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Call For Politicians To Keep Regulation On Gene Editing

Politicians from all parties are being asked to ensure there are strict regulations on Genetically Engineered Organisms (GE/GMO), including Gene Editing.

There is media hype and exaggeration of the accuracy and safety of Gene Editing (GE) promoted by industry lobbyists and some so-called science organisations. Research shows there are significant risks to New Zealand's bio-security, health, and reputation if Gene Editing is exempted from regulation

"The published science shows we cannot be confident in sweeping claims of precision or safety," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment).

The unexpected collateral effects of Gene Editing are emerging in published scientific papers and strongly support New Zealand taking the precautionary approach.

New Zealand's standards are some of the best in the world and have protected the country from negative outcomes of Genetic Engineering experienced overseas.

The public expects and wants Gene Editing to be regulated. So do overseas consumers seeking safe food from New Zealand. To exempt Gene Edited animals and plants from regulation is not in the national or public interest.

“New Zealand’s regulation of Gene Editing is needed to protect our export reputation for safe, high quality food,” said Mr Carapiet.


20 Years of the GE-Debate in New Zealand

There are comprehensive and robust regulations on Genetic Engineering in New Zealand for Government and Councils. Following a Royal Commission supporting GE regulation, New Zealand has been protected from wide spread contamination as well as weed and insect resistance problems experienced overseas.

The High Court in New Zealand decided the law regulating genetic engineering covers GE techniques.

The majority of farmers oppose the introduction of GE into the farming systems. This was reinforced by submitters at the select committee hearing on the Organic Bill, insisting that GE prohibition must be a bottom line written into the Bill.

GMOs have been around for 22 years and Gene Editing technologies have been around for eight years. Both have shown many unintended consequences from laboratory manipulation of the genetic code.

New Zealand could suffer serious economic damage from deregulation of GE. The European Court of Justice ruled that organisms obtained by directed mutagenesis (GE) techniques are to be regarded as genetically modified organisms.[1]

Research has shown many off target effects, including genes mistakenly silenced and changes to proteins. [2]

Such effects result in unexpected outcomes even at the intended site of genetic modification which pose safety questions.[3]

Gene Editing can override natural repair of DNA in areas normally protected from mutagenesis.[4]

GE animals suffer from birth defects and chronic health problems, some being found dead in their paddock for no apparent reason.[5]

GE Potatoes have significant alterations to their mineral and vitamin content, and there are concerns about toxins produced as a protective response to damage.[6]

CRISPR gene editing in rice varieties caused a wide range of undesirable and unintended on-target and off-target mutations. Studies confirm that undesirable and unintended on-target and off-target mutations seen in gene-edited animal and human cells also occur in plants.[7]


[1] Gelinksky E and Hilbeck A (2018). European Court of Justice ruling regarding new genetic engineering methods scientifically justified: a commentary on the biased reporting about the recent ruling. Environmental Sciences Europe 30(1):52. https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-018-0182-9 (open access)

[2]Genome Editing in Food and Farming; risks and Unexpected Consequences(2020) https://cban.ca/wp-content/uploads/Genome-Editing-Report-2020.pdf

[3] Kawall K (2019). New possibilities on the horizon: Genome editing makes the whole genome accessible for changes. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10:525. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00525. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2019.00525/full

[4] Frish T, (2019) Interview: DR. CAIUS ROMMENS QUESTIONS BIOTECHNOLOGY SAFETY, Acres USA. https://www.ecofarmingdaily.com/rethinking-pandoras-potatoes/

[5] GE Animals in New Zealand: The First 15 Years. https://www.gefree.org.nz/assets/pdf/GE-Animals-in-New-Zealand.pdf

[6] Tuladhar R et al (2019). CRISPR-Cas9-based mutagenesis frequently provokes on-target mRNA misregulation. Nature Communications vol 10, Article number: 4056, 6 Sept. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12028-5

[7] Biswas S et al (2020). Investigation of CRISPR/Cas9-induced SD1 rice mutants highlights the importance of molecular characterization in plant molecular breeding. Journal of Genetics and Genomics. May 21. doi:10.1016/j.jgg.2020.04.004. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1673852720300916

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