01/03/2010

Time to Stop the Clock on Application For Thousands of Unknown GMO Organisms.

 

GE-Free NZ (in Food and Environment) today called for an immediate halt to ERMA proceedings set to give indefinite approval for a range of unknown genetically engineered organisms based on New Zealand’s major food-production animals: sheep and cows, as well as goats.

The call for a stop to the hearings follows legal and scientific argument that the unknown genetic combination and unknown purposes of the millions of different genetically engineered organisms that could be created and kept outdoors, means there is no credible way to assess risks, including that of creating potentially lethal new diseases.

Dr. Judith Carman an expert witness for GE Free NZ outlined to ERMA the deficiencies of the application, including the fact that there is no identification of a GMO, but rather the option to make potentially thousands of unidentified GMO’s.

Dr Carmen said there have been few details of the biological material to be used expect in the most general terms, that is: hundreds of different strains of E. Coli bacteria, hundreds of different plasma vectors, hundreds of different animal species, tens of different invertebrate species, a species of frog, tens of different fish species, over a thousand different plant species, tens of fungi species, tens of bacteria species, tens of protozoa species, thousands of different viruses and hundreds of mammalian cell lines (including human cell lines).

It follows that without an identifiable GM organism, the expression of the foreign nucleic acid material is also not provided. But given the breadth of Appendix II, the expressions that may occur run into the thousands or millions, and most would remain unknown, even to the applicant itself. Without this information it is impossible to assess the potential for diseases to spread into the environment through air, soil and water.

“This has already happened with a genetically engineered replication-deficient Foot and Mouth organism which caused a major export close down in the UK, and cost millions to trace and clean up,” says Claire Bleakey, President of GE free NZ in Food and Environment. "The vague generalities and open-ended nature of this application is not what the public expect from a responsible regulatory authority.“

“It runs in the face of clear guidelines for a distinct GM organism to be provided for the public, independent scientists and ERMA itself to be able to consider. We believe that this is a fair expectation that is provided in the law. How can New Zealanders make an informed comment that helps to support our community and children’s future when we are not given the most basic information?"

Dr. Carmen has shown that the risks are not all known or able to be managed and that this poses a serious danger to the environment. Because of this, the application is non-compliant in light of the High Court decision on such applications and GE-Free NZ calls for an immediate cessation of proceedings.

ENDS.

Jon Carapiet: 021 0507681

Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731

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