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GM food scare inappropriate says professor

NEWS FROM LINCOLN UNIVERSITY
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GM food scare inappropriate says biotechnology professor

Raising a “food scare” around gene technology is inappropriate and counter productive,” says Professor of Plant Biotechnology Brian Jordan of Lincoln University.

The professor believes that instead of giving rise to fear, gene technology should be used to drive the ‘knowledge economy’ through the expertise New Zealand has in biological systems.

Professor Jordan says that the best approach for New Zealand is an integrated one - using the “best practice” approaches of conventional plant research and breeding, genetic engineering and organics.

“As part of an integrated approach, biotechnology can provide a wide range of benefits and will play a major role in ensuring global food security in the 21st century.”

Professor Jordan said that the term “genetic modification” seemed to act like a “lightning conductor” for a range of public concerns over GM food safety.

“These include concerns over health risks such as new allergens and antibiotic resistance, social and political fears about biotechnology companies and globalisation, consumer fears based on previous failures to manage other food safety issues such as BSE, plus ethical, cultural and religious worries and environmental issues.

“Such concern is however in complete contrast to the present scientific understanding of risks from genetic modification.

“The evidence of food safety risks presented to the Royal Commission was focused on a few examples such as Dr Arpad Pusztai’s research, the 1989 Showa Denko L-tryptophan case and the Klebsiella scenario.

“These examples have been extensively investigated and have limited, if any, credibility.

“The findings of the Royal Commission are consistent with the view of world authorities such as OECD, WHO, FAO and Codex Alimentarius, all of which have found no evidence for health risks in the period that GM food has been available.

“In addition, professional food societies (IFST in New Zealand, IFT in the United States and IFST in the United Kingdom) recognise the value of GM technology and support the responsible introduction on a case by case assessment.”

Professor Jordan says that no food products have been so extensively tested as GM foods and there was an unequivocal body of evidence supporting the safety of gene technology.

End

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