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The purpose of the Nobel Prizes is to honor individuals who have done outstanding research, inventing revolutionary techniques or equipment, or have made notable contributions to society. Three Nobel Prizes awarded this year reveal the nature of this award, the type of science it promotes and the type of values on which it is based.
Three Nobel Prizes awarded this year reveal the nature of this award, the type of science it promotes and the type of values on which it is based.
The first is the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Al Gore, the main promoter of agrofuels. Already in his film "An Inconvenient Truth", winner in addition to the Oscar, where an analysis is made of climate change and its consequences, his inclination towards the use of agrofuels is outlined, accompanied by other market instruments such as sinks carbon. He does not propose a civilizing change, nor is there a direct attack on the oil industry (his father was vice president of the oil company Oxy).
Two months after the awarding of the Oscars, in May of this year, Al Gore inaugurated the Biofuels Congress in Argentina. (To listen to him you had to pay an exorbitant sum of money, and he himself charges half a million dollars for his talks).
The medicine prize was awarded to three scientists, two Americans and one Welshman, for their work with transgenic mice.
The physics award went to a German and a French scientist for their work in the development of nanotechnology.
Ironically, in the same country where the Nobel Prize winners are awarded, in Sweden the Alternative Nobel Prize, or “Right Livelihood Award” is also awarded every year. This year this award was presented to a couple of Canadian farmers who have launched a fight against GMOs and Monsanto, the Schmeiser spouses.
The Nobel Prize and Genetic Engineering
The purpose of the Nobel Prizes is to honor individuals who have done outstanding research, inventing revolutionary techniques or equipment, or made notable contributions to society.
However, in the field of medicine and physiology (as in other fields), they have supported a type of scientific research that has facilitated greater control by transnational companies of production processes.
In the case of life sciences, over the years the Nobel Prize for all scientific innovations that led to the development of genetic engineering.
Among them we have James Watson and Francis Crack who proposed a model of the structure of DNA, which gave birth to modern molecular biology.
Other examples, but not all, include:
In 1968 Gobind Khorana won the award for his contribution to elucidating the genetic code; how genes are translated into structural proteins and enzymes. Later the Khorada laboratory led the first complete synthesis of a gene in a living cell, which represented the foundations of the biotech industry.
David Baltimore discovered in 1970 reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of DNA into RNA, which facilitated the work of genetic engineering, the basis of modern biotechnology. He won the Nobel Prize in 1975 for his discovery. Later, he worked with retrovirus vectors, which is the foundation of gene therapy, and the "second generation" biotechnology.
In 1987, the award was presented to Susumu Tonegawa for his work in the study of the genetic bases of the immune system, which helped scientists control and manipulate the immune system, which served as the basis for a whole range of therapies many of which were derived in biotechnology.
In 1993 Phill Sharp won this award for his studies on the function and basic structure of genes and the role of RNA in protein synthesis. These works represented a very important step for the subsequent “biotechnological revolution” by unraveling the way in which DNA is arranged and reproduced. He is also a co-founder of Biogen Inc., a biotech company based in Gland, Switzerland.
In 2001, Professor Hunt of the Imperial Cancer Institute was awarded for his discoveries of key regulators in the cell cycle.
In 2007, the winners were Mario R. Capecchi of the University of Utah, Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina, and Evans of Cardiff University (the latter named after Sir by his queen) for their work with transgenic mice.
The winners of the Alternative Nobel Prize, ironically, are a couple of Canadian farmers Percy and Louise Schmeiser who have stood out for warning of the dangers to biodiversity posed by the aggressive policy of companies that resort to genetic engineering.
Several of the Nobel Prize winners are promoters and defenders of biotechnology applied to agriculture. Perhaps the best known and most used by the biotechnology industry is Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1970, father of the green revolution, who sees a second green revolution in agricultural biotechnology, without making any critical analysis of the impacts it has already caused. the first.
