Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Act responsibly on issue of terminator technology

18 February 2005

The New Zealand Institute of Gene Ecology urges the Government to act responsibly on issue of “terminator technology”

Environment Minister Marion Hobbs announced on 10 February New Zealand’s backing of a Canadian-led initiative to lift a moratorium on techniques that genetically modify seeds of important food crops to make them sterile. The Institute is concerned that the initiative is both unnecessary and inconsistent with New Zealand’s obligations under the Convention on Biodiversity and Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Seed sterilizing technologies are variously referred to as GURTs, for genetic use restriction technology, and ‘terminator technology’, after the most famous example in which seeds are genetically programmed to become sterile through mutation.

This prevents the seed from being recycled and would require farmers to buy seed each year. In addition to concerns about the effects of such transgenes on biodiversity and human health, there is widespread concern about the economic impact of these kinds of genetic modifications, particularly on smallholder farmers and their communities. In supporting the Canadian initiative, New Zealand is rejecting the findings of the UN Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group report that recommended maintenance of the ban.

The only parties to side with Canada at the meeting were New Zealand, Australia and a representative from the biotech industry. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the biotech industry are calling for an end to the international moratorium on testing GURTs outside of the laboratory.

The 2001 Royal Commission on Genetic Modification suggested that such approaches might have a benefit for the environment and held open the possibility of their use in New Zealand. The Commission saw the potential for self-sterilization of GMOs as a way to prevent their spread in the environment. In the case of GURTs, however, the Royal Commission was presented with almost no independent research on the topic.

In addition to creating the same risks as other types of genetic modifications, GURTs are unlikely to produce the benefits upon which the Royal Commission speculated. This is because the failure rate on sterilization may be too high to rely upon it as a way to prevent the escape of the GMO, but low enough to prevent poor farmers from relying upon recycled seed from year to year.

In the Institute’s view, there is insufficient testing of GURTs under controlled laboratory conditions to justify field testing at this time. In addition, the Institute considers that the potential impacts of the technology on farmer-controlled, locally adapted crop development must be taken into account, as must its impacts on the food security of the 1.4 billion people who rely on farm-saved seed.

The Minister said that in an “absence of consensus [on the likely impacts of GURTS] we find it to difficult to believe a ban is the right path to follow.” The Institute believes that the absence of a consensus requires New Zealand to support a ban. New Zealand is a Party to the Convention on Biodiversity and soon to be a Party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, both of which make explicit the need to act with caution in the face of scientific uncertainty about harm, rather than, in this case, justifying lifting a moratorium because of scientific uncertainty.

Note: Like the Royal Commission, the NZIGE is dedicated to the development for the public good of all responsible biotechnologies. Unlike the Royal Commission, the NZIGE is cognizant of the latest research on biosafety, some of which is done in-house, and all of which is independent of any connection to commercial biotechnology. For further information, contact:

Dr. Joanna Goven: joanna.goven@canterbury.ac.nz

http://www.nzige.canterbury.ac.nz

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Watch This Space: Mahia Rocket Lab Launch Site Officially Opened

Economic Development Minster Steven Joyce today opened New Zealand’s first orbital launch site, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, on the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island’s east coast. More>>

Earlier:

Marketing Rocks!
Ig Nobel Award Winners Assess The Personality Of Rocks

A Massey University marketing lecturer has received the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for economics for a research project that asked university students to describe the “brand personalities” of three rocks. More>>

ALSO:

Nurofen Promotion: Reckitt Benckiser To Plead Guilty To Misleading Ads

Reckitt Benckiser (New Zealand) intends to plead guilty to charges of misleading consumers over the way it promoted a range of Nurofen products, the Commerce Commission says. More>>

ALSO:

Half A Billion Accounts, Including Xtra: Yahoo Confirms Huge Data Breach

The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. More>>

ALSO:

Rural Branches: Westpac To Close 19 Branches, ANZ Looks At 7

Westpac confirms it will close nineteen branches across the country; ANZ closes its Ngaruawahia branch and is consulting on plans to close six more branches; The bank workers union says many of its members are nervous about their futures and asking ... More>>

Interest Rates: RBNZ's Wheeler Keeps OCR At 2%

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler kept the official cash rate at 2 percent and said more easing will be needed to get inflation back within the target band. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news