The genetic modification of bacteria in French science classes has sparked concern.
Nature Magazine News 31 January 2011
A row has broken out in France over whether 15- and 16-year-olds should be allowed to create transgenic Escherichia coli bacteria in the classroom.
Practical experiments in which students learn how to use plasmids to alter the DNA of the bacteria have been under way for 17 and 18-year-olds in the final year of the scientific baccalaureate at schools across France for the past decade. But this year teachers have for the first time been offered the option of teaching the experiments to younger students.
The Committee for Research & Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) in Caen, France, which lobbies for stricter controls over genetic engineering, is particularly upset because in the experiments the students modify the bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotic ampicillin.*
Gilles-Eric Séralini, president of the organization’s scientific committee, says that CRIIGEN is in favour of genetic engineering, as long as it is properly controlled. But the necessary restrictions are not currently in place, he says.
CRIIGEN “will urge the education ministry to impose a moratorium until a full debate on the question is organized”, says Séralini. “We believe such material should not be manipulated by students before they reach university.”
He warns against trivialization of a sensitive subject, contamination risks and possible violation of European directives on the manipulation of genetically modified organisms in confined spaces. “I am also concerned that practical classes erode the time spent imparting knowledge of biology,” he adds.
Gilles-Eric Séralini concerned that practical classes erode the time spent imparting knowledge of biology.
* Quite clear Gilles-Eric Séralini has not been reading Academics Review:
There is scientific certainty that genes normally move at detectable frequencies between different microbe species in the gut. But Genetic Roulette does not mention that genes constantly move between distantly related bacteria in other environments, and that these other environments provide a huge reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes that can be transferred to gut bacteria. There is vast and diverse array of genetically mobile antibiotic resistance genes in soil bacteria. Genes move between kingdoms in ocean plankton on a vast scale. Multitudes of viruses and other agents that carry genes between different species are known to be active in these different environments. These are proven existing sources of novel genes for bacteria that dwarf the undetectable gene transfers that Genetic Roulette speculates about (Bennett and others; 2004; D’Costa and others 2007; Demanèche and others 2008; Dröge and others 1998; Gladyshev and others 2008; Keeling , Palmer 2008; van den Eede and others 2004).