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Govt. Should Ensure GE Moratorium Remains In Place

Bacterial competence better than human? Limited understanding shows government should ensure GE moratorium remains in place.

Limited scientific knowledge, of horizontal gene transfer HGT, bacterial competence and persistence of genetically engineered organism's genes, demonstrates the government would be foolish to consider lifting the GE moratorium for at least 10 years.

In discussion yesterday ESR revealed that GE science is way behind the technology. Their new project due to continue for 3 years also involves AgResearch, HortResearch and Australia's CSIRO. It is hoped that it will further understanding of the risks of using GE in New Zealand, thus addressing public concerns.

ESR have been looking to government for several years to fund comprehensive laboratory studies into HGT to ascertain risk more fully, their concerns unheard by government funding agencies who failed to see the significance of HGT as a potentially serious risk of environmental GE releases.

"The lifting of the moratorium next year negates the $601,000 of public money spent on this study. If irreversible impacts are uncovered, New Zealand may already be polluted by conditional GE releases. The government wants to promote genetic engineering but we are asking for increased caution." said Susie Lees of GE Free New Zealand in Food and Environment.

Since 1998, GE free New Zealand and other NGOs have consistently raised concerns over HGT, the Royal Commission eventually recognising these, recommended research projects be instigated.

'This is a first step, however, we feel that any findings will be misleading since they only address HGT in bacteria." said Susie.

The ESR research only examines the possibility of HGT in bacteria, omitting other important areas such as effects on soil ecosystems, including fungi.

More info Susie Lees 03 546 7966 Phil Carter (ESR) 04 914 0700

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