GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 29th  February 2004

Scientist breaks protocol with urgent warning on GE food

A leading scientist and former member of Norway's Royal Commission on GM has broken with protocol by warning of serious health risks from GE foods implicated in three new studies. The Director of the Norwegian Institute for Gene Ecology- Professor Terje Traavik - also an expert witness at New Zealand's Royal Commission on GM- has gone public with the warning even though it may be months before the findings are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Data from three groups of studies being conducted by the Norwegian Institute for Gene Ecology, in Troms�, reveal potentially serious health dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods and vaccines. GE Free NZ in food and environment backs Professor Traavik's decision to speak out in the public interest.

The new findings put regulators like ERMA and both the Food Standards and Food Safety Authorities on notice that they cannot continue to ignore the growing evidence that GM foods already approved have been insufficiently studied and should be withdrawn.

" Monsanto has applied for an approval to sell us GE wheat, on top of a score of other GE foods that have been rubber-stamped for sale in New Zealand. This new scientific evidence adds to existing scientific concerns, that the regulatory assessments have been a sham," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"A very dark cloud is now hanging over the whole process of GE food regulation," says Mr Carapiet. "We want the New Zealand government to take urgent action to stop GE food approvals."

Explaining his decision to speak out Professor Traavik said "Publication of results typically requires a waiting period of up to one year or more. With such evidence of possible human health impacts of (GM) foods already on the market, we believed that waiting to report our findings through publication would not be in the public�s interest."

One of the three studies links a form of BT maize (Dekalb 818 YG) grown in the Philippines to allergenic reactions in farming families living close by.

Another study revealed that cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter, used in most GM foods, was found intact in rat tissues two hours, six hours, and three days after it was mixed into a single meal, and it was also confirmed to be active in human cells. 

In a third study genetically engineered pox viruses in cell cultures recombined with natural viruses to create new hybrid viruses with unpredictable and potentially dangerous characteristics.

Professor Traavik acknowledged that unpublished results are considered preliminary, but the findings, he said, are considered reliable and warrant immediate investigation.

It is to be expected that Professor Traavik will be criticised by the pro-GE lobby for not waiting for peer-review. GE Free NZ in food and environment reject such criticism as part of a concerted effort to suppress scientific debate and the study of risks from GE foods. 

If the GM-industry say they support sound science they should voluntarily withdraw GM foods from the global food supply until they are comprehensively tested and a system of regulation is established to prevent these experimental products permanently contaminating the food supply and the open environment.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

Back to Press Release Directory

Contact: Terje Traavik, PhD +47 9581 7537,,
see also: Filipino farmers show GM pollen reaction, says scientist (Reuters)
'First evidence' of GM health-risk (Farmers Weekly interactive - registration required)
Scientists suspect health threat from GM maize John Vidal, environment editor

Back to Press Release Directory