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March 2, 2010
The Plasmid Committee Will See You Now
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. . .
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