Scientists Support Safe GM Science

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2001 09:50 AM
As an independent voice for scientists, NZAS aims to benefit society through the responsible application of science. NZAS believes that GM science should be fostered and applied for the benefit of society within a broad framework of environmental ethical, and moral concerns. Current legislation that relates to laboratory-based GM research is unnecessarily restrictive and out of line with international best practice.
In its submission to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, Dr Mike Berridge, NZAS President, said that decisions on the development and release of GM organisms and products should be based on sound scientific knowledge and not on speculation, imaginative doomsday scenarios and pseudo-science.
GM medicines such as insulin, growth hormone and blood clotting factors that have been proven to be effective are now widely accepted and used. With GM foods, public concerns about e.g. allergenicity have not been realised because scientific knowledge about the nature of the genetic modification was applied by regulatory authorities before approval and release.
The science of genetic engineering is based on natural processes that are essential for all life and its evolution over 2-4 billion years. More than half the world's biomass was microbial and made extensive use of gene splicing and gene transfer to maximise evolutionary potential. Microbial genetic engineering involves very precise processes and is widely used in biotechnology.
With higher organisms including plants and animals, GM methods were safer than irradiation or chemical mutagenesis methods used previously. A clearly defined product was selected for, characterised and tested. Ultimately, it is the product and not the method used to obtain the product that is important and this has recently been stressed by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA. The many diverse applications of GM should be considered on a case by case basis whereas laboratory-contained research should be regulated by the level of risk and not a detailed description of the GM organism.

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