Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

GM Contamination Suspicion Remains Strong

Peter R Wills, University of Auckland

14 July 2002

The results and papers released by the Government do not lay to rest the suspicion that GE-contaminated corn was planted and harvested in New Zealand. If anything, they increase the suspicion.

On the day that ERMA presented its analysis of results (5 December 2000), GeneScan Australia, one of the testing companies wrote to Novartis seeds saying "Our experiences in qualitative testing leads us to believe the samples received contain trace amounts of GM sweet corn."

The probable contaminant is even identified by the testing firm: ".. one may draw the conclusion that samples received at GeneScan Australia from Novrtis Seeds do contain trace-contaminating levels of Bt11."

I would categorically contradict any scientist who said there was no suspicion of contamination on the basis of the test results. Four samples tested positive for the nos terminator which is found in BT11 and two of only three samples tested for the Cry1A construct from BT11 gave ambiguous results.

The instability of results obtained by testing for the 35S promoter has been widely discussed in the literature (see below), so failure to find this genetic construct cannot lay suspicion of contamination to rest. "Two knobs" are not required suspicion, especially when one of the "knobs" is the 35S promoter.

Scientists have a responsibility to point out uncertainties where they exist, not to present their political masters with a convenient air of authority. It would appear that the inept collusion between government, industry and scientific interests described in Hager's book is continuing

The genetic testing produced suspicion of contamination with BT11 corn, a suspicion that has never been resolved.

Just as a false positive for a tumour can only be satisfactorily resolved by finding a cyst, a false positive for GM corn can only be resolved by identifying another contaminant (like a bacterium), or by performing a proper standardised control experiment on material known to be contaminated at a specified level.

It has never been shown that the positive results from genetic testing of corn imported and sown in New Zealand were false. The further tests needed to establish clarity were not done.

[Working at the limits of sensitivity of detection (as the tests clearly were) results can be inconsistent. Detection of the 35S promoter is particularly troublesome, especially in maize. As the level of contamination decreases from 1% to 0.1% the error rate goes up from 3.5% to 16% and is expected to be worse if the level of contamination is even lower. This is the conclusion of a wide European collaboration in the field. Taiwanese workers have stated in a paper about detection of GM maize "According to our study and studies from other laboratories, an unstable result constantly occurred using the 35S-promoter primer to perform a PCR analysis on Event176 GM-maize. The reason is unclear. On the basis of this result, the 35S-promoter primer was not used for the screening test".]

Last week I lectured at the NGO "Asian Genetic Engineering Workshop" in Chiang Mai, Thailand (14 countries represented). The most two significant points of discussion at the workshop were:

1) There are no significantly new GE crops on the horizon, except for low-nicotine tobacco. Extending New Zealand's moratorium on commercial release for 5 years will have the effect only of keeping out herbicide-resistant, Bt and combination crops (in addition to the tobaaco). There are no new consumer-benefit crops or GE-foods on the horizon.

2) The US is aggressively pursuing a policy of linking acceptance of GE crop technology to economic assistance in the Asian region. New Zealand is most unlikely to be able to negotiate a free trade agreement with the US if the moratorium is extended. --


Peter R Wills
Associate Professor
Department of Physics
University of Auckland

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Our (Fatal?) Shortage Of Ventilators

With a few honourable exceptions there has been a striking lack of focus on the (insufficient) number of ventilators in our intensive care units – and an almost complete absence of overt urgency about acquiring and/or building more of them. Ventilators are literally the difference between life and death for seriously ill Covid-19 patients. Arguably, this shortfall is more vital than having enough PPE gowns, masks and gloves, important as those are...More>>

 
 


Police Commissioner: Christchurch Terrorist Pleads Guilty

Police acknowledge the guilty pleas in the Christchurch Mosque attacks prosecution that were entered in the Christchurch High Court today. The guilty pleas to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist ... More>>

ALSO:

Government: Nation Steps Up To COVID-19 Alert Level 2

New Zealand has been moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2, Reduce Contact, in an escalation of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today... More>>

ALSO:

COVID-19: Business Response Package

Cabinet today approved the development of a Business Continuity Package to help support the economy through the disruption caused by COVID-19. “New Zealand is well-placed to respond to COVID-19. More>>

ALSO:


Transport: $54 billion Investment In Draft GPS 2021

The Draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) 2021 on land transport confirms that the Government will invest a record $54 billion in its balanced transport policy over the next decade. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Loss Of Abortion Safe Zones

No doubt, last night’s defeat of abortion law reform provisions that would have created safe zones around abortion clinics will be portrayed, by some, as a victory for free speech. It isn’t. It was a victory for bigotry and intimidation directed ... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On National's Regulation Crusade

Lets step back in time now, to simpler days and to simple-minded solutions. So…. if National gets elected, landlords will once again be able to evict tenants at will, raise rents anytime they like, and ignore the need to install a healthy standard of heating in the homes they put out to rent. This promised ‘bonfire of regulations’ is being done in the name of cutting red tape... More>>

ALSO:

SMC - Expert Reaction: PF2050 Strategy

DOC has released a strategy to reach Predator Free 2050, along with an action plan through to 2025. The predator-free goal focuses on three groups of mammals: possums, three species of rats, plus stoats, ferrets and weasels... More>>

ALSO:


Land, Air And Sea: Regions To Benefit From NZ Upgrade

Regional New Zealand will be a hive of activity in the coming months as the New Zealand Upgrade Programme delivers on its promise to modernise our infrastructure, prepare for climate change and help grow our economy. As part of the $12 billion ... More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 


 

InfoPages News Channels