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Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Dr. Ho at the Progressive Farmers Summit on Genetic Manipulation and Agriculture in 1999

Taken from GM-Free (GM-Free,1999) *Permission pending*

Who is Mae-Wan Ho?

Dr. Ho and GMOs


Her credentials: Who is Mae-Wan Ho?

     Mae-Wan Ho obtained her BS in Biology in 1964 and her PhD in Biochemistry in 1967 from Hong Kong University.  She was a postdoctoral fellow in Biochemical Genetics from 1968-1972 at the University of California in San Diego during which time she won a competitive fellowship of the US National Genetics Foundation.  She then became a Senior Research Fellow in Queen Elizabeth College in the UK.  Ho then became a lecturer in Genetics in 1976 and a reader in Biology in 1985 in the London Open University.  In 1999, Ho founded ISIS, The Institute of Science in Society in London, to promote her views and views of other scientists of like-mind.Dr. Ho retired in June 2000 and remains a Visiting Reader in Biology at the Open University and is a visiting Biophysics professor in Catania University, Sicily.  Today, Dr. Ho has close to 300 publications including 47 experimental works. (ISIS,2004)

     Dr. Mae-Wan Ho has been one of the most influential figures of the last decade in the debate within the scientific community regarding the use of genetically modified organisms.  She is a highly consulted scientific figure with many theories relating to her vehement anti-GM stance.  She is also a well-known critic of neo-Darwinism and reductionist thought in Biology and Physics.

Dr. Ho addressing the crowds from the "Something Scary in the Dairy" float in an anti-GMO parade in 1999

Taken from the GMO Campaign homepage (GMO Campaign, 1999) *Permission pending*

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Dr. Ho and GMOs: Her stance

Dr. Ho has been quoted in several different sources as being against GM crops for reasons such as "the unreliable, unpredictable nature of GM technology, the instability of transgenic inserts, and the horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA" (Clupper, 2003).  She sees the use of genetically modified techniques in breeding food stock as a ploy by businesses to minimize their expenditures through manipulation of zealous scientists despite the unknown dangers to the public.  Dr. Ho states that "Almost by definition...GM constructs...invade genomes and overcome natural processes...due to their highly mixed origins...GM constructs are more unstable than natural genetic material as well as more invasive; and may therefore be more likely to spread to unrelated species" (The Guardian, 2000).  One of her most referred to calls for alarm was over the 35S CaMV promoter; taken from the cauliflower mosaic virus (Ho, 2003).  She indicates that this promoter is active across many organisms, including humans, and that it has a "recombination hot spot" where it tends to break and join up with other DNA (Ho,2003).  She warns that these recombinations could result in disastrous consequences such as "antibiotic resistance genes spreading to bacteria, disease-associated genes spreading to create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases, and transgenic DNA inserting into human cells, triggering cancer" (Ho, 2003). 

Regardless of whether or not Dr. Ho's beliefs regarding genetic modification are well-founded, perhaps her wisest contribution to the field is her cautioning against clinging to reductionism.  In her book, Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare, she states that clinging to reductionism is "blocking 'a deep and sustained change in direction in all spheres of life'" (Mann, 1998).  It is this alternative and intriguing overall stance that, in the spirit of true science, warns against thinking with a template.

The cover of one of Dr. Ho's novels.

Taken from ISIS (ISIS, 1999) *Permission pending*

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Clupper, Duane. "Independent Science Panel on GM." 2003. 22 Jan 2004. <http://www.gbgusa.com/subduedinfo/facts>.

GMO Campaign. 3 Oct 1999. 22 Jan 2004. <http://millennium-debate.org/mawan.htm>.

GM-Free. 11 Sep 1999. 22 Jan 2004. <http://www.btinternet.com/~clairejr/MaeWan/maewan_1.html>.

Ho, Mae-Wan. "Being against GM is not anti-science" Letter.  The Guardian 2000.  22 Jan 2004 <http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4026798,00.html>. 

Ho, Mae-Wan (2003). Recent Evidence Confirms Risk of Horizontal Gene Transfer.  Synthesis/Regeneration. 30: 32-34

The Institute of Science in Society. 1999. 22 Jan 2004. <http://www.i-sis.org.uk/genet.php>.

The Institute of Science in Society. 2004. 22 Jan 2004. <http://www.i-sis.org.uk/chardonLLtranscript.php>.

 Mann, Charles C (1998). review of Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare? The Brave New World of Science and Business . Foreign Policy.  ?(Winter):113


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