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Consider relaxing GM regulations says scientist

Consider relaxing GM regulations says scientist

Its time for New Zealand to consider relaxing GM regulations says prominent visiting American scientist Professor Indra Vasil.

Professor Vasil was addressing the biannual meeting of commercial tissue culture managers and scientists in his role as International President of the Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Association.

Professor Vasil first visited New Zealand in 1974 to work with pioneer GM scientists Dr Bill Sutton and Dr Roger Giles. He was also asked to advise the Government about biotechnology research at that time. "I was convinced that, as an agricultural country, government should support plant cell and molecular biology," he said.

"Now after nearly 30 years, because of our considerable experience and

the vast amount of information gathered about the safety of transgenic crops over the past decade, it is time for our regulatory agencies to consider whether some of or all of the current regulatory requirements can be gradually relaxed and ultimately suspended," he said.

"Except in some rare instances where there is some likelihood of risk to human health or the environment such as the development of antibiotic resistance or gene flow to closely related species, the risks can be met adequately with currently available and emerging technologies.

Dr Mary Christey, the President of the New Zealand branch of the Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Association said that Professor Vasil and other scientists reported some exciting developments on the horizon at their Leigh, Northland meeting. "Some of these use GM technology, others non-GM technologies such as marker assisted breeding and tissue culture."

Professor Vasil spoke of his exciting new GM wheat which produces higher levels of gluten and was recently been field tested in Arizona where it showed a substantial increase in protein content and an increase in bread volume.

Some important advances in genetic marker technology have been made said Dr Christey. Queensland scientist, Dr Mike Smith spoke of using genetic markers to improve propagation of tropical crops which are important for some Pacific nations. British researcher Dr Penny Sparrow also announced new genetic marker technology for identifying which plants which may be more suitable for breeding purposes.

The whole concept of what we eat when we bite into an apple was challenged by New Zealand scientist Dr Jai-Long Yao . Dr Yao discovered that the flesh of an apple originates from the sepals, or leaf scales of the flower rather than the ovary as previously thought. "This type of new knowledge is critical for our understanding of pollination in crops," said Dr Christey.

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