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ERMA delegates approval of new GM food experiments

Concern at ERMA “delegates" approval of new GM food experiments

Approvals to develop a genetically engineered range of food crops in New Zealand has raised alarm that ERMA has delegated decisions to local organizations that are even more poorly equipped to consider complex issues than ERMA itself.

Auckland-based biotech company Genesis has been given permission to develop genetically modified plants, many that are common foods- Maize, wheat, barley, rice, apple, tomato, carrot, pumpkin, cucumber, melon, all brassica species, and kiwifruit as well as tobacco, ryegrass, choko, fescue grass, gum, Zinnia, pine, and petunia .

ERMA did not even make the approval but delegated it to the Genesis IBSC.

“There is real concern about the lack of accountability and public input on such experiments in New Zealand,” says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "ERMA seems to be relinquishing control of its ‘low risk’ application process."

It is understood the gene constructs will include gene- sequences known to be genetically unstable and which independent scientists have explicitly warned against using.

As concerning is the use of antibiotic resistance markers in the GE organisms. This practice has been widely criticized by medical professionals as adding to the risks of antibiotic resistance in medical use- making diseases untreatable.

The experiments propose using genes resistant to ampicillin, kanamycin and neomycin.

There is a range of objectives for the experiments but Genetic engineering of food-stuffs with the aim of producing pharmaceuticals would be in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on GM.

“The issue is one of basic accountability to the New Zealand public and a strategic vision for biotechnology that guides what is appropriate and not appropriate moving forward,” says Mr. Carapiet.

“Wider discussion and consultation should be required before approving experimental genetic engineering of foods when there is no market for them for human consumption, when there are serious scientific concerns that are being ignored, and when they could undermine our marketing image”

This week it was revealed pharmaceuticals from US maize was already being sold, after genetically modified: Pharm crops” had been commercially grown at secret locations without public knowledge and without being required to be approved by government agencies.

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