02/12/2013

Public Support GE-Free Zones

 

There is strong public support for protecting GE-free production in New Zealand, as scientists debate the growing evidence of safety risks from GE.

The debate in the scientific community has taken a new turn with the withdrawal of four papers from respected Journals in the past month. Disputes between independent scientists and industry-funded scientists have continued as new evidence has emerged about the impact of GMOs on health and the environment.

Three papers on the development of recombinant (GE) techniques to immunize plants and animals against infection or to disrupt virulence activities, by Dr. Pamela Ronald (UCLA Davis), who visited New Zealand promoting a pro GE stance, were voluntarily withdrawn because the conclusions were based on serious errors. It was found that there were data missing and that the wrong viral strain had been identified; one which also produced mutant strains. This is a significant error, in particular because the findings had been picked up and relied on for other academic papers. [1], [2], [3]

Another paper by Professor Seralini found that rats fed on GE corn variety NK603 over their lifetime developed serious health effects (hepatic, immune and renal), resulting in a higher incidence of serious cancerous tumours. The new editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), Dr. A. Wallace Hayes, withdrew the Seralini paper due to the small number and the strain of rats used in the research. However the editor Dr. Hayes conceded that an examination of Prof Séralini’s raw data showed “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data”, and that there was nothing “incorrect” about the data. These concessions and the fact that similar strains of rat have been used by Industry doing its own short-term testing, call into question the withdrawal of the paper. There is now a question whether the new editor's withdrawal violates the guidelines for retractions in scientific publishing set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

“Are these retractions and scientific uncertainties going to lead to a rethink by authorities about the safety of genetic engineering trials?” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-free NZ in food and environment.

"Our food safety authority FSANZ has made decisions on over 75 food varieties and has relied on the Industry data that has used these rats”. [4]

Globally consumer concerns around GE are high, including in our major export markets. In New Zealand many Councils are considering their ability to reflect community and exporter concerns in their Regional and District plans. In The Bay of Plenty an Environmental Court case was heard last week, to establish if Councils are able to signal GE as an emerging issue in their regional policy statement. Crown Research Institute Scion, based in Rotorua, has challenged the Council's approach despite the support for precaution amongst most New Zealanders.

A poll run by Pure Hawkes Bay of 1000 people found that 83% of respondents thought it was either important or very important for “New Zealand’s reputation to remain GE Free in food production".

Furthermore, 79% of respondent’s agreed that local councils should be allowed to keep their districts GE-free, and 78% want councils to be able to “make those who trial or use GM crops pay for the costs of GM contamination". [5]

“There is uncertainty and confusion around the science that our regulators have previously relied on. If data have been withdrawn due to the wrong strain of rat being used it shows previous assessment of safety of GE is unreliable. Until the scientific community can produce robust results that regulators, governments and the community can rely on, GE must be kept out of the open environment. Those GE foods previously approved must be withdrawn and a full reassessment made, including proper empirical research that is scientifically credible," said Claire Bleakley.

[1] http://retractionwatch.com/2013/10/10/ronald-science/

[2] http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029192

[3] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5954/850.figures-only

[4] http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15184-journal-retraction-of-seralini-study-is-illicit-unscientific-and-unethical

[5] http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1311/S01059/let-local-authorities-decide-on-gm-free-status--new-poll.htm

[6] Motavalli PP, Kremer RJ, Fang M, Means NE. Impact of genetically modified crops and their management on soil microbially mediated plant nutrient transformations. J Environ Qual. 2004;33(3):816-24.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15224915

ENDS:

Claire Bleakley - 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731

Jon Carapiet 0210507681

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