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Research Into Transgenic DNA Contamination Urged

4 July 2002

PSRG Urges Research Into Transgenic DNA Contamination

Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics endorse the call by the newly launched Sustainability Council of New Zealand to put in place of the current period of restraint a five-year moratorium on the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment.

PSRG also urge government to instigate independent research before allowing any commercial plantings of genetically engineered (GE) plants.

Agriculture has witnessed the spread of engineered traits: e.g. chemically-resistant weeds and insects (USDA) and contaminated export seed (Quest). Unapproved transgenic traits have been found in human food products (StarLink). Monsanto and Aventis acknowledge that the last three US growing seasons may have seen seed planted that was contaminated with unapproved DNA.

Plants are being engineered to produce pharmaceuticals. For example, the US biotechnology company, Epicyte, has isolated genes which regulate the manufacture of a rare class of human antibodies that attack sperm(1) and has engineered the genes into corn to produce a contraceptive. Independent research must ask if such DNA can contaminate food crops.

The European Union has banned Canadian honey imports because producers cannot guarantee honey free of GE contamination. Researchers claim contamination has cost Canadian beekeepers and organic farmers millions of dollars(2) and that GE pollen can be carried up to 25 km on Prairie winds.

Independent research into the transfer of engineered DNA is urgently needed.

(226 words)

References: (1) GM corn set to stop man spreading his seed, Robin McKie, science editor, Observer, 9-9-01; www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4253102,00.html. (2) Genetic threats blowin' in the wind: Scientists warn modified crops are escaping and going rogues' Margaret Munro, National Post, 7 June 2002; J. Nature Biotechnology June 2002. Phillips et al, University of Saskatchewan.


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