A new database designed to help avoid any costly mistakes from releasing "harmful technologies" risks ignoring existing evidence and ' losing sight of the wood for the trees'.
AgResearch, HortResearch and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research are putting together a computer data base to help model risk assessment scenarios and to try and predict how GE will act.
In 2005 Drs Weaver and Morris published a comprehensive bibliography with hundreds of articles highlighting the safety and pollution concerns relating to the release of GE from reliable scientific sources. We already have enough credible research on the harmful effects of GE to signal it is time to restore the moratorium on environmental GE release.
"Four and an half million taxpayers dollars is a lot of money for GE proponents to support their bias and build a computer programme with pretty pictures that could give us a rule of thumb on what might happen," says Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment.
"It looks like a waste of money when we need scarce R&D money to go to genuinely needed GE research into HGT, health and environmental effects, and the development of diagnostic tools for detection of GE. How can they spend this money when they claim the do not have funds for evaluating containment sites that are already polluting our environment with GE organisms".
The much-needed evaluations of failed field trials already carried out in New Zealand are conspicuously missing from the plan. The research will have little New Zealand data on the failed trial on thousands of GE sheep created but then destroyed by PPL, because there was no data gathered on the environmental or health effects, changes in soil, or HGT, even though it was sought ten years ago.
New Zealand has allowed GE animals to roam 500 acres, yet the safety parameters around the long term contamination of the site are conspicuously absent.
The GE Pine tree experiment mentioned in the Crown Research Institutes' plans has had a major set back in the fact that the GE Norway Spruce trees (Picea abies) were stunted and diseased and the experiment was been disposed of by auto claving. How will this be evaluated, or is the plan to ignore such data?
In America GE pollution is already rife and nearly all processed food is likely to have low level contamination.
"We need to ask our selves 'Do we want this scenario in New Zealand?'" says Ms Bleakley.
"Official surveys show most New Zealanders agree that GE is definitely not the way to go. We already have good resistant seed and animal stock through years of quality breeding. We must keep focused on the traditional ways of production to secure our export markets and a clean-green future."
Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842
GM research project targets cost and safety, NZ HERALD, Monday May 29, 2006, By Stephen Ward
Weaver S. & Morris M., (2005) Risks associated with Genetic Modification: an annotated bibliography of peer reviewed natural science publications. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics,18: 157-189).