1. Why is that viral gene in there?
When you insert a new gene (such as an herbicide resistance gene in Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops) into a plant, you also need to insert a piece of DNA called a promoter that tells the plant to turn the gene on. The scientists who created the GMOs chose to insert the promoter from the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), as it is particularly good at this task and is very well studied. This promoter also happens to include part, but not the entirety, of gene VI from the virus.
* 2. Was it put there by accident or by purpose?
* 2(a). If by accident, how, when, what happened?
* 2(b). If by purpose, why, and by whom?
As stated above, the fragment of gene VI was placed into the GMOs on purpose. Because fragments of genes are generally inactive, the presence of the gene fragment is not expected to be problematic and showed no evidence of causing problems during the testing of the GMOs. Furthermore, because cauliflower mosaic virus is a naturally occurring virus, the full gene VI can be found in many non-GMO crops (for example, see this 2004 study).
3. How come the American scientists never detected this viral gene?
* 3(a). Was it because of incompetence, or was it because the American scientists were not allowed to publish their finding, if they had found it before the Europeans?
These findings were not published before because we already knew that many GMOs contain a fragment of CaMV gene VI. In fact, in the Podevin and du Jardin study, the authors "found" the gene VI fragments by simply querying a database. A more substantial finding would have been if they found evidence that the gene VI fragments are actually made into functional protein (a prerequisite for the gene VI fragment to cause any deleterious effects), but this study did not investigate this issue. Rather, the study simply looked at what proteins might be produced in the worst case scenario and concluded that any possible proteins made from the gene VI fragments are unlikely to be human allergens or toxins. The authors speculate these possible proteins could be harmful to the plant itself, but because many of these GMOs are very productive plants that produce high yields in commercial settings, this possibility seems unlikely.