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GE "Dialogue" Research a 'Waste of Time'

Thu, 9 Dec 2004

GE "Dialogue" Research a 'Waste of Time'

New research showing many scientists agree with public opposition to environmental GE release is welcome information. But the research will be a waste of time unless the Government reflects the findings in policy change.

The study "Hands Across the Waters" by Karen Cronin, Research Fellow in Environmental Studies and Dr Laurie Jackson, Director of the Environmental Studies Programme in the School of Earth Sciences, received funding from MORST and interviewed more than 60 scientists and members of community interest groups.

The researchers found some surprising results: Both scientists and community groups showed greater support for keeping GMOs under contained conditions, than for the release of GMOs into the environment.

"I am not surprised by the level of agreement," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment." What the research shows is that many scientists agree that containment of GE organisms is the most practical approach to precautionary science and ethical uses of the technology.It is a urgent message for the government to reinstate the moratorium on GE-release."

The study will be a waste of time unless policy changes are made to fill the "Policy gap" identified by the researchers in their report.

Community concern for ethical controls have been deliberately sidelined by the Bio-Ethics Council being given no statutory role to influence ERMA. Yet this study shows many scientists do not support GE release and express concern about the potential effects of GM on the environment and society, and the ethical dimensions.

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The researchers say they "found a significant 'crossover' in opinion between scientists and the community about the risks of GM, why it is being developed, who will benefit, and how we should make decisions about its use. In some respects, there were greater differences within the science sector than between the science sector and the general public".

It is ironic that just as research show real concern amongst some scientists about GM, ERMA is awaiting a HighCourt decision on ERMA's refusal to monitor the soil at the PPL Sheep farm where thousands of transgenic sheep were run prior to the collapse of the company.

The Court was told that some of the sheep had been "accidentally missed" in the cull and were discovered living on the property after the operation had been closed and signed off. ERMA had to write to the farm-managers to tell them some sheep were still alive and to destroy them.

"It is criminal that basic science like soil testing is still being argued about. This is why New Zealanders don't want the risks of environmental release, and why clear liabilty laws like those passed in Germany this week are being demanded," says Mr Carapiet.


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