Choice between moratorium or NZ economy
GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment Press Release
Choice between moratorium or NZ economy.
The corn contamination discovered in Japan is a clear indication that the claimed safe regulation of GE commercial releases in New Zealand is an impossibility. The recent ERMA Review warns of the flawed oversight of field tests and the lack of coordination with MAF. These failings and the fact that authorities are allowing importation of seed from countries likely to have GM-contamination, is tantamount to self-sabotage.
Though MAF officials say they can't rule out any of the possible causes for New Zealand products testing positive for GE contamination this event is a hint of things to come if the moratorium on GE release is lifted in October.
Yet Federated Farmers and government authorities are proposing that the level of contamination identified by the Japanese becomes accepted as a normal part of business. They have supported standards allowing up to 1% GE contamination, which the recent incident shows will be a direct threat to our exports.
If more GE crops are planted around the country we can only expect more of our exports to be rejected and our clean green image to be shattered for good.
"Its ridiculous for a small country dependent on its primary produce exports to be allowing GE release, when even Australian states are introducing their own bans," said Jon Carapiet from GE Free New Zealand. "It will be a betrayal of the national interest and gross mismanagement if we throw away our precious clean, green reputation."
New EU rules are rejecting GE crops possibly allowing Europe to become a GE-free zone simply through consumers choosing not to buy GE products and via safety rules that would make it almost impossible to grow GM crops.(1) Recent international CODEX guidelines allow for a case-by-case premarket assessment of GM foods that includes an evaluation of both direct and unintended effects.(2)
The incident is further proof that GE contamination is being allowed to occur in New Zealand by a lax and deeply flawed ERMA regime, something GE Free New Zealand has been warning government and MAF officials of since 1999, urging them to source seed from countries other than the US.
MAF are saying they have no idea where the contamination has come from, seed, soil or cross contamination, maybe the genetic constructs will help identify the source. Genetic tags identifying companies producing these unwanted products should be introduced to allow them to be prosecuted for contaminating crops.
"It is not good enough that they get away scot free while farmers and food companies can be held liable. What will happen when pharmaceutical drug trial crops begin to contaminate our food supplies as they have in the US," says Jon Carapiet
MAF have also stated publicly that they will not be able to guarantee containment of GE conditional releases, a section in the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill granting them a let out clause by allowing any GE organism that becomes 'naturalised' like gorse or possums is no longer classified as a GE organism. Is this what GE corn will become shortly?
It is noteworthy that the Corngate TV3 episode and the new corn contamination find have been released the same day. Is this government spin-doctoring to ensure the media items surrounding GE are kept to a minimum in the lead up to October? If so the strategy may fail as it is becoming increasingly obvious to everyone that government schemes for release are unworkable, and the moratorium must be extended.
Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370
1)http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=421154 Americans angered by European curbs on GM - Michael McCarthy and Stephen Castle 03 July 2003
The looming clash between Europe and America over genetically modified crops and food got closer yesterday when Euro-MPs put two new obstacles in the way of the GM revolution.
The European parliament in Strasbourg voted to bring in tight new rules on GM food labelling, and to allow restrictions on the growth of GM crops to protect organic and conventional farms from contamination. The move delighted consumer groups and environmental campaigners, but infuriated US trade officials, who see it as protectionism by the back door.
No official reaction was forthcoming in Washington, yesterday but a senior official criticised the new EU rules as "difficult and expensive for suppliers and confusing for consumers". He noted cryptically that the US had "already made its views known" on the subject.
At the core of American anger is the fact that the new rules might allow Europe to become a GM-free zone simply through consumers choosing not to buy GM products (which are nearly all American), and through safety rules that would make it almost impossible to grow GM crops.
A new Mori poll, released to The Independent yesterday, shows that in Britain at least, opposition to GM food remains firm, with just under half the population (46 per cent) opposed to it, and only one in seven (14 per cent) in favour. The major British supermarkets all continue to keep GM products off their shelves, responding to what they see as the public mood.
