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UN requires regulatory assessment of gene drives


UN requires regulatory assessment of gene drives

The United Nations, Convention on Biological Diversity decision has mandated that gene drives (GE) must undergo a thorough regulatory risk assessment using scientifically sound case-by-case risk assessments before an environmental release [1]. This confirms New Zealand legislation is correct in requiring regulatory assessment on GE technologies.

However, some New Zealand scientists are collectively pressuring to removal of regulatory assessment on new gene editing (GE) technologies.

“The relentless promotion of gene editing has become a way of deflecting the terrible failures of the first (GMO.1) foray into genetic manipulation. Gene editing is only 5 years old and has never been subject to genomic profiling or feeding trials to see if it is safe to eat,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.

Dr Andrew Allan Plant and Food’s spokesperson for GE red apples continues to pursue expensive and unproven technology of gene editing as well as promoting the removal of GE regulation and is ignoring overseas success in traditional breeding techniques. Lubera, a Swiss company, who have bred without gene editing (GE) or transgenic engineering, many varieties of red-fleshed apples that are sweet, tangy crispy and scab resistant. These are now on the market for both the home gardener and commercial producers [2] [3]

NZ Plant and Food, previously called Crop and Food, was involved in many GMO field trails. All have failed or been closed down due to breaches and a cavalier attitude of some of their scientists, costing the taxpayer many thousands of dollars. [4] [5]

“After the many failures and breaches of field trials it is difficult to understand their aversion to undergoing regulatory safety protocols. Further it is hard to trust that the researcher attitude, and desire for ownership of patents will prioritise food safety testing or prevention of GMO contamination,” said Mrs. Bleakley.

The need for regulation is an essential for any type of manipulation of genes. It is right that the Environment Minister David Parker says that proper regulation will not be relaxed for the genetic editing techniques and that they will, in line with UN and European legislation, be regulated as genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) under the Hazardous Substances and New organisms Act (HSNO).

The agenda for investment in agricultural research needs to be revised to focus on new systems for sustainable, climate smart farming. New Zealand regulations have protected the country from the dangers and human errors of GMOs. These regulations must be kept in place and we continue to be proud to be able to sell food that is GE Free.
[1] United Nations, CBD/COP/14/L31 - Synthetic biology https://www.cbd.int/doc/c/2c62/5569/004e9c7a6b2a00641c3af0eb/cop-14-l-31-en.pdf
[2] History of Red fleshed apples. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsRZBa-WYlk
[3] Breeding of Red fleshed Apples https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkHZVPtoNuM
[4] Brassica Breaches Plant and Food, now Crop and Food http://www.gefree.org.nz/ge-breaches/
[5] GM field trial activity http://purehawkesbay.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/GM-Field-trial-activity-in-NZ-since-19981.pdf


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