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Japanese Discovery Raises New Alert on BT 10 Corn

GE free NZ
Press release

Japanese Discovery Raises New Alert on Bt 10 Corn

The risk of Bt10 being in the New Zealand food chain has been again confirmed, despite denials by Health Minister Annette King. Japan has found Bt10 in its latest shipment and sent it back to America. But New Zealand authorities are being left in the dark as no testing for Bt10 is being done here.

The Green's Sue Kedgley raised in Parliament the issue of Bt 10 corn containing ampicillin resistance genes and was assured by the Health Minister that the corn had been quarantined and destroyed. Recent discovery of Bt10 in shipments to Ireland and Japan show this is wrong, and requires action from the Minister, not excuses.

"How can we rely on the Health Minister's assurances that Bt10 was "quarantined and destroyed in 2004" when BT10 was found in the last two shipments of bulk products to two different countries in May and June 2005?"

A study in 2003 by Dr Duggan found that Bt genes in plasmid form and incubated in the saliva in a sheep's mouth for a few minutes, could still transform Escherichia coli bacteria so that they developed antibiotic resistance (P. S. Duggan et al. Br. J. Nutr. 89, 2003). The UK government's scientific advisers (the DEFRA Antimicrobial Resistance Coordination Group) have said that the transfer of resistance genes could have significant consequences for the consumer.

Enterococcal and Staphlococcal outbreaks have all aquired Ampicillin resistance. There is also an epidemic of Meningococcal disease whose first line of treatment is Ampicillin, which could be made ineffective through ingestion of this corn.

"We call on all New Zealanders to seriously consider not buying corn products until the Minister has tested for and removed any illegal Bt10 corn." said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment.

"It is time that The Health Minister stopped misleading us and faced up to the fact that her responsibility to the New Zealand public requires her to identify and remove any illegal Bt10 corn products. The New Zealand public must be assured that laws designed to maintain food safety will be upheld".


This is not the view of the UK government's scientific advisers (the DEFRA Antimicrobial Resistance Coordination Group), who state that some important veterinary pathogens remain susceptible to ampicillin (K. L. Goodyear et al. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 54, 959; 2004). They state that there is "extremely low or no detected resistance in certain bacterial species", so that "any occasional transfer of resistance genes to these organisms would be a very significant event". If, as a result of such horizontal gene transfer, it became necessary to use more modern antimicrobials to treat animal disease, they write, "then there could be significant consequences for the consumer through the food chain".

The risk of horizontal gene transfer from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not a theoretical one. One study found that, after Bt genes in plasmid form were incubated in the saliva in a sheep's mouth for a few minutes, they could still transform Escherichia coli bacteria so that they developed antibiotic resistance (P. S. Duggan et al. Br. J. Nutr. 89, 159 $B!] (B166; 2003).

Gundula Azeez

Soil Association, 40-56 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6BY, UK

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