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World Corn Gene Bank Contaminated By GMOs

21/04/02

The Mexican government at the Biodiversity Convention meeting in the Hague on Friday confirmed that the worlds home of corn diversity has become contaminated with a GE virus and other GMO material used in genetically engineered corn. This contamination has occurred despite a ban on the growing of GE corn in Mexico since 1998, which was put in place to protect the corn genetic resources of one of the key staple crops of the world.

The Mexican government scientists have found that from the 1,876 seedling samples they took from different sites in two provinces that 95% of them were contaminated with GE material. The level of GE contamination was 10-15 per cent on average, but one field had 35% of its corn plants contaminated with GE material (1).

Groundswell spokesperson Tremane Barr said “While the debate on how the GE contamination has occurred through either cross pollination, seed supply contamination or horizontal gene transfer will take time to conclusively settle the message NZ needs to take from this is very clear. It is simply not possible to prevent the contamination of non-GE plants by GE plants. All talk of forcing non GE conventional and organic farmers having to accept a 1% threshold of GE contamination by the Life Science Network is now patently absurd.”

“The other key lesson for NZ is that independent researchers are raising serious concerns about the role of horizontal gene transfer not just in the Mexican corn contamination, but also in Canadian canola plants that have been found to be contaminated with GE genes that make them resistant to three different herbicides (2 & 3).”

“This raises the risk that the field trials that will be allowed under the HSNO Amendment Bill will also come to contaminate our soils and pass on GE viruses and other GMO material to ordinary plants. ERMA will be required under the Bill to take this risk into account, but we know so little about it that any decision will be guess work without ERMA having to require applicants to provide molecular characterisation that proves any applicants GMO is genetically stable. Genetic stability, however, is something they will not have to prove under this Bill. What we now know, however, is that potentially horizontal gene transfer could have already contaminated soil organisms in both Mexico and Canada and passed on GE viruses and other GMO material to conventional plants.”

“The only sane precautionary response by the government to this new information confirming the GE contamination is to amend the HSNO Bill to ban both field trials and all possibility of open releases for the foreseeable future. Government policy that GE agriculture can be kept from contaminating conventional and organic agriculture has been exposed for the lie that it is. The government now faces a stark choice – “Clean & Green GE Free NZ” or “GE contaminated NZ”. The NZ consumers know what they want and our export markets know what they want, but somehow this government cannot seem to read the writing on the wall.” said Tremane Barr.

Ends

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