Will Bacteria be turned on?

Published: Mon 14 Oct 2002 08:30 AM
Will Bacteria be turned on when naked transgenic DNA is conjugated?
ESR have eventually started their research into horizontal gene transfer (HGT) four years later than originally proposed. The government funding agency FRST decided in 1998 that it was not important enough to fund. Since then the confirmation that HGT definitely occurs within bacteria has persuaded the agency to fund a limited assessment into the risk, frequency and persistence on bacteria. The testing will plot the outcomes, within laboratory confines, using genetically modified (GM) DNA and antibiotic resistance genes on different soil types that are peculiar to NZ.
GE Free (NZ) was pleased that the research is confined to the laboratory but voiced concerns that the monitoring of the soil was limited to bacteria which is a very small percentage of the soil microcosm. Studies have shown that exudates of GMO's affect the whole of the ecosystems symbiotic relationship.
President of GE Free (NZ) Susie Lees said,” GMO's exudate will impact on the nutrient cycling of everything from fungi and microrrhyza leading to poor nutrient uptake and displacement of ecosystem communities leading to poor plant health”.
The ESR scientists said that this project was just the beginning of the long-term research that could take many years, if ever, to reach conclusions into the safety effects of GMO's in New Zealand soils.
However, the government will negate this $601, 000three-year tax payer funded research by lifting the moratorium on commercial release (October 2003) before the study findings have been evaluated. If this occurs and adverse effects are found, as in overseas trials, it will be too late to recall GMO's as they can exist in self-sustaining populations in the environment.
Susie Lees stated; on behalf of the 2000 GE Free people she represent, that, "We do not want GMO's released in to our food and environment. If the government was truly concerned with the trade, environment and health of New Zealanders it would hold off any more GMO developments until the long term safety effects were evaluated, peer reviewed and published".

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