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GE report says Royal Commission advice now dated

GE report says Royal Commission advice now dated

A new report out today shows that the science the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification relied on in recommending New Zealand "proceed with caution" on GE is now considerably out of date.

Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today the Government can no longer keep citing the Royal Commission report as justification for GE release. The new report, "Genetic Engineering: Policy and Science since the Royal Commission: Insoluble Problems", reviews scientific developments over the past two years. It concludes that the Royal Commission report was deficient in its expectations of what further research was likely to uncover or how events would unfold.

Prepared by Auckland University Associate Professor Peter Wills for Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics (PSRG), today's report says the problems with GE are more serious than initial enthusiasm for the technology and the Commission's report would have indicated.

Ms Fitzsimons said the Government must face up to the fact the Royal Commission's report is now scientifically dated, and that new information is much less rosy about the effects of GE. She calls on the Government to answer the following questions raised by today's report:

* Why are we eating GE food that the United Kingdom Royal Society - hardly a radical anti-science pressure group - says has not been adequately tested for safety? Why do we still accept company tests rather than requiring independent testing?

* Why does the Government continue to say it can provide for the coexistence of GE and non-GE crops when evidence is now overwhelming that pollen, seed, and genetic elements from GE proteins are being spread as comprehensively through the food chain as DDT was a generation ago?

* Why is the Government proceeding without any results for its research on soils, when new overseas evidence shows changes in soil organisms around GE plants, and persistence of active GE proteins in soil long after harvest of crops?

* Can the Government guarantee that the New Zealand science community (in particular the Crown Research Institutes which are by law required to operate commercially and competitively), are immune from the experience in Canada - where the expert panel of the Royal Society refers to: "the extensive and growing conflicts of interest within the scientific community due to entrepreneurial interests in resulting technologies and the increasing domination of the research agenda by private corporate interest"?

* How do New Zealand regulatory authorities intend to enforce better compliance with 'conditional release' than the United States, where nearly a fifth of farms are ignoring the regulations?

ENDS

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