Paradoxically, the new measures signal the end of an unofficial moratorium on licensing new GM crops by six European countries, led by France. This had led to the US bringing legal action against the EU in the World Trade Organisation. Licensing can begin again, because the rules on labelling and "coexistence" were the quid pro quo that the six countries had demanded for dropping their opposition. But because of the likely effect of the moves, the Americans are unlikely to drop their legal action.
One US official said: "We have made clear to the EU our concerns about the workability of these regulations and their impact on trade."
American farmers claim that the closed EU market costs them $300m (£180m) a year in lost exports, mostly maize. GM crops are not labelled in the US, where the public has not opposed them.
In Europe, compulsory labelling will now apply to thousands of products which contain derivatives of GM soya and GM maize, as well as traces of the actual products, and to animal feeds.
Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman in the European parliament, said: "The customer knows best, and shoppers must have the information so that they can decide for themselves what products to buy.
"If this slows the development of GM products while more research is carried out that may be no bad thing."
2)TITLE: Codex guidelines for GM foods include the analysis of unintended effects SOURCE: Nature Biotechnology 21 (7): 739-741, by Alexander G Haslberger DATE: Jul 2003 archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html
Codex guidelines for GM foods include the analysis of unintended effects
The author is at the University of Vienna and the World Health Organization FOS Program for Food Safety, Geneva, Switzerland. e- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In response to the increased delivery of genetically modified (GM) foods to international markets, the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Food Derived from Biotechnology of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Rome) agreed in March on principles for the human health risk analysis of GM foods.1. These principles dictate a case-by-case premarket assessment that includes an evaluation of both direct and unintended effects. They state that safety assessment of GM foods needs to investigate direct health effects (toxicity), tendency to provoke allergic reactions (allergenicity), specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties, the stability of the inserted gene, nutritional effects associated with genetic modification and any unintended effects that could result from the gene insertion. Of particular note, the task force broadens risk assessment to encompass not only health-related effects of the food itself, but also the indirect effects of food on human health (e.g., potential health risks derived from outcrossing).
Unintended effects of the product The Codex's aim is to anticipate not only the direct risks, but also the indirect/unanticipated risks that the products of modern agriculture might pose for human health. All of the methods used for breeding or manipulating plant traits, including self- and cross-pollination, the generation of hybrids or haploid breeding, mutational breeding (including X-rays or chemicals) and advanced biotechnologies (including protoplast fusion and/or recombinant DNA technology), have the potential to generate unanticipated effects in plants.
In conventional breeding programs of spring barley, for example, different degrees of a temporary breakdown of the resistance to powdery mildew by a sudden relief of soil water-stress have been attributed to the genetic background rather than the specific allele.2. There have also been reports that a traditionally bred squash caused food poisoning.3, a pest-resistant celery variety produced rashes in agricultural workers (which was subsequently found to contain sevenfold more carcinogenic psoralens than control celery.4 and a potato variety Lenape contained very high levels of toxic solanine.5 (which was subsequently withdrawn from cultivation).
The use of tissue culture in plant breeding has also often resulted in somaclonal variation of plant lines and irregular phenotypes or field performance. Somaclonal variations are mutational and chromosomal instabilities of embryonic plants regenerated from tissue cultures. These instabilities may result from activation of dormant transposons in the chromosome6. The consequent genetic variability is known to persist for many generations and is difficult to eliminate by backcrossing.
For plants generated by recombinant technology, unanticipated effects may additionally arise from the process of introducing foreign genes or as a result of the effects of environmental factors/genetic background on the expression of the transgene(s)7.
Complex multicopy patterns of transgene integration at the same locus, as well as position effects caused by random integration, are often associated with instability in transgene expression8. Random insertion of DNA sequences can cause modification, interruption or silencing of existing genes as well as activation of silent genes9, 10. Safety aspects have been discussed for a transgenic maize line following the observation of integration of recombinant DNA into a retrotransposon.11, 12.
