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The beast and its Achilles heel:

 A novel target to fight multi-resistant pathogenic bacteria

Panel Discussion

In terms of “human practice” the iGEM Team Göttingen invited to a panel discussion.

On the 12th of June 2013 the historical observatory in Göttingen was the perfect scenery to present our project “The beast and its Achilles heel: A novel target to fight multi-resistant pathogenic bacteria” and of course to discuss urgent topics like the origin, the development and the fight against of multi-resistant bacteria as well as gene technology.

After a brief introduction concerning the iGEM competition itself and a general description of our project, we reconciled to the actual panel discussion.

Therefore, we were honored to introduce the following guests:

They are (from left to right) Dr. David Wurbs from our head sponsor, the KWS Saat AG in Einbeck, Dr. Kalinowski, person in charge of the iGEM Team Bielefeld, Prof. Dr. Uwe Groß from the department of clinical microbiology of the university hospital in Göttingen, Mr. Prunzel-Ulrich, organic farmer from Landolfshausen, Mr. Hirschfeld, conventional farmer from Seesen.

The panel discussed the origin of multi-resistant bacteria in respect to human medicine on the one hand and agriculture on the other hand. In both cases, an incorrect prescription of antibiotics for humans and animals were quote to be main reasons for the development of multi-resistant bacteria. High dosages and the ingestion of excessive strong antibiotics especially in hospitals as well as the multiple antibiotic usages due to mass animal husbandry were mentioned as potential causes. Furthermore the cultivation of positive resistant plants against herbicides was named by Mr. Prunzel-Ulrich and may also be a genesis of multi-resistant bacteria, which can probable be transferred to humans.

Proposed approaches to fight the development multi-resistant bacteria were less frequent prescription and ingestion of antibiotics and better maintenance conditions in mass breeding sheds. To address existing antibiotic resistances of bacteria Prof. Groß proclaimed a prohibition of some selected antibiotics all over Europe for a longer period.

The second part of the panel discussion focused on the topic gene technology. We as biologists find gene technology in our daily lab work but it is also very common in agriculture and industry. Therefore, we wanted to know whether it already is essential for us and whether it is possible to live without gene technology. From the scientific point of view, Dr. Kalinowsky and Prof .Groß agreed that gene technology has already arrived in Europe and that it is indispensable in areas such as research and pharmacy.

However, on the agricultural side there were split opinions. Nevertheless, all panel guests agreed that the declaration of genetically modified food must be improved in the interest of consumers.

Dr. Wurbs advocated the use of gene technology to improve plant breeding as it has many benefits for the farmers. Furthermore, he mentioned that the demand determines the offer and that gene technology is only applied as long as the consumer desires those products. Mr. Prunzel-Ulrich said that he sees no need and advantages but rather disadvantages in the use of gene technology in agriculture. Mr. Hirschfeld met this topic in an open way but confirmed that there is no need for it to saturate the German population.

Finally we asked our panel guests an admittedly fictitious question: “What law regarding the discussed topics would you introduce if you were the king of Germany?

All guests agreed in a law for better declaration of food and a statute for an optimized education for everyone to enable an objective judgment when forming their own opinions regarding topics like gene technology.

After these nice closing remarks we finished our panel discussion with many acknowledgements to our panel guests, the whole audience and of course to the members of the iGEM Team Braunschweig, which only had travelled to Göttingen for our discussion. To leisurely end the day, our panel guests and the iGEM Team Braunschweig joined us for dinner in the Kartoffelhaus.

To evaluate the success of our panel discussion we handed over questionnaires to the audience. Here you can see the results of our survey and process it by yourself!