Time Machine: GMOs, HIV, and fear mongering in 1994

I love the intrawebz!

I was bopping around on Google last night, looking for neat info about Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (post on that later!), and I stumbled upon a really awesome article from 1994:

The use of Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) in genetic engineering: 35S Promoter (CaMV) in Calgene's Flavr Savr Tomato Creates Hazard

Now I have no idea who "Joseph E. Cummins" is. He might be as embarrassed by that article today as I am amused by it. But the website that is hosting that article is concerned about two things: FRANKENSTEIN GMOs, and cell phones mutating your DNA.


Anyway, Cummins was disgruntled at the fact that the first commercial GMO, FlavrSavr tomatoes, were modified with a plant virus, Cauliflower Mosaic Virus. CaMV has a really nice promoter, so scientists smushed it with a bit of DNA that coded for their desired modification and YAY!!!-- Tomatoes that ripened on the vine (these scientists were using siRNA before they knew what siRNA was, which is another post in and of itself).

Well, Cummins didnt think much of that idea. Like many laymen and non-virologist-scientists, he fell back on a classic fear: Viruses are 'magic'. If you incorporated viral DNA into the genome of a plant, then that DNA could mix/match with other viruses and bacteria to create the ultimate super-bug that will kill everyone and everything on this planet:

It has been shown that the CaMV genes incorporated into the plant (canola) chromosome recombine with infecting virus to produce more virulent new virus diseases. The designers of the experiment questioned the safety of transgenic plants containing viral genes (S. Gal et al., Virology 187: 525, 1992) [ERV-- they used the CaMV promoter to drive the transcription of their RNAi. recombination has nothing to do with anything.]

... In conclusion CaMV promoters recombine with the infecting viruses to produce virulent new diseases. CaMV viruses and promoter may incorporate genes from the host creating virulent new diseases.

CaMV can recombine with insect viruses and propagated in insect cells (D. Zuidema et al. J. Gen. Vir. 71: 312, 1990). Thus it is likely that as large numbers of humans consume CaMV modified tomatos recombination between CaMV and hepatitis B viruses will take place creating a supervirus propagated in plants, insects and humans.





Guys, I can whole heartedly assure you that you arent being infected with Hepatitis B if you eat a GMO tomato, unless that GMO tomato is covered in the blood/spit of a HepB positive individual. Jesus.

But here is the part that really cracked me up:

Ignoring the special nature of recombination is likely to have costly, if not terminal, environmental consequences. A worst-case example includes the complete cloning of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) on an E. coli plasmid. When the plasmid is used to transform animal cells, intact HIV viruses are released from the cells. A careless (but legal) release of HIV bacteria to the environment would allow the plasmid to transfer to Salmonella as well as E. coli. Thus, numerous mammals and birds could contain HIV bacteria which could transform the animals, which would in turn produce HIV particles unable to target the animals T-cell receptors but easily transmitted to humans. When all the animals are HIV carriers, human survival would be marginal.

DRAT! He discovered my Evil League of Evil master plan: Destroy the world with infectious molecular clones!

Oh well, might as well dish on the details now-- Step one, dump gallons of transformed, non-pathogenic E. coli into our water supply. Sure the E. coli we use for these experiments is extraordinarily delicate, and totally wouldnt survive in 'the real world', but still! Step two, get everyone infected said E. coli... even though its lab adapted and couldnt compete with wild-type strains that already inhabit your body. Then all I have to do is force you all to consume vast quantities of soap to blow up the E. coli, and then force you all to drink gallons of Fugene6 so the released plasmids can enter mammalian cells.



Scaremongers: A very, very special kind of stupid. I really hope Cummins outgrew this garbage.

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i have come across the CaMV promoter quite a few times from anti GM individuals, its laughable but is great for scaring the general public with

Thank you.

It's actually pretty helpful for us rubes to get a bit of the technical lowdown on GM.

Debunking european environmentalist (alarmist) from Cummins school of thought could save many starving people in Africa.

They used a *Drosophila* hsp70 promoter to express a CaMV gene in that J Gen Virol paper (would it surprise you to know they got the reference wrong? it's actually on page 2201). The only recombination was between two insect viruses - in insect cells. It would be pretty cool if there was a virus that could infect insect and plant cells, but that's not CaMV.

Step one, dump gallons of transformed, non-pathogenic E. coli into our water supply. Sure the E. coli we use for these experiments is extraordinarily delicate, and totally wouldnt survive in 'the real world', but still!
Step two, get everyone infected said E. coli... even though its lab adapted and couldnt compete with wild-type strains that already inhabit your body.
[step 3]Then all I have to do is force you all to consume vast quantities of soap to blow up the E. coli, and then force you all to drink gallons of Fugene6 so the released plasmids can enter mammalian cells.

Step 4?: PROFIT!!!!!!!

You can call those of us who support comprehensive testing on GMOs alarmists and luddites, but here's a simple question for supporters of technology being allowed into the market willy nilly as it is now: Have GMOs ever been proved in an independent study to be harmless to humans,wildlife and the environment? The answer is , of course , no. Whatever happened to the precautionary principle? Now, to addressthe issue of the CamV virus directly, if you aren't already familiar with it I urge you to do a simple google search of Morgellons disease. While there is nothing cconclusive and there is no ageement among the medical community even as to what Morgellons is exactly, there have been at least three independent labs that found the CamV in the fibers of different individuals presenting with the symptoms of Morgellons.

And as for the poster saying GMOs could help Africa and help the food crisis, that is simply wrong. GMOs do not increase yield, they promote the need for more inputs which raise the cost of farming for peasant farmers in developing countries. Industrial Agriculture is a system that is failing and to attempt to force it upon poor countries, with it's need for large scale up front capital investments is a recipe for disaster.





