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INFO/ Human Genetics Alert

November 21, 2001

1.       Law change planned to stop patents of humans
2.       Genetic evidence links Jews to their ancient tribe

The Dominion (Wellington) November 16, 2001
HEADLINE: Law change planned to stop patents of humans
BODY: THE Government says it is changing the patents law to ban attempts to
patent human beings. The law change -- announced yesterday  is in line with
recommendations made by the world-first Royal Commission on Genetic
Modification in its report in July.

 One of the recommendations was that a specific exclusion be added to patent
law for the copyright of humans and the biological processes for generating
them. The commission said that questions of morality arose when considering
whether patents should be granted for humans and human-related matter. In
theory a patent could not be taken over a human, a human body part, or a
human gene in its natural host. "At best, a patent could be granted for a synthetic dna
molecule carrying the same information as found in the human body, or a
method for producing a novel human organ or body part suitable for

 It was unlikely that a patent covering human beings would be granted under
existing New Zealand law and practice, but "to put the issue beyond doubt it
would be desirable to cover the point specifically by statute".
*      NZPA Supplied
by New Zealand Press Association LOAD-DATE: November 19,
2001 [Entered November 20, 2001]

Genetic evidence links Jews to their ancient tribe
By Judy Siegel
JERUSALEM (November 20) - Genetic evidence continues to provide additional
proof to the claims that the Jewish people are descended from a common
ancient Israelite father: Despite being separated for over 1,000 years,
Sephardi Jews of North African origin are genetically indistinguishable from
their brethren from Iraq, according to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
They also proved that Sephardi Jews are very close genetically to the Jews
of Kurdistan, and only slight differences exist between these two groups and
Ashkenazi Jews from Europe.
These conclusions are reached in an article published recently in the
American Journal of Human Genetics and written by Prof. Ariella Oppenheim of
the Hebrew University (HU) and Hadassah-University Hospital in Ein Kerem.
Others involved are German doctoral student Almut Nebel, Dr. Marina Faerman
of HU, Dr. Dvora Filon of Hadassah-University Hospital, and other colleagues
from Germany and India.
The researchers conducted blood tests of Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Kurdish
Jews and examined their Y chromosomes, which are carried only by males. They
then compared them with those of various Arab groups - Palestinians,
Beduins, Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese - as well as to non-Arab
populations from Transcaucasia - Turks, Armenians and Moslem Kurds.
The study is based on 526 Y chromosomes typed by the Israeli team and
additional data on 1,321 individuals from 12 populations. The typing of the
Jewish groups was performed at the National Genome Center at HU's Silberman
Institute of Life Sciences.
The Fertile Crescent of the Middle East was one of the few centers in which
the transition from hunting-gathering to permanent settlement and
agriculture took place. Genetic studies suggest that migrating Neolithic
farmers dispersed their technological innovations and domesticated animals
from the Middle East towards Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia.
Studies of Y chromosomes have become powerful tools for the investigation of
the genetic history of males, since these chromosomes are transmitted from
fathers to sons.
Surprisingly, the study shows a closer genetic affinity by Jews to the
non-Jewish, non-Arab populations in the northern part of the Middle East
than to Arabs. These findings are consistent with known cultural links that
existed among populations in the Fertile Crescent in early history, and
indicate that the Jews are direct descendants of the early Middle Eastern
core populations, which later divided into distinct ethnic groups speaking
different languages.
Previous investigations by the HU researchers suggested a common origin for
Jewish and non-Jewish populations living in the Middle East. The current
study refines and delineates that connection.
It is believed that the majority of today's Jews - not including converts
and non-Jews with whom Jews intermarried - descended from the ancient
Israelis that lived in the historic Land of Israel until the destruction of
the Second Temple and their dispersal into the Diaspora.
The researchers say that a genetic analysis of the chromosomes of Jews from
various countries show that there was practically no genetic intermixing
between them and the host populations among which they were scattered during
their dispersion - whether in Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal or North
A particularly intriguing case illustrating this is that of the Kurdish
Jews, said to be the descendants of the Ten Tribes of Israel who were exiled
in 723 BCE. to the area known today as Kurdistan, located in Northern Iraq,
Iran and Eastern Turkey. They continued to live there as a separate entity
until their immigration to Israel in the 1950s. The Kurdish Jews of today
show a much greater affinity to their fellow Jews elsewhere than to the
Kurdish Moslems.
The Jerusalem Post

