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NZ Shooting Self in the Foot If GE Trials Allowed

NZ Shooting Itself in the Foot If GE Food Trials Allowed

GE Free NZ believes the application submitted by Crop and Food to ERMA for a field trial on GM cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli should be withdrawn, or stopped by the New Zealand government.

Given the international rejection by consumers of GE foods the application must be regarded as foolhardy and economically unsound, especially in light of the Prime Minister's call for New Zealand to be a leader in sustainability to protect our international markets.

The EU and Japan have effectively closed their markets to GM imports in response to the public demand for non-GM food. New Zealand's brand -reputation will be threatened by government-funded institutes pushing down the GE path rather than investing in research into production of clean and natural food that consumers actually want.

"Consumers do not trust GM and the main way it is being sold at all is through deliberate deception and keeping customers in the dark. Even most US shoppers agree with people from around the world that they do not want to be eating unlabelled GE food sneaking into their food-chain," says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ.

"New Zealand Crown Research Institutes are doing the country a disservice by continuing to pursue GE experiments long after they have reached their expiry date in the real world of consumer markets where the customer is 'right'."

GM crops that have been genetically modified with the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene can make them deadly to catterpillars and butterflies. But over the last ten years pests and diseases have been becoming resistant to the inserted insecticide and in some cases target insects are again damaging the GM crop.

"This is short-term thinking that is coming home to roost, and it is poorly conceived science that is to blame" says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ.

"The toxin produced by Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a common organic insecticide. When used as a spray, it is non- toxic and easily washed off. However, when the Bt gene is inserted into the plant, the Bt toxin is expressed in every cell and cannot be washed away. It has proven to have a very different environmental effect over time."

The particular crops under threat are also particularly concerning given the brassica (cabbage) family is highly promiscuous. Wrightsons conducted a detailed study on brassicas and discovered that "crosses occur between all species and sub species within the genus" and "seedlot contamination with all brassica species is common but visually difficult to detect". Wind, insects, animals and farm workers can all spread the seed and pollen, resulting in cross-pollination of other cultivated or weedy brassicas.

" While the rest of the world is moving to assisted classical plant breeding techniques using genetic markers to assist, Crop and Food is wasting scarce R&D money on a GM product that no one wants" says Claire Bleakley.

"However, most concerning is that overseas experience has started to reveal how the GM techniques being used can negatively impact the health of animals and people. There have been deaths recorded in animals eating Bt foods and severe adverse effects observed in people handling and living near Bt crops."

A ten year study in Australia on peas (Pisum sativum) genetically modified to contain a gene from the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. Tendergreen) resulted in detrimental effects on the health of laboratory rats. The mice developed antibodies specific to the protein, hypersensitive skin response, airway inflammation and mild lung damage.

"Are we to understand that the Government has gone mad with its budget surplus that it will allow its CRI to jeopardise the health of New Zealanders and agricultural economy of the farming sector by allowing GM broccoli,cabbage and cauliflowerfield trials? "

GE Free NZ requests that the government call in the Crop and Food the application.

ENDS

References:
Wrightsons submission to MAF on protocol for seed testing."Brassica Cross pollination", Dr Stewart Gowers, Forage Brassica breeder, Crop and Food Research.

RI Vazquez Padron et al (1999) Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice. Life Sciences, 64, 1897-1912.

A Pusztai (2001) Genetically modified foods: are they a risk to human/animal health? http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/pusztai.html (and in press).

Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh) Investigation Report, Oct - Dec 2005, www.GMWatch_org.htm

Mortality in Sheep Flocks after grazing on Bt Cotton fields, – Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh,Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April, 2006 www.GMWatch_org.htm

Chowdhury EH, Kuribara H, Hino A, Sultana P, Mikami O, Shimada N, Guruge KS, Saito M, Nakajima Y. Detection of corn intrinsic and recombinant DNA fragments and Cry1Ab protein in the gastrointestinal contents of pigs fed Genetically modified corn Bt11. J. Animal Science 2003, 81, 2546-51

Vanessa E. Prescott, Peter M. Campbell, Andrew Moore, Joerg Mattes, Marc E. Rothenberg, Paul S. Foster, T. J. V. Higgins, and Simon P. Hogan*, Transgenic _Expression of Bean -Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005, vol 53 (23), p 9023-9030.

ENDS

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