INDEPENDENT NEWS

Govt in danger of proceeding with dangerous tech

Published: Tue 26 Nov 2002 03:22 PM
New Zealand Government is in danger of proceeding with the most dangerous form of biotechnology that the rest of the world is fast dropping.
GE Free New Zealand has concerns that submissions made recently by NGOs representing a large sector of the public, to the public discussion document 'Changes to the HSNO Act' may be ignored by the government agenda to push ahead with the most dangerous form of biotechnology, genetic engineering (G.E).
The obvious failure of GE to produce long term profits, or investment from the private sector, and the reticence of biotechnology companies corporates to provide the long term environmental risk, health and safety data indicate the Labour government must look to other forms of biotechnology.
A new form of biotechnology called Marker Assisted Breeding (MAB) or genomics incorporates conventional breeding with specific genetic information, using scientific methods to map each plant species and then conventionally cross breed plants with the desired characteristic's. "The best thing about MAB is there is no introduction of antibiotic markers or viral promoters, and crossing the species barrier is unnecessary," said Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in Food and Environment. "This is a new avenue that New Zealand should pursue, ceasing the utilisation of GE in our food and environment."
For the last 3 years overseas seed companies have been using MAB techniques for crops like drought tolerance in sugar beet. It is apparently "far more productive than the increasingly self-defeating issue of GM herbicide resistance" (Arable Reseach Institute Association, September 2002). Indigenous peoples and farmers have been using these techniques for generations to select crop seeds for their specific climate and conditions.
Monsanto indicate MAB will speed up the ability to produce a seed with the desired traits, increasing wheat yields at more than double the forecast rate without resorting to GMOs. Developments in oilseed rape indicate similar advances . Claire Bleakley said "As a country we need to be looking at the safe options, like MAB, to using biotechnology. GE should be dropped like a hot potato".

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