The Independent (London) November 20, 2001, Tuesday
BYLINE: Tristram Hunt Susan Greenfield: media don
BODY: SCIENCE IS dictating how we live with a brutal momentum. Climate
change,  surveillance technology and, now, bio-terrorism are unassailable components
of modern society. Yet the British public is still ignorant of the most
elementary aspects of scientific inquiry, and the scientific establishment is arrogantly complicit in that ignorance. While much of society is now media-savvy, science has
been left behind.
Groups opposed to scientific research are always there to take the call.
And scientists have shown a masochistic lack of interest in public debate;
their preferred medium is there are f ied pages of peer-reviewed journals such as Nature.  Scientists have a proper concern for the discipline of their method and are wary of speaking
out before their thesis has been tested by colleagues. The memory of the
cold fusion "breakthrough", later proved horribly wrong, weighs heavy.
Pressure groups talk in the black- and-white language loved by reporters;
academics are usually more diffident. Scientists have been further scared
away from public engagement by the media frenzy around GM technology in
1999, science's annus horribilis. The reduction of a  complex branch of
biological engineering to "Frankenstein food" was typical of media hopelessly ill equipped to discuss scientific progress rationally. And into the vacuum stepped big business. What
inflicted the greatest damage on GM science was that the case for the defence was fronted by the bio-tech groups Monsanto and AstraZeneca. Science's self-abnegation has undermined
support for the very principle of scientific endeavour. At a time when most people glean
scientific knowledge from the media, a refusal to engage with the popular
press has been deeply detrimental. But this hapless amateurism may be about
to change. Next month comes the official launch of the Royal Institute's
Science Media Centre - a belated attempt to claw back some of the lost
ground in public trust. The centre is the brainchild of the institute's
director, Susan Greenfield, and the broadcaster Lord Bragg of Wigton. As an Oxford professor in pharmacology and a media don, Greenfield has watched the collapse of
faith in science and trust in scientists. Much of it, she believes, can be put down to an often
unintentional media bias. While lobby groups get their message out quickly,
science is left behind by the media cycle. Greenfield's aim is to help
journalists to find the right scientist to  talk to at the right time. "We need to help scientists understand the demands of the media," she says. And it is vital, says Lord Bragg, "that scientists learn to communicate if they are not to be marginalised". The centre's target is
busy news journalists who need the "science view". The Astronomer Royal, Sir
Martin Rees, says that making sure all journalists have a grasp of science
issues is the only way to "raise the debate above tabloid sloganising". The
challenge is to place science firmly in the public realm, where "it can be
discussed properly as part of general news and culture". The Royal Society
is now taking a more proactive stance on science controversies. Recent
briefing papers on stem-cell therapy and nuclear energy have been deployed
with far greater media acumen than usual. Stories are being placed and even
"leaked" - a sure sign of professionalism. Also in London, the Science
Museum is providing a forum for pro-science pressure groups and universities to meet;
next year the British Association for the Advancement of Science relocates
to the museum's Wellcome Wing. Is all this making a difference? Things do seem to be
improving slowly. Most people remain opposed to GM technology but are less
opposed to researching it.

 Government support for the animal research company Huntingdon Life Sciences
met with general approval.

 Parliament passed a Bill allowing research into stem-cell therapy. The idea
that the more we learn about science the more we will love it is misguided.
We can know as much as we like about genetic engineering and still oppose it. But with proper debate, we would at least have sufficient knowledge to choose whether to
embrace new discoveries or fear them. At the moment we are given only half the story.


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