Eminent New Zealand Scientist calls for a GE-Free environment
Auckland, November 13 2000: At the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification today, the first of a number of scientific
experts critical of genetic engineering advised that New Zealand establish a GE-Free Environment and GE–free food
Representing Greenpeace and a number of other groups, Dr Peter Wills, Associate Professor of Physics at Auckland
University, warned that the processes of genetic engineering involve “very high inherent uncertainty”. He stated that
“the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment has the potential to be even more destructive than
the consequences of other human interference in biological processes.” Reasonable caution, Wills testified, demands that
genetically engineered organisms should not be released into the environment.
“Dr Wills’ evidence introduces a raft of scientific, ethical and cultural concerns that have not been given adequate
attention by regulatory bodies to date. In particular evidence presented today has shown the necessity of looking beyond
the short term to the fundamental ecological consequences of crossing species boundaries.” Said Annette Cotter, Genetic
Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace.
In His testimony Dr Wills emphasised that the interconnectedness of ecological systems must be the context within which
the consequences of releasing genetically engineered organisms are examined. The history of ecological evolution is
“full of surprises”. Dr Wills warned that “genetic engineering, by its very character, attempts, and where successful,
manages to circumvent systems of boundary management between species.”
While urging that Genetically engineered organisms should not be released into the environment Dr Wills believes that
fully contained use of genetic engineering processes for laboratory and research techniques are valuable and should
continue. This however must be conducted under proper legislative and ethical controls.
Peter Wills is a theoretical biologist with a PhD in Biochemistry. He has been awarded a prestigious Humboldt Fellowship
three times, and has held two visiting scientist positions in the US. He has been writing and speaking on genetic
engineering issues both nationally and internationally for many years.
For further information, please contact
Annette Cotter, Greenpeace, 09 630 6317, 025 648 8636
Peter Wills, University of Auckland, 09 373 7599 ext 8889