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Lessons for NZ in UK GE trials

Lessons for NZ in UK GE trials

The results of British farm-scale GE trials sound a warning bell for New Zealand, and show the need for serious independent ecological studies here, Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

"The UK study has proved what many scientists have been saying - that the effects of GE are extremely unpredictable, and that you only find them if you look for them.

"Clearly we need ecological studies in New Zealand of the environmental impacts of GE before any genetically engineered organism is approved for release here. These would need to be done by independent scientists not employed by the GE industry, and would need to be more complete than the UK study.

"If our Government is going to push ahead with GE releases nobody wants, it must carry out ecological studies first, to help guard against irreversible damage to biodiversity. Even the Royal Commission recommended this. It will of course be expensive and is another reason why GE crops are uneconomic for New Zealand," Ms Fitzsimons said.

The British Government's three-year studies of three spring sown GE herbicide-resistant crops - beet, oil seed rape and maize - tested the impact on farmland wildlife of the herbicide use associated with these crops, compared with herbicides used on conventional crops.

The herbicide regimes of the GE beet and oil seed rape crops had a worse impact on wildlife including insects and plants, than the normal crops. The herbicides used in the GE maize trial were less damaging for certain wildlife groups. But only because the herbicide used on the conventional crops was an extremely toxic variety which has since been banned in Europe, rendering the maize study results of little value.

"These were the first serious ecological trials of GE in the world that we are aware of. The fact that the herbicides used with the herbicide-tolerant GE crops are more damaging to wildlife and plants than the herbicides used with ordinary crops is exactly the opposite of what the GE industry has always claimed," Ms Fitzsimons said.

The trials were limited, as they did not look at insect-resistant GE crops, soil chemistry or soil life, or horizontal gene transfer. "Also our wildlife and weeds in New Zealand are quite different, but the trials clearly show the need for New Zealand to begin serious ecological studies of our own as soon as possible," Ms Fitzsimons said.

The trial results were released late last night (our time) by the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Go to:

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