NZ And EU Reject Gene Edited Organisms; Government Urged To Ensure Strong GE Regulation

Published: Sun 31 Jan 2021 04:23 PM
New Zealanders and Europeans have overwhelmingly rejected the genetically engineered new biotechnology (NBT) of gene editing and gene drives, a form of genetic engineering.
In 2019 Dr. Maui Hudson, Waikato University, [1] released a report and survey of 800 people on Indigenous Perspectives and gene editing. The results found that the majority of Maori and Pakeha participants were strongly opposed to any commercial release of gene-edited organisms and believed that we need strong regulation. [1]
A just released EU survey of 9000 people on gene drives (GD) found there was overwhelming support for a moratorium on gene drive technology. The respondents said that the risks are too high as there is no scientifically proven research to show that GDs are safe and pose no risk. [2]
“Even though the survey found a majority of people were strongly opposed to these suite of GE technologies, New Zealand is still being strongly lobbied and pressured to adopt them,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ
All genetic engineering technologies are devised in laboratories to alter natural processes of plants and animals. The reconstructions have mutations, unexpected off target effects and unproven safety record. If released they pose high risk to the environment and all living organisms.
Gene Editing was first developed as a tool by bio-technicians to alter organisms. GE cuts the double strand helix of DNA and either leaving them to heal or splicing a modified construct to create a change in the organism genetic profile. Gene Drives alter, through gene editing, the genetic makeup of an organism. These manipulations cause sterility or death at a certain stage of the development of the organism and can be inherited for generations. One of the biggest unknown risk effects is what would happen if the inherited gene jump to other organisms causing mass sterility of pest and non-pest animals.
The climate crisis today was started by past generations who did not heed the warnings about fossil fuel overuse; pesticide toxicity; the destruction of forests for monoculture plantations endangering wild life; ocean degradation from over fishing, bottom trawling and plastic pollution that is destroying fish and birds breeding grounds.
“The hype around the need for GE solutions for New Zealand is not productive for sustainable climate change debate. By adding GE to the mix we could be further unleashing unexpected pandemic problems onto our children and future generations to try and mitigate.” said Bleakley “ It is important to focus on sustainable safe existing solutions and not be tempted to unleash the unknown monsters of Pandora’s box.”
New Zealand is GE free in its environment and a leading innovator of sustainable agricultural farming. Farmers have implemented major improvements to mitigate climate change and pollution with the introduction of regenerative organic agricultural solutions. It is pleasing that our Government supports regenerative organic agriculture for climate solutions.
[1] Hudson, M., Mead, A. T. P., Chagne, D., Roskruge, N., Morrison, S., Wilcox, P. L., & Allan, A. C. (2019). Indigenous perspectives and gene editing in Aotearoa New Zealand. Frontiers in Bioengineering And Biotechnology, 7.

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