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Much of the public debate concerning genetically modified organisms,
their widespread use in animal and human food, and their impact upon the
environment could be raised to an entirely new and more productive level
if certain undisputed facts were more widely known. The facts at issue
have to do with the unintended and systemic consequences of genetic
manipulations, as revealed in one research report after another.
Putting the matter plainly: when foreign genes are introduced
into an organism, creating a transgenic organism (commonly called a
genetically modified or genetically engineered organism), the results
for the organism and its environment are almost always unpredictable.
The intended result may or may not be achieved in any given case, but the
one almost sure thing is that unintended results - nontarget effects -
will also be achieved.
These facts have been, and are being, widely reported in the scientific
literature. While they are correcting our understanding in important ways,
they are not at all controversial. And they bear directly upon the wisdom
of virtually all the current genetic engineering practices. If there
has been limited reportage of unintended effects in the popular press,
it may be because the facts are often buried in technical scientific
articles. And within genetic engineering research itself, scientists
are mainly concerned with achieving targeted effects and not with
investigating beyond the range of their own intentions and reporting
unexpected effects. But when they do investigate, there is usually plenty
It is the purpose of this project to make evidence about the wide-ranging
and never wholly predictable effects of genetic engineering readily
accessible to concerned citizens, policy makers, and scientists. We
have collected examples from the scientific literature, primarily from
peer-reviewed journals, and written short reports on each example. These
are ordered according to different categories and include effects on the
manipulated organisms themselves as well as broader environmental ripple
effects. Our compilation of reports is by no means exhaustive and will be
expanded over time. The technical literature we have not yet touched
Unintended Effects of Genetic Manipulation - An Introduction by Craig Holdrege is a great place for newcomers to start, as it provides essential background information about unintended effects. What
do we mean by unintended effects? How are these effects detected? What
are the different categories of unintended effects? We encourage readers to
consult this article in connection with searching the individual reports.
Here is a
collection of articles
on the broader issues of genetics and genetic engineering written by
Nature Institute members Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott, and others that
can support one's inquiry into this subject matter. And here is a
list of online resources
relating to genetically engineered organisms—particularly their
risks, regulation, and use.
Finally, perhaps you are wondering why we should expect transgenes
routinely to produce the sort of unintended effects documented on this
site. You will find it much less mysterious if you review
collection of informal notes from the technical literature, entitled
“How the Organism Decides What to Make of Its Genes”. The processes
involved in gene expression are so diverse, so complex, so interwoven, and
so dependent upon an ever-changing context that it is inevitable we should
run up against the limits of our predictive powers.
The work of The Nature Institute is funded through grants from
foundations, individual gifts and program income. We would like to thank
our "Friends of The Nature Institute" as well as the following
organizations for their support of our project on the unintended effects
of genetic manipulation: Cornerstone Campaign, Educational Foundation of
America, Evidenzgesellschaft, GLS Treuhand, Mahle-Stiftung, RSF Shared
Gifting Group, Rudolf Steiner-Fonds fuer wissenschaftliche Forschung,
Salvia Foundation, and the Software-AG Stiftung. We are especially
grateful to the European foundations for recognizing the global nature of
this issue and for supporting an organization in the United States.
You can help support this project now:
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Copyright 2008, 2013 The Nature