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G E Debate

24 October 2001

G E Debate

The Government’s decision on the royal Commission’s Report on Genetic Engineering is in danger of being hijacked by emotion and political manoeuvring. Christian Heritage urges open and free discussion of all aspects.

Genetic Engineering covers two broad fields:

1. Transgenics – this is the transfer of genetic material from one species into another to achieve a particular characteristic.
2. ‘Gene Marker’ technology – by identifying the gene combination for a particular trait, and the use of DNA tests to verify its presence, the selection process can be hastened.

Christian Heritage continues to be concerned about the implications of both these developments. The new genetic material introduced by transgenics may combine with the host’s genes to produce negative traits.

The main concern with gene marker technology is that if used extensively for one particular trait, the genetic base of the species will be narrowed, limiting the ability of breeders to counter negative traits.

“Transgenics obviously is not a natural process, whereas it could be argued that Gene Marker technology could simply enhance normal breeding programmes, “ Grant Bradfield, Christian Heritage’s Agricultural Spokesperson said.

“Further,” he said, “the other major issue is that of marketing. We have an export based agricultural industry and farmers have had it drummed into them that the customer is always right even when they are wrong! We cannot afford to put ourselves offside by the use of technology that is abhorrent to the customer. The European market is showing considerable resistance to G E products whereas America is quite accepting.

“There are tremendous opportunities to increase production but also major pitfalls. Christian Heritage believes that Government is correct to show caution, but that decisions should be made on facts,” Mr Bradfield concluded.

In the light of current knowledge Mr Bradfield recommends:

1. That transgenics be banned from the agricultural export industry.

2. That the export industry be more forthcoming in explaining the wishes of the market place so that industry wide decisions can be made.

3. That we uphold our clean, green untampered marketing image.

4. That we have mandatory labelling for all G E products.

5. That efforts be made to maintain the genetic diversity of our farming species.

6. That mandatory testing of G E organisms for negative traits be compulsory before their release.

END

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