up call – unpredictable nature of GE
release dawns on Hobbs
Auckland, 5 July 2003: Greenpeace today expressed relief that Marian Hobbs is “alarmed” (1) at the discovery of another genetically engineered (GE) corn contamination. The Japanese pizza incident is a major wake up call for the Government on a number of fronts:
* It confirms that crucial export markets like Japan want GE free produce from us and are testing to make sure that is what New Zealand is providing.
* It shows that we don’t understand how GE spreads and don’t have successful measures in place to control or deal with contaminations.
* It underlines the idiocy of legalising environmental release of unwanted and unpredictable GE crops in New Zealand from October this year as the Government presently intends.
As Canadian corn GE growers have learned through loss of markets to Europe, GE crops are a “market destructor.”(2) This is not necessarily because they are banned from use in the human food chain, but because consumers don’t want to eat them and for this reason food companies the world over have established rigorous regimes for excluding GE ingredients from their food.
In the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand major retailers and food companies refuse to buy or sell GE derived food and regularly test their products for even the tiniest trace levels of contamination. “If New Zealand doesn’t provide GE free food we could be cut out of crucial markets like Japan,” said Greenpeace Campaigner Steve Abel.
Marian Hobbs was reported today as saying, “You think you’re doing everything right along the line then something goes wrong.” (1)
“Bingo Marian! New information on the way GE crops and seed spread and persist in the environment is coming to light virtually daily. Scientific understanding of how life functions at a molecular and ecological level is very rudimentary. This is the major reason why GE release into the environment is a bad idea,” said Abel.
GE crops are unpredictable – we don’t understand what they will do. Release of live GE organisms is irreversible – you can’t recall a self-replicating organism. GE crops are like a living pollution that will go on spreading.
“The corn contaminations we are dealing with now are reaching us via seed all the way from the US - how much more of a problem is GE going to be if we are intentionally growing it here?” said Abel.
There are a number of possible ways that the apparently GE free corn seed became a GE contaminated Gisborne harvest. MAF’s clean up procedure for de-contamination must be thoroughly re-assessed. MAF procedure may have been inadequate to eliminate environmental persistence of GE from the previous contaminations.
GE can persist in seeds carried by planting and harvesting equipment or kept by farmers. ‘Volunteers’ can establish due to inadequate measures for eliminating them and GE can spread through pollen drift. The potential for gene flow through the environment such as by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is little understood and must not be discounted as a possible means of contamination.
“This is yet another major blow to the myth that GE is understood and controllable and confirms the wisdom of keeping the technology in contained laboratories, this being the only possible way to keep New Zealand’s produce GE free,” concluded Abel.
For more information: Steve Abel, GE Campaigner: 021 565 175.
(1) Recorded interview on National Radio News, 9am, 5 July 2003.
(2) “Biotech corn has already proven to be a market destructor for US corn farmers.” Keith Dittrich, maize farmer and president of the American Corn Growers Association, January 2002.