmless bean protein expressed in transgenic pea caused inflammation in mice, and research showed that the most likely reason is because the protein is processed differently in peas. Such post- translational processing of proteins is well known to be species-specific, and as genetic modification almost invariably involves cross-species transfer of proteins, one must expect transgenic proteins to differ structurally from the native proteins as a matter of course. Are they also likely to provoke immune reactions as a result?

It would not happen in every case, as the researchers have found that neither transgenic lupin sunflower seed albumin, nor transgenic chickpea aA1 gave the same results as transgenic pea aA1. But how frequently could it happen?

“Currently, we do not know the frequency at which alterations in structure and immunogenicity of transgenically expressed proteins occur or whether this is unique to transgenically expressed aA1.” The researchers admitted.

Furthermore, when consumed with other proteins, the transgenic pea protein promoted immunological ‘cross-priming’ against those proteins, so that the mice developed specific immunological reactions to them as well. In other words, the transgenic protein can provoke generalised immune response to multiple proteins in the diet, whether transgenic or not.

The previous instance of a GM project being abandoned was the transfer of a Brazil nut allergen into soya [3], and it involved a known allergen. The present case involves a protein that has all the appearance of being harmless.

As yet, no other GM crop, especially those already out there in the fields and in our food and feed, has been tested in this way. This must now be done. Meanwhile, there must be a ban imposed on all GM food and feed.

1 1. “GM crops scrapped as mice made ill”, Selina Mitchell and Leigh Dayton, The Australian, 18 November 2005. http://www.theaustralian.,5744,17283002%255E2702, ml
2 Prescott VE, Campbell PM, Moore A, Mattes J, Rothenberg ME, Foster PS, Higgins TJV and Hogan SP. Transgenic expression of bean a-amylase inhibitor in peas results in altered structure and immunogenicity. J Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005, 53, 9023-30.
3 Nordlee JA, Taylor SL, Townsend JA, Thomas LA & Bush RK. Identification of a brazil-nut allergen in transgenic soybeans. The New England Journal of Medicine 1996, March14, 688-728.

Sent to:

Mr. Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity,< /A>

Cc: Mr. David Cooper, Senior Programme Officer - Interagency and Program (UK and Northern Ireland), david.cooper@biodiv.or g

Mr. Geoffrey Podger, Executive Director, European Food Safety Authority Geoffrey.podger@ef

Cc: Mr. Herman.Koeter, Director of Science, European Food Safety Authority, Herman.koeter@efsa.e

Dr. Harry Kuiper, Chair of the GMO Panel, EFSA,

Colin Ross, Food Standards Agency, UK, colinRoss@f

Cc: Elliot Morley MP, Minister for the Environment,

Rt. Hon Michael Meacher MP,< /A>

Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Plant Products Directorate, Plant Biosafety Office,< /P>

Cc:Hon Andrew Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario),

Mr. Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture, USDA, United States

Cc: Dr. Ron DeHaven, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service< /P>

Mr. Stephen L. Johnson, Environment Protection Agency, USA johnson.stephen@epa.go v

Forum posts

  • This is a timely posting. I highly recommend the book Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith for anyone interested in further reading about the potentially lethal consequences of eating GM foods. Here’s the website for the book:

    • Please be consistent in your policy and erase the commercial advertising regarding "Seeds of Deception."

    • what sinister and diabolic brains came up with a vile idea like the genetic manipulated foods .We have enough trouble with all sorts of bad chemicals in our food chains as the cancer increases prove clearly.

    • In addition to Jeffrey Smith’s excellent research as an independent scientist, I would also recommend the English website, GM Watch. for further information. I don’t feel it is right for readers to try and censor unbiased scientific information. Sarah Meyer, Researcher,, UK.

  • Having worked in the USDA labs at the inception of this technology I knew this technology was dangerous but when I developed Lupus from eating this GM brew I became an unwilling lab rat.

    After eliminating all sources of GM product from my body, I have stopped the Lupus, but how many unsuspecting victims are suffering from this ongoing secret experiment?

    • If the people of this world are denied say even of what they eat to stay alive then the people have become truly powerless. The only avenue left to express ourselves will then go beyond civil disobedience to open revolt in all phases. When we the people are deprived by corporations even of our choice of sustenance, then they have effectively declared war on us all. The gene pool of this planet belongs to all its stakeholders(all life on this planet)not just to Monsanto, Cargill and other corporate mass murderers. It has taken nature endless periods of time to build this intricate web of life and these insatiable profeteers are dismantling it all for profit with terminator genes without any concept of synergistic effects of their tinkering with the stuff of life of this planet and all of its inhabitants. We must stop these Frankestines however we must before they make all of us into their hedious experiments.

  • Add GM foods to the list. After caging protestors, banning books like "America Deceived" by E.A. Blayre III and starting 2 illegal wars, the US gov’t also must taint our food supply. Even water and it’s high flouride content is a danger. We are useless food-eaters (GM) to them and will be phased out soon.
    Support indy media like Bellacio.
    Last link (before Google Books caves in):

    • Regarding "America Deceived" It was NEVER available via Amazon or B&N. It was published via "Fast Track" at (a subsidiary of B&N, btw) IT WAS NEVER BANNED FROM ANYWHERE

      The author choose not to have it released via B&N or Amazon per iUniverse. Political motivation or just a cheapskate? You decide.

      If you would like, you can call them yourself and ask. The phone number for iUniverse is 1-800-AUTHORS. No, really, call them and ask if it was ever distributed by Amazon or B&N and they will tell you it wasn’t as it was a "fast Track" publication.

      It is the speculation of this commenter that the author of the previous comment is actually the author of the book looking for some easy publicity via blogs. A google search on "America Decieved" will bring up hundreds of very similary comments, but all have the link to iUniverse in them and the tag line "Final link (before Google Books bends to gov’t will and drops the title)".


  • Thank you very much for this enlightening article. I was unaware fo the potential consequences of thes GM products. The scientific evidence given in support of the banon GM products is quite convincing. I will take a close look at some of the suggested websites of the other commentators on this article. I will also mention this article to other friends of mine.