In 2005, a group of scientists wrote a declaration to support agro-biotechnology. A special list was that of Nobel winners, which was made up of:
Norman Borlaug. P.N. Peace 1970
James Watson. Medicine and Physiology 1962
Timothy Hunt. Medicine and Physiology. 2001
Peter C. Doherty. Medicine and Physiology 1996
Paul D. Boyer. Chemistry. 1997
Oscar Arias Sánchez. Peace. 1980
Paul Berg. 1980
Phillip A. Sharp. 1993
Douglas D. Osheroff. nineteen ninety six
Marshall Nirenberg. 1968
Richard E. Smalley. Chemistry
Edward Lewis. 2002
Sydney Brenner. 2002
Eric Wieschaus. nineteen ninety five
Leon N. Cooper. Physical. 1972
Edmond H. Fischer. 1992
George A. Olah. 1994
Christian de Duve. 1974
Mario Molina. nineteen ninety five
Arthur Kornberg. 1959
Donald A. Glaser. 1960
Roger Guillemin. 1977
Sheldon Glasgow. 1979
Jean-Marie Lehn. 1987
Richard J. Roberts. 1993
Scientists support biotech agriculture
“We, the members of the scientific community whose signatures can be found at the end of this document, believe that recombinant DNA techniques are a powerful and safe means for the modification of organisms and that they can contribute to increasing the quality of life by improving the agriculture, health treatments, and the environment.
Responsible modification of plant genes is nothing new or dangerous. Many characteristics, such as resistance to pests and diseases, have been introduced to agricultural plants, either using sexual reproduction methods or tissue culture procedures, on a routine basis. Adding a new or different gene using recombinant DNA techniques to an organism does not cause new risks or higher risks compared to modifying organisms using traditional methods. Furthermore, compared to organisms modified by traditional methods, the safety of these products already on sale is ensured by current regulations, the purpose of which is to ensure food quality. These new genetic tools offer more precision and flexibility in the modification of agricultural plants.
No food product, whether produced using recombinant DNA techniques or using more traditional methods, exists without risk. The risks that food products may have are a function of the biological characteristics of these foods and the specific genes that have been used, and not of the procedures used in their development. Our goal as members of the scientific community is to ensure that any food produced using recombinant DNA is as safe as food that is already consumed, or even safer.
Current regulation and development methods have worked well. Recombinant DNA techniques have already been used to develop environmentally benign agricultural plants, with characteristics that prevent yield losses and allow farmers to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides. The next generation of products promises to provide consumers with even greater benefits, such as increased nutrition, healthier oils, higher vitamin content, products that keep better, and better medications.
The prudent use of biotechnology can also help prevent environmental degradation, and help prevent hunger and poverty in the third world, providing more agricultural productivity and more nutritional security. Scientists at international agricultural centers, universities, public research institutions, and many other places are already testing products specially designed for use in the third world.
We express our support regarding the use of recombinant DNA as a powerful tool for the achievement of a productive and sustainable agricultural system. We support legislators who use appropriate scientific principles to regulate products produced by recombinant DNA. We also support legislators who base their evaluations of these products on their characteristics, and not on the processes used in their development ”.
The Nobel Prize for transgenic mice
The three will share the million and a half dollars that this new version of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology delivers, according to what was announced yesterday.
According to the Karolinska Institute, these scientists' findings "permeated" all fields of medicine and had a huge impact on understanding how genes work in different disorders.
"His experiments made it possible to standardize a methodology that today is applied massively and that allows studying human genes and making models of human diseases in animals", explains Dr. Marcelo Rubinstein, from the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Biology.
Just over twenty years ago, the work of Capecchi and Smithies laid the foundations for a genetic technique that uses so-called "homologous" recombination, in which a desired gene finds an identical or homologous DNA sequence in the animal's genome, and swap places with her.
Evans found the vehicle for these modifications to be expressed throughout the body: embryonic stem cells.
"Evans discovered that it is possible to generate a mouse from embryonic cells handled in vitro, in a test tube," says Rubinstein. "It seems like a magic trick: it is as if it were dismembered into its different cells, put them in the blender and put it back together. "
Evans's "recipe" was basically to obtain mouse embryonic cells, freeze them, grow them, and then regenerate the mouse. "This allowed introducing mutations and obtaining knock out mice [in which a native gene is eliminated, being replaced by a defective gene] - says Rubinstein, who has applied this technique since 1991 and generated several mutant mice.
Capecchi and Smithies did a lot of work on the interface between stem cell and DNA work, and standardized mechanisms for producing mutants. It was, at the time, work at the frontiers of science, but since the human and mouse genomes were sequenced, the use of these techniques has exploded and is now the routine method to study any gene. "
And now nanotechnology
The Nobel Prize in Physics in 2007 went to the French Albert Fert and the German Peter Grunberg for their work in nanotechnology.
They independently discovered the Giant Magnetoresistance, or GMR, which is used to read data from hard drives.
The institution explained in a statement that this year's award was awarded for the technology used to read information from hard drives. "Nanotechnology provides responsive read heads for compact hard drives," he noted.
