North Shore Times : January 8th 2013
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GE concerns persist World first: Genetically modified cow Daisy produces a high-protein, hypo- allergenic milk. A genetically engin- eered cow with the ability to produce high- value milk might not be the good news it seems, says KATASHA MCCULLOUGH. Daisy