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Lincoln University investigates potential GMO

Media Release
19 March 2013
- for immediate release

Lincoln University investigates potential GMO

Lincoln University is working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to determine whether a fungus being researched at the university, believed to be ‘wild-type’, is a genetically modified organism (GMO) being used out of containment.

Lincoln University researchers informed MPI and the Environmental Protection Agency on 7 March that it had evidence to suggest a fungus (Beauveria bassiana) that had been supplied to it for research was potentially a strain modified genetically to include a marker so it could be traced in plants. The fungus had been believed to have been a wild strain that is already present in the environment and so was being researched outside approved GM containment facilities.

Work undertaken by the researchers indicated that the fungus had previously been genetically modified. Lincoln University immediately informed MPI and the Environmental Protection Authority.

Containment procedures were put in place and testing is on-going to determine if the fungus is in fact genetically modified and, if so, the extent of its presence outside approved GM containment facilities.

Stefanie Rixecker, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Scholarship & Research at Lincoln University says “the University and MPI take potential breaches of containment very seriously and the investigation into how it occurred will be thorough. Although there is no evidence to suggest the genetic modifications made to the fungus in question have increased any health risk to humans or animals, there is a clear process that we must follow to ensure containment and that the same breach cannot happen again.

“The fungus was being researched on campus property in glass houses and laboratories with restricted access. MPI and the university are confident that all of the known samples and plant materials containing the fungus are now contained.”

The fungus Beauveria bassiana occurs naturally in soils throughout the world (including New Zealand) and infects a wide range of insect species. It is used as a biological insecticide to control a number of insect pests.

Ends

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