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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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March 2, 2010

The Plasmid Committee Will See You Now

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Posted by Derek

From Nature comes word of a brainlessly restrictive new law that's about to pass in Turkey. The country started out trying to get in line with EU regulations on genetically-modified crops, and ended up with a bill that forbids anyone to modify the DNA of any organism at all - well, unless you submit the proper paperwork, that is:

. . .Every individual procedure would have to be approved by an inter-ministerial committee headed by the agriculture ministry, which is allowed 90 days to consider each application with the help of experts.

The committee would be responsible for approving applications to import tonnes of GM soya beans for food — but also for every experiment involving even the use of a standard plasmid to transfer genes into cells. Work with universally used model organisms, from mice and zebrafish to fruitflies and bacteria, would be rendered impossible. Even if scientists could afford to wait three months for approval of the simplest experiment, the committee would be overwhelmed by the number of applications. One Turkish scientist who has examined the law estimates that his lab alone would need to submit 50 or so separate applications in a year.

It's no doubt coming as a surprise to them that biologists modify the DNA of bacteria and cultured mammalian cells every single day of the week. Actually, it might come as a surprise to many members of the public, too - we'll see if this becomes a widespread political issue or not. . .

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Biological News | Regulatory Affairs


1. HelicalZz on March 2, 2010 9:29 AM writes...

Is procreation still OK?


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2. Will on March 2, 2010 9:33 AM writes...

Countries that have growing populations that reject GM crops do so at their peril

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3. gillespie on March 2, 2010 2:33 PM writes...

@1- My thoughts exactly! Now that's one unintended consequence....;-) another reason why politics should never play science

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4. Bored on March 2, 2010 9:13 PM writes...

It is hard to stop cosmic rays. Maybe Turkey will pass a law against those, too.

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5. Jumbo on March 2, 2010 10:53 PM writes...

I remember visiting an lab at one of the Max Planck's in Munich about 15 yr ago and being shown a good sized room (equivalent to a standard academic office) filled with file cabinets. "What room is this?" I inquired of my gentle hosts. "Oh, this is the plasmid records room," I was told. Turns out, in the late '80's - early '90's to clone any gene into a plasmid in Germany required so much paper work, each Max Planck lab had its own 'cloning administrator.' I imagine things have sorted themselves out, but let's not be too hard on Turkey. Plenty of foolish beauracracy to share!

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6. coprolite on March 3, 2010 9:04 AM writes...

No doubt the public would be shocked to learn about recombinant technology. They haven't used it on CSI yet.

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7. Michael on March 4, 2010 7:11 AM writes...

Turkey is late. In Norway all GMO have to be approved by a central governmental body. Then they have to be handled in specifically certified facilities with isolation procedures.

And what is the definition of a GMO in Norway?

Any organism where nucleic acid has been introduced, changed, or characterised. There is a specific exclusion of human beings since the vaccination program would otherwise mean that all children were GMO and whould have to be isolated. =)

If you work in a certified facility you just have to report each new modification, but not wait for approval. This includes bacterial and yeast GMO and obviously creates a huge amount of extra paper work.

I for one welcome our new bureaucratic overlords.

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8. metaphysician on March 6, 2010 10:06 AM writes...

"Is not the geneticist entitled to the work of his lab? No! says the man in Ankara. . ."


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9. dvrvm on March 27, 2010 9:07 AM writes...

Friends of mine were extremely surprised when they heard that I do actual gene-technology experiments in the lab. It was also very hard to explain that we use genetic modification to create glowing proteins, and that this can be used for something actually useful. (I can't fault them for this... To an ordinary person, making glowing bacteria just doesn't make extremely much sense.)

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