Ahahahaha!!! Not even wrong...

"Morgellons" is a way of saying "delusional parasitosis" without calling someone "delusional". I would love to hear your theory on how the CaMV promoter DNA finds its way into fibers (which may or may not actually exist) under the skin. And don't say "Agrobacterium" - because I don't think a whole lot of these Morgellons patients are doing T-DNA cloning.

I have no great love for Monsanto- nobody really does. But seriously, could you guys try not being so mind-numbingly wrong about 99% of what you say? Its kind of annoying to be associated with you when we try to make the point that Roundup technology is kind of fucking over African farmers, along with the retarded American agricultural studies.

So Bt corn would not increase crop yield in Africa, when it does everywhere else?

Um, nosmokes, I don't want to alarm you, but you have eaten untold bajillions of viral particles, including CaMV and its pararetreoviral relatives, in the various and sundry leafy vegetables you have eaten in your life.

Darned - can't eat fruits and vegetables, can't eat meat (mad cow and all), what does that leave? Soylent Green?

OK, so, we haven't proven that GMOs are 100% safe...

we haven't proven that wheat is 100% safe either.


But wheat isn't 100% safe! Coeliac disease, anyone?

I don't really know if this is true or not but I once read that some of the nastiest carcinogens come from plans in their natural state. I guess the plants use them to moderate the mammal population that tend to munch on them. Like I said I don't know if it is true but it kind of gives some perspective on GMOs and "eating natural" I have to plug eating local though, the less shipping the better.

By The Backpacker (not verified) on 19 Oct 2008 #permalink

If it's the same Joseph E Cummins (and I'm thinking it is based on the topic being discussed) he's retired prof in the genetics dept. at The University of Western Ontario. I would know this because he was the lab director for either BIO209 (genetics) or BIO201 (populations) when I was an undergrad.

It seemed like every issue of the student newspaper had a letter-to-the-editor from him, he had quite a reputation as a crank then.

Backpacker: Don't know about a lot about natural carcinogens, but the first thing that comes to my mind is aflatoxin. It's produced by a mold that grows on peanuts.

CG, re Bt corn: Only until the pests get resistant to it. Which they do, eventually.

Re Morgellons, the more I read about it, the more I wonder if what we're looking isn't a tactile hypersensitivity problem. I've certainly had enough occasions where something made me itch madly and I found fibers when trying to track down the cause. Thing is they generally turn out to be 1) my hair, 2) cat hair, especially from the stiff outer coat, or 3) stray bits of acrylic fiber (I crochet; I have a yarn stash.) At least one time it was a dropped vibrissa (that's cat whisker to those who aren't familiar with the term, and yes, they get shed). Vibrissae are remarkably stiff and they're pointy at the base. So far I haven't found any fibers that aren't mundanely explicable. That doesn't stop them from driving me nuts.

Good grief, I was most certainly not aware that they are breeding so many flat earthers in your part of the world.Given the scientifically nonsensical drivel spewed out by you, the admision criteria of the university you are attending seem to be one of the lowest in the world. Calling Prof. Cummins a layperson is pathetic enough, but your debunking exercises are a sheer embarrasment to your university unless your professors are actually teaching such pseudo-science, which would make you the typical product of a parrot-learning system that never develops any independent thinking skills clearly incapable of conducting your own research. It is painfully evident that you have never heard of horizontal gene transfer and recombination hot spots before and the capability of naked viral DNA (virus without its viral coat)of being taken up by mammalian cells including your own.Viral DNA has shown to resist digestion in the gut of mice, enters the blood stream to infect white blood cells, spleen and liver cells. Two recent peer-rewviewed government studies (Italy and Austria) proved that the consumption of MONSANTO corn causes infertility and immunodeficiency, notably a drop in the CD4 T-cell count, the decisive criteria to put all allegedly HIV infected people on highly toxic and in many cases lethal antiretroviral drugs. According to Norwegian findings, the cauliflower mosaic virus promoter was found intact in rat tissues two hours, six hours and three days after it was mixed into a single meal and was also confirmed to be active in single cells. Genetically modified poxviruses in cell cultures recombined with natural viruses to create new hybrid viruses with unpredictable and potentially dangerous characteristics. Furthermore, given the fact that the "substantial equivalence" concept is a sheer concoction of biotech lawyers and was written into law by the clearly scientifically illiterate George Bush sen. without any scientific validity whatsoever and that not one single human safety study proving that GMOs are safe for human consumption has ever been conducted,force-feeding the global population under the guise of alleviating poverty and hunger is a shameful and downright criminal human guinea pig experiment, in violation of the Nuremberg Code and Helsinki Declaration and those unleashing these toxic GM concoctions into our environment and food chain should be charged with intent to do grievous bodily harm if not premeditated genocide. Time to go back to the drawing board and do your homework first before spewing out such sicentifically nonsensical garbage.

By Ingrid Blank (not verified) on 06 Feb 2009 #permalink

BZZT! Wrong! Thank you for playing, Ingrid. Tell her what she didn't win!

By LanceR, JSG (not verified) on 07 Feb 2009 #permalink

The ability to use paragraph breaks?

By minimalist (not verified) on 07 Feb 2009 #permalink

I know necroposting ain't cool, but I clicked on this from the GMO salmon post (really interesting link, btw), and I'm a little confused by the bit on the HIV doomsday scenario. First, it seemed like he was saying the HIV plasmid could transfer from the transformed bacteria to other bacteria once released, so it wouldn't have to be the lab E.coli that infected people. Second, if they're releasing infectious HIV, there's no need for a miraculous in vivo transfection to get it in our cells, is there? Am I missing something? Or multiple somethings?