Letter to the Editor
24 September 2001
I write as a luddite, a person against the environmental release of genetically modified organisms in any form, as referred to in the letter by John Forman, Current Board Member and Candidate for Lambton Ward Capital & Coast District Heath Board. For your interest, this luddite holds a world class European MBA and has worked in international agricultural trade promotion and a business advisory role for farmers. They also believe strongly in New Zealand improving it’s competitive advantage in world markets and improving the health of the population.
In the early 1990’s my organisation and I advised the British public that British beef was safe to eat. The science at that time had found no evidence of transfer between the affected animals and humans who consumed beef. As the research continued links were found, and now I am unable to give blood in NZ and I know two people who have lost a close relative to CJD, the human variant of Bovine Spongiform Encepalopathy (BSE). This does not prove that GM is dangerous, but for me sounds warning bells to encourage very slow and thorough consideration, which I am not seeing at the present time as unlabelled, virtually untested foods appear in our shops and liability issues remain unsolved.
Therefore, I look very carefully at the report of the Royal Commission. They suggest that the evidence against GMOs is inconclusive. I suggest that the evidence in favour of the safe release of GMOs is also inconclusive. I know from my agricultural background that one cannot control how far the wind, an insect or a bird carries the pollen from even a trial crop and therefore strongly believe that environmental release of GMOs in any shape or form is irriversible.
France has been subject of a moratorium on GM crops since 1997, but ‘the AFSSA (French Agency for Food Safety) found them (GM organisms present) in 41% of the maize seed and crop samples it examined. ... There are only 34 hectares of GM Maize grown for commercial purposes in France (out of a total of 3 million hectares of maize). ...
Even the seed manufacturers accept that contamination can be caused by wind, pollination or a mixture of species on fields edges.’ Le Monde editorial - 26 July. Page 171 of the Royal Commission Report acknowledges that co-existence of GM & non-GM production may not be possible if zero tollerance of accidental GM contamination is required.
I also believe that the economics of release into the environment in any form are completely unviable. Already NZ products have been turned away in international markets due to GM ingredients, and other food organisations eg. Tegel are committed to a GMO free product as 60 % of their consumers are concerned about their food containing GMOs.
Since biotech crops came on the market in 1996, US farm exports have fallen from $60 billion a year to $51 billion, -a decline of 15%. The US has lost $400 million a year in corn exports to the EU, while Canada has lost a similar amount in canola exports. These losses are expected to increase, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office, the research arm of the US Congress, as European, Asian, and other governments adopt the "precautionary principle" requiring pre-market safety testing, labelling, and segregation of genetically engineered crops.
Meanwhile exports of GMO-free grains from Brazil, Australia, India, and China are expanding. Sources in the EU feed industry say the present demand for certified non-GMO soybean meal has grown from nearly zero to 25% in only 12 months, with the expectation of further increases in the coming year. (Source - AgJournal UK 30/05/01)
New Zealand has a wonderful business opportunity at this time to capitalise on its clean, green image (as valued in the recent Ministry of Environment report) by ensuring that no GMO field trials are undertaken and encouraging New Zealand companies to proudly declare themselves GMO free.
Mary Thompson MBA