'I don't think the biotechnology industry would exist without university- industry collaborations. Almost every new biotech company traces its origins directly to an agreement with a university.' - Lita Nelsen, director of technology licensing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gene manipulation in a cold climate
'State agency SYKE said its studies showed gene manipulation could have different effects in the cold.'
Finland wants more GM testing in Nordic cold
FINLAND: June 13, 2001
HELSINKI - Finland yesterday called for more domestic research into genetically modified (GM) plants and bacteria so it could better assess the effects of introducing such organisms to the cold Nordic climate. Most existing research has been done in warm southern climates, and officials of the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) said Nordic conditions had been overlooked.
State agency SYKE said its studies showed gene manipulation could have different effects in the cold. Some GM bacteria could, for example, go into hibernation and reactivate in warmer conditions.
"Research is the only way we will be able to have any influence when production becomes an issue," Marja Ruohonen-Lehto, senior advisor at SYKE told a news conference. "Research is the only way we can assess risk." Tests should be done first in laboratories then on natural test sites, she said.
Green activists said tests should not be continued as there was no guarantee GM seeds and bacteria would not escape test areas and contaminate the natural environment.
Global GM crop production began in 1993 with the United States, Argentina, Canada and China now the biggest harvesters.
There is no commercial GM plant production in Finland, but SYKE chemicals division manager Esa Nikunen said that about 20 laboratories around the country were testing gene-modified birch trees, potatoes, rape, and turnip rape.
SYKE said it was especially concerned about the unpredictable effects of gene modification. The possible spread of seeds and bacteria to related species living in the wild was another concern. Further research also needed to be done into secondary effects of genetic manipulation, such as microbes and insects developing a higher level of resistance to pesticides and antibiotics.
Two-thirds of Finland is forested, and environmental groups are concerned the introduction of genetically modified trees, even in research conditions, could spoil the country's reputation for clean timber.
Ruohonen-Lehto hesitated when an anti-GM campaigner asked whether there were any safe end-uses for genetically modified trees. "It is in everyone's interest that Finnish nature stays as (untouched as) it is," Ruohonen-Lehto said.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE