Evidence presented by international scientists at a conference in China is a warning for New Zealand to keep GE out of the food system, and to focus on understanding the cultural values driving demand for New Zealand food overseas.
Scientists at the International Conference on Ethnic Food Cultures and Food Safety, Kunming, China presented on a broad range of topics from ethnic and cultural values of food, to the evidence of harm caused by genetically engineered (GE) foods.
"China showed great leadership in opening up the debate on GE foods by inviting a group of leading scientists and doctors to present evidence about the cultural, environmental and serious health problems of GE food," said GE-Free NZ president Claire Bleakley, who attended the conference.
The conference line-up of world class scientists included experts from New Zealand. Professor Jack Heinemann from Canterbury presented a 50-year comparison of agricultural methods in the US and Europe that shows the introduction of GE plants has impacted negatively on yields, diversity and pesticide use across America. (1)
His study shows reductions in diversity, yield and sustainable farming practices since five commercial GE food crops (soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets) became commercialised in the US.
"This is stark warning for big players like Federated Farmers and Fonterra and the government that they must listen to customers and provide what the market is demanding. At the moment they are pushing in the wrong direction by following what vested interests in the biotechnology sector want to produce," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.
"The performance indicators overseas and worldwide consumer demand for GE- free food show that there would be a negative impact on the economic viability of any farmers growing GE food here."
Other scientists warned about resistance in weeds and insects which has become catastrophic for farmers.
High levels of pesticides are being sprayed on the plants in an effort to control invading pests and weeds that have become resistant. UK scientist Dr. Mae Wan Ho said dangerous levels of these pesticides are now being detected in the urine of animals and humans.(2)
The results of the longest animal feeding study conducted on GE foods were also presented to the conference in China.
French scientist Professor Gilles Seralini presented shocking evidence of harm to the health of animals eating GE foods identified in a groundbreaking lifetime feeding studies on rats. The study found severe stomach inflammation, liver and kidney and endocrine disruption, reproductive failure and formation of tumors. (3)
U.S. Scientist Professor Don Huber reported on the nutritional deficiencies detected in GE food, caused by the chelation of vital trace minerals like manganese, cobalt and copper. This has accompanied a rise in soil borne pathogenic moulds.(4)
Professor Huber also showed that GE industry advocates were wrong when they claimed GE crops should be used in New Zealand because of the drought. Professor Huber revealed the poor performance of water-hungry GE plants in the U.S. drought of 2012, when GE maize yielded only 26 bushels /acre and conventionally grown maize yielded 109 bushels per acre.
The need for developing countries to benefit from ecological agricultural practices was explained by Indian expert Dr. Vandana Shiva. She warned that the failure of GE crops locally increased levels of indebtedness and was reflected in the 250,000 farmer suicides. She focused on superior yield and nutritional values of plants that farmers selected from high performing plants that survived the extremes of climate, thereby preserving diversity and traits that will feed their communities in the future. (5)
�The headline message from the conference in China is for New Zealand to ensure its food security and continue to prohibit the contaminating and ecologically damaging use of GE seed, � said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.
�The food we grow and eat should sustain and enhance our health, today and in future generations. For this to happen New Zealand must avoid the threat from monocultures, GE contamination, and corruption of government policy and move to sustainable, climate-smart, low pesticide resilient farming methods based on ecological systems-thinking.�
1. Heinemann J., Massaro M., Coray D., Apapito-Tenfen S. & Wen J (2013) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14735903.2013.806408#.UeX5qVOw525
2. Ban GMO�s now http://www.i-sis.org.uk/index.php
3. Seralini. G-E., Clair. E., Mesnage. R., Gress. S., Defarge. N., Malatesta. M,. Hennequin. D. and de Vendomois. JS. (2012) Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicity. Vol: 50, (11) 4221�4231
4. Professor Emeritus D. Huber http://farmandranchfreedom.org/bio-dr-don-m-huber/
5. Dr. Vandana Shiva talks on Seed Freedom http://seedfreedom.in/
Jon Carapiet 021 0507681 - National spokesman
Claire Bleakely - 027 3486731 / 06 308 9842 - President, GE-free NZ