Table 1 list examples of unanticipated phenotypes observed in transgenic crops in the field. A comparison of data from documents prepared for notification of GM rape, maize, tomato, soybean and potatoes (exhibiting mainly pest resistances) suggested that environmental factors like heat were more important than genetic modification in influencing variation in the expression of antinutrients. 13. Epigenetic transcriptional silencing has been reported for a complex transgene in rice. 14 and epigenetic variations in Arabidopsis disease resistance have been attributed to DNA methylation.15. Environmental stress factors that influence methylation patterns and/or chromatin conformations have been suggested as explanations for gene silencing of transgenes in the fiel. d16. The presence of a pathogen can induce host defense gene silencing mechanisms. 17 also affecting transgenes. And environmental signals have been shown to modulate mRNA stability and translation through modulation of the phosphorylation of components of the mRNA 5'-cap-binding complex, ribosomes and mRNA-binding proteins. 18.
Unintended effects mediated via the environment In addition to investigating health risks directly associated with food products, the broadening of the Codex risk assessment to include indirect effects now encompass effects of novel foods on the environment that may have an indirect impact on human health. This concept has a precedent in agricultural practice (e.g., sustainability.19) and embraces the view of human "health as an integrating index of ecological and social sustainability" outlined in a report from a joint World Health Organization (Geneva, Switzerland) and the National Agency for the Protection of the Environment (Rome, Italy) seminar in 2000 on potential environmental hazards of GM crops.20.
Several recent findings argue that such environmental effects could/ should be supported by evidence (e.g., the need to inhibit outcrossing from plants containing biopharmaceuticals; http://www.worldbiosafety.net/ paper/05-Rainer%20Fischer.doc) in health risk assessment of GM crops. The introgression of transgenic DNA into traditional landraces of maize in Mexico (for review, see ref. 21), recently confirmed by the Mexican government.22, shows that gene flow may be commonplace for certain crops in certain locations, and the effects of foreign genes in certain backgrounds could pose health risks, although these concerns remain speculative.23. The risk of outcrossing and gene transfer could also affect crop biodiversity, especially that of landraces, and may compromise the planting of crops by farmers who wish to remain GM-free (e.g., organic farmers). Indeed, the coexistence of GM crop agriculture and organic agriculture (which does not tolerate GM use above specific thresholds) is likely to be difficult for certain plants in specific areas.24. As a consequence, the wish for regions with restrictions on planting of GM organisms (GMOs) and GMO-free foods has already been expressed in different areas.25, 26.
Conclusions Both conventional methods of breeding and recombinant technology can affect the expression of genes and raise questions about food safety. Phenotypic variability in a novel crop can also result from environmental/epigenetic factors as well as the genetic background in which a trait is expressed. Clearly, risk assessment must account for the effects of transgene-specific factors, environmental signals and genetic background on phenotype. The expression level of a gene, rather than the sequence of the protein product, can often determine phenotypes that contribute to natural variation.27.
In any risk assessment, however, it is important to differentiate between hypothetical and proven risks. And, to date, no food-derived health problems have been identified with the use of GM plants. However, it must be acknowledged that occasional pleiotropic, unintended safety relevant effects in organisms produced with traditional or modern biotechnology can occur and need to be addressed.
The decision by the Codex to include unintended effects (e.g., environmental health risks) in the risk assessment is an important new development. The link between environment and human health operates through the exposure of humans to environmental hazards, where such hazards may take many forms, wholly natural in origin or derived from human activities and interventions. There have been several attempts to conceptualize environmental-human health interactions.28, 29. Indicators for environmental health and methods for the consideration of the burden of disease from environmental risk factors are presently harmonized to support and monitor policy on environment and health for many developments.30, 31. These concepts may be useful in the analyses of effects of GM organisms for food production. Such assessments need to compare different approaches to food production, such as conventional, organic or GM technologies, and may also prove valuable in assessing regional differences (health relevant decreases or increases of pesticide use according to local agroecological situation) in the impacts of modern methods of food production.
The Codex's approach to GM crops will be inherently linked to agreements at the World Trade Organization (Geneva, Switzerland). Codex principles do not have a binding effect on national legislation, but are referred to specifically in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement of the World Trade Organization (SPS Agreement), and can be used as a reference in case of trade disputes. This has particular relevance in the light of the recent complaint brought by the United States, Canada and Argentina to the WTO against the EU de facto moratorium on GM crops.
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