“With this technology it has been possible to radically miniaturize hard drives in recent years. Sensitive reading heads are needed to be able to read data from compact hard drives used in laptops and some music players, for example, ”said the Royal Academy.
He reported that in 1988, Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg independently discovered a totally new physical effect: the Giant Magnetoresistance, or GMR.
“The most fascinating thing is that the research was massively commercially successful after only ten years. Normally it takes between 20 and 30 years, ”said Joseph Nordgren, another member of the Swedish committee.
The Alternative Nobel Prize
In stark contrast, the alternative award was given to the Schmeisers. For more than five years, they have been involved in a legal battle against the multinational Monsanto, which has become an emblem in the fight against genetically modified patents.
Monsanto against farmers
Interview with Percy Schmeiser. WORLD WATCH Magazine No. 15, Apr02
In the last decade, the Monsanto chemical company has transformed into a biotech company that provides farmers with many of their inputs, from pesticides to seeds. But these seeds, which farmers must buy each year, have been genetically engineered to survive doses of chemical herbicides produced by the same company. Today there is only one element that prevents companies like Monsanto from being able to impose their business strategy of controlling agricultural supplies: farmers who obtain, improve and plant their own seeds. World Watch interviewed one of these farmers, Canadian Percy Schmeiser, a rapeseed grower who lost a lawsuit by Monsanto last year for allegedly violating patent laws because GM rapeseed plants had sprung up on some of his plots.
World Watch (WW): Why did Canadian courts find you guilty of theft of Monsanto's GM rape if you didn't plant any of its seeds?
Percy schmeiser: My alleged crime was infringing on your patent, Monsanto's patent on GMO rapeseed resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, because there were some GMO plants on my plot. The court ruled that it didn't matter how [Monsanto's GM rape] got there, whether by cross-pollination, blown by the wind, falling from trucks carrying the seeds, through rainwater, or carried by birds and bees The fact is that there were some plants there and that means I am guilty.
WW: How does that differ from if, for example, I dump my things in my neighbor's yard and then I get arrested for theft?
Schmeiser: It is exactly the same thing. People say here that if you don't like your neighbor, all you have to do is grab a handful of Monsanto's GMO rapeseed and field it, and then call Monsanto a month or six later and say "hey, my neighbor is growing transgenic rape. " Basically what the judge dictated is that the polluter does not pay, it is the person who suffers the contamination who pays. It's like what happened in Alaska when the Valdez ship spilled all that oil. Except that according to this ruling, Exxon would have to be paid for cleaning. What the judge ruled has great implications. He stated that if I have a conventional rapeseed plant and it is contaminated by cross-pollination by Monsanto's GM rapeseed, my plant becomes his property. So you see the enormous scope of this sentence. Monsanto contaminated the seeds that I grew for 53 years, and they ruined my effort. I can't use them anymore. The judge also ruled that all proceeds from my 1998 crop go to Monsanto, including from two plots where the tests showed that there was no GM rape and another that was not tested. He judged that even the proceeds from those plots would go to Monsanto because there was some chance that there was some GMO seed from the company because I was "saving the seeds" - I was planting my own seeds from last season's harvest.
WW: How did Monsanto discover GM rapeseed on your property?
Schmeiser: Basically, one of my neighbors (I can't give his name), a farmer who had worked for Monsanto as their sales representative for two years, used the Monsanto hotline to report that there was GM rapeseed on my land. Previously he had planted transgenic rape the year before on some of the land he cultivated. That was the land that he denounced. Evidence shows that he grew GMO rape before it was licensed in 1996 because he worked for Monsanto.
WW: How do you think Monsanto's transgenic rapeseed reached your land?
Schmeiser: There could be some GMO seeds from the old farmer. But since I am a long-time seed breeder and grower of rapeseed, I think it is due to direct movement, with the seeds being carried by the wind or falling from farmers' trucks. The main road leading to the rapeseed treatment plant runs through my lands for three kilometers. One farmer testified that he lost a large amount of GE rapeseed, enough to plant 2,000 acres. I suppose the judge may not have fully understood the situation: rape is open pollinated, and can spread quite easily, unlike corn or soybeans. Rape requires cutting, like hay, and must be laid in rows to dry. Dried rape can be blown over long distances, or when it snows in winter. It is not uncommon for the seeds to travel 10 to 15 kilometers.
WW: How much has this case cost you? Do you plan to appeal?
