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Call For Ban On Antibiotic Gene Markers In GE Crop

GE Free New Zealand
In Food And Environment (RAGE) Inc.

PRESS RELEASE – 17 January 2001

Call For Ban On Antibiotic Gene Markers In GE Crops As Alarm Bells Ring Over Spreading Antibiotic Resistance.

Medical warnings over increased anti-biotic resistance in bacteria should
ring alarm bells for authorities, and GE foods and GE trials in the
environment with genes conferring antibiotic resistance should be banned.
Ministry of Health reports of increasing resistance to front-line medicines in New Zealand is a signal that the environmental load of antibiotic resistance genes presents a serious public health threat.

"Virtually all genetically engineered crops contain antibiotic resistance
genes that are used in the process of gene-transfer." says Jon Carapiet,
spokesperson for GE-Free NZ. "This is exactly why the British Medical Association and the NZ College of GP's have warned against approvals of GE-foods, and this should be a
wake-up call to authorities.”

The US FDA and ANZFA (Australian New Zealand Food Authority) have
refused to listen to past warnings and have continued to approve GE-foods
with ‘silenced' antibiotic-resistant genes used to create the GM organism.
However there is renewed concern over the potential for "Horizontal Gene
Transfer" which scientists have shown occurs in nature and has been found
to take place in the guts of bees feeding on GE pollen.

Despite warnings from medical professionals and independent scientists
that the use of antibiotic genes in food should be stopped, the biotechnology
industry continues to use these as ‘markers’ because they are the cheapest
way to test if gene-transfers have taken place.

“It is incredible that this is continuing and that whole populations are
ingesting these constructs despite everything we know about the risks."
says Jon Carapiet. "And even use of GE feed for animals could allow resistance to

Nor are the risks just limited to food. For over a year the UK government has known of its own scientists' warnings that the use of GE cotton in sanitary towels could lead to some treatments for gonorrhea becoming ineffective. "The biotech companies claim they only use antibiotics that are different from those used in medicine but this isn't true. The genes used in some GE cotton confer resistance to the main drug used to treat gonorrhea. Tampons made with GE cotton exposed to mucous membranes in millions of women are recognised by the UK government's own scientists as presenting a real risk of horizontal gene transfer to bacteria which could make the front-line medicines used to treat gonorrhea useless."

A recent Forest Research Institute GE pine tree trial approval uses ampicillin genes, these gene constructs have already been found to change mouth and throat bacteria to become antibiotic resistant in French farmers working with ampicillin resistant maize. This will almost certainly be passed on to their families, since this is accepted as a normal occurrence by the medical profession.

GE Free NZ ‘s Susie Lees, who attended the Environmental Risk Authority hearing in November stated, "It is not in the public interest for trials of this kind to be approved without full impact assessment. The risks to public health from antibiotic resistance and to our forestry sector by the inclusion of sterility gene constructs are significant."

The Ministry of the Environment has so far failed to comment on the approval of this application by this Crown Research Institute.

For further information please contact GE Free NZ on 03 546 7966

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