GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 30th  May 2004

Concern at ERMA "“delegates" approval of new GM food experiments

Approvals to develop a genetically engineered range of food crops in New Zealand has raised alarm that ERMA has delegated decisions to local organizations that are even more poorly equipped to consider complex issues than ERMA itself.

Auckland-based biotech company Genesis has been given permission to develop genetically modified plants, many that are common foods- Maize, wheat, barley, rice, apple, tomato, carrot, pumpkin, cucumber, melon, all brassica species, and kiwifruit as well as tobacco, ryegrass, choko, fescue grass, gum, Zinnia, pine, and petunia.

ERMA did not even make the approval but delegated it to the Genesis IBSC.

“There is real concern about the lack of accountability and public input on such experiments in New Zealand,” says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "ERMA seems to be relinquishing control of its ‘low risk’ application process."

It is understood the gene constructs will include gene- sequences known to be genetically unstable and which independent scientists have explicitly warned against using.

As concerning is the use of antibiotic resistance markers in the GE organisms. This practice has been widely criticized by medical professionals as adding to the risks of antibiotic resistance in medical use- making diseases untreatable.

The experiments propose using genes resistant to ampicillin, kanamycin and neomycin. 

There is a range of objectives for the experiments but Genetic engineering of food-stuffs with the aim of producing pharmaceuticals would be in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on GM.

“The issue is one of basic accountability to the New Zealand public and a strategic vision for biotechnology that guides what is appropriate and not appropriate moving forward,” says Mr. Carapiet.

“Wider discussion and consultation should be required before approving experimental genetic engineering of foods when there is no market for them for human consumption, when there are serious scientific concerns that are being ignored, and when they could undermine our marketing image”

This week it was revealed pharmaceuticals from US maize was already being sold, after genetically modified: Pharm crops” had been commercially grown at secret locations without public knowledge and without being required to be approved by government agencies.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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References;
ERMA The Bulletin issue 54, April 2004.
GMD04033 includes GMD 003008-025 AND 04044 includes 003076-003101 THAT IS
42 PLANTS being GM with genes from plants able to be sourced throughout NZ. ERMA did not make the approval but delegated it to the Genesis IBSC.

The plants that will be modified are Zinnia, Maize, wheat, pine, petunia, choko, rice, tobacco, apple, tomato, ryegrass, barley, fescue grass, gum, carrot, pumpkin, cucumber, melon, all brassica species, and kiwifruit and we do not even know if they are using more than one gene construct in one plant. 

The genes come from: Zinnia. Maize, wheat, pine, petunia, choko, rice, tobacco, apple, tomato, ryegrass, barley, fescue grass, gum, carrot, pumpkin, cucumber, melon, all brassica species, kiwifruit and are put together with 35S CaMV and ampicillin resistance and kanamycin and neomycin.

Also trees are being developed to plant stage from Willow species, Poplar species, sugar cane, switchgrass. The DNA cannot come from NZ macro flora or microflora, however even though we have these trees in our land they are sourcing the genetic material from overseas. They are all approved to plant stage in PC1 or PC2 containment.

ERMA itself has also approved Genesis Research applications (approval codes 003008-26) - to modify willow, poplar, sugarcane, switchgrass and sorghum wildtype plants.

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