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Ignoring The Evidence - Again.

No matter how many scientist's warnings are given to this government a blind persistence to release these formidable and unwanted novel organisms into the New Zealand environment will go ahead. The misinterpretation of the recent NZ-taxpayer-funded BERL report, was immediately obvious. Notwithstanding the liability issues (who pays for contamination), government is determined to lift this moratorium on GE organisms (GEOs) this October.

Contrary to claims research will not be "set back" by not releasing GMO's. Reports maintain that only 3% of New Zealand's genetic engineering research represent field releases. The rest is conducted in the laboratory. Is it so much to ask that we follow the advice of all these prestigious international scientists and maintain the moratorium? In a short time, we could be breathing the same sigh of relief that we did when the true nature of the nuclear issue came to light and we remained, thank God, nuclear free.

Liability when contamination occurs, or if an engineered organism proves dangerous, will be a major issue. The fact that no insurance company will provide cover should send a strong message to Government on the reliability and safety of release. The NZ Government Law Commission report on liability stated the effects could range from "trivial to catastrophic." Industry makes much of the status of organics being contaminated, but ignores the majority of farmers who grow conventionally and wish to continue to take advantage of our present GE-Free status. A Lincoln University study found 70% of our farmers did not intend to use GE.

No doubt Professor Cooper's warnings will go unheeded in exactly the same way that those of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics, the British Medical Association and others have done. It is arguably inaccurate for Dr Conner to state, "We know a lot more about them than their non-GE counterparts." If that were the case the failure of such crops as Bt corn and cotton would never have happened. The technology is seriously flawed and is certainly not "precise." Only through GE can genes from a rat or soil bacterium become part of a corn plant's DNA. A DNA which, as Professor Cooper said, will persist for thousands of years. A growing body of literature has begun to show that GE-crops are creating new kinds of environmental problems for farmers, and are exacerbating already-severe economic problems for American, Indian and other farmers fooled into growing them. Whether they like it or not, genes jump.

The Royal Commission strongly recommended we preserve our opportunities to use genetic modification for economic, health and environmental benefit. Since the Commission's findings, it has been demonstrated these are scant indeed. The promises have always been alluring, but to date they are backed mostly by hope, hype, and a lot of noise. Numerous independent studies from the USDA and US universities on GE crops have documented their failure to live up to the propaganda. There are failures of one kind or another with all GE-crops, without counting the contamination they have caused.

The Government should face it, the GE bonanza is over. The predicted financial boom has not materialised, nor the promised benefits to agriculture and health. Biotechnology is a risky business. Our decision on releasing these organisms will affect far more than the food we eat, it will determine the kind of country we and our children inhabit.


Dr Robert Anderson

Member Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics

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