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Project To Determine GMO 'Contamination' Refused

NZIGE Project To Determine GMO 'Contamination' Refused Funding As Labour Support GE Research Push.

Another recent reject in Labours push to fund pro GE research has been the community group supported project by the New Zealand Institute of Gene Ecology based at the University of Canterbury.

This project was designed to address issues, like horizontal gene transfer HGT and its inherent risk of environment pollution, of great importance to both organic and conventional farmers. Exciting new cutting edge research into another form of GE pollution through horizontal epigene transfer (HET) was also proposed. HET occurs where heritable information is passed on to different species by epigenes without the direct transfer of genes as in HGT. At the ERMA conference on HGT, last week. it was acknowledged that it is only a question of time before GMO pollution occurs via HGT and/or HET with the seriousness of its impacts the only unknown factor at this stage. Dr Jack Heinemann, NZIGE director and a world renowned expert on HGT and HET, was a key speaker at the conference along with international speakers.

'This project was intended to look closely at issues of contamination and genetic pollution using the highest standards of scientific research. Issues of GE pollution through HGT that even the Royal Commission expressed concerns about will not be addressed by this government who are apparently hell bent on allowing commercial releases as early as October 2003,' said a GE Free NZ representative.

The Royal Commission noted that Northland people may have justified concerns over a GE tamarillo trial having contaminated the land in which it was growing, the refusal to support the NZIGE project will mean that this trial site will no longer be government funded for any testing. The approval for its go-ahead was given several years ago when the technology was in its infancy and adverse impacts unidentified. Genetic engineering was then as now carried out by publicly funded CRIs and Universities with no liability for any genetic pollution.

The NZIGE research proposal had proposed the most scientifically rigorous examination of this GE Tamarillo site in partnership with GE Free Northland and it now looks like this research will take place leaving unanswered questions as to the level of resulting GMO contamination.

"It appears that the main reasons this proposal did not receive funding was because it posed a direct threat to publicly funded CRI’s research due to a potential identification of GMO contamination at the GE Tamarillo site. GE Free NZ supported this research proposal because it promised the highest standards of scientific research into key areas of risk that GMOs pose to our environment. It seems that this level of scientifically rigorous enquiry into the dangers of GE pollution in our environment by the people best qualified to carry it out is not wanted by the powers that be."

For More Info Susie Lees - 03 546 7966

Tremane Barr 03 981 5235

Dr. Jack Heinemann 03 364 2926

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