Schmeiser: Yes, I have appealed. And most likely it won't be seen until spring. So far it has cost me around C $ 200,000 (US $ 125,000). Basically, my wife and I, who are both 70 years old, have financed the defense with our pension funds because we think it is very important that farmers can use their own seeds. The cost of the appeal is likely to be C $ 80,000 (US $ 50,000). Now that I have appealed, Monsanto is fighting back by claiming one million Canadian dollars (US $ 625,000) instead of just my income for allegedly infringing their patent and to cover court costs.
WW: Is there a chance that farmers can win?
Schmeiser: After all, what is the purpose of all this? The end is absolute control of the seed supply. Farmers are now beginning to realize how these multinationals are trying to control the seed supply using patent laws. You can have all the rights of the farmers of the world, the ownership of the land or what they call "the privileges of the farmers", where the farmer always has the right to grow from seeds that he has produced in previous years. . But now the courts have ruled that you can't do that anymore, because there is a possibility that Monsanto's patents will be infringed, because the seeds could have GMO traits due to cross-pollination and all the other factors that I mentioned earlier. That abolishes the rights of farmers, their freedom of choice to be able to plant and grow what they want for their region. And this not only has serious implications here in the northern United States, but for the entire world. People will not be able to save their seeds just because they may be contaminated with GMOs. And the next year, Monsanto can say, "Oh, you can't grow that," whether it's fruits, trees, or vegetables, because you are violating their patent. So it is a complete control of the food supply through the seeds. And selling seeds is a multibillion dollar business around the world. Why has Monsanto spent more than US $ 8 billion in recent years acquiring seed companies around the world? It was a chemical company, and it is already the second largest seed company in the world. That tells us exactly what your intentions are. When they control the seeds, they will tell the farmers that they have to pay $ 15 per acre each year for biotechnology, and they will have to buy both the seeds and the pesticides from Monsanto. This is important because Monsanto's patent rights to their chemicals have expired in the United States and Canada, so they have to find a new way to be able to sell Roundup Ready (glyphosate) herbicide to farmers. They can do this by controlling the seed supply. If you don't buy their herbicide, you don't get their seeds.
WW: You said that you lost the rapeseed variety that you had obtained after 53 years; How will the practices of Monsanto and similar companies affect the supply of other indigenous seeds?
Schmeiser: We have two major diseases that affect rapeseed, and I have developed a variety resistant to both diseases. Now Monsanto will tell farmers: You can only grow rapeseed every four years, or you will suffer the effects of disease. I was able to grow rapeseed for 10 years in a row on the same plot without suffering the effects of diseases, and I lost everything due to the contamination of the transgenic variety. It must be remembered that all the seeds and plants that have been developed in North America, the United States and Canada - corn, soybeans, rapeseed, wheat or barley - have been developed by farmers. They are the ones that obtain the best varieties, because they adapt the plants to the region in which they live. If I develop rape or wheat varieties in my area, they would not work 50 to 50 miles from here due to the weather conditions and soils. Monsanto very recently entered the seed business and only got the first approval in 1996. We don't need Monsanto to teach us how to grow rapeseed. They want to teach us what to do just to control us and to be able to sell us more chemicals. Right now it would be very difficult to find a rapeseed field in western Canada that is not contaminated with Roundup Ready rapeseed (glyphosate). It does not matter if you never grew it and you only plant wheat or barley, your land will be contaminated with GM rapeseed. Some rapeseed can safely lie dormant in the ground for five to ten years. And from a tiny transgenic seed grows a plant that will produce more than 10,000 seeds in a year. A small seed blown by the wind can contaminate a field in two years. We will never be free of GM rapeseed in Canada.
WW: So if the sentence is not appealed, that means that Monsanto can go after any farmer in Canada.
Schmeiser: Or in the world. And that's why they go after farmers in North Dakota, in this case for soybeans, and process them for the same reasons. GMO seed companies have said, "No farmer should ever be allowed to use his own seeds." That is the basis of this lawsuit. Farmers' freedom is on trial. The freedom to use our own seeds. Because if we lose that freedom and do not fight for it, we will have lost control over all agricultural work, simply becoming servants of the land. I am 70 years old. I would be better off fishing with my grandchildren rather than fighting a multinational company. I know who I'm against, and I know they have huge resources, and so I hope I can continue to get help from people, because, as I've been told, this is not just the case with Percy Schmeiser. It is the judgment of all the farmers of the world, and it is decided whether they will be able to maintain their rights and the freedom to use their own seeds.
Network for a GMO-Free Latin America - RALLT - Bulletin 259
Alternative Nobel Prize awarded commitment in the fight for peace and environmentalism. Mexican Editorial Organization. October 2, 2007. EFE
Nora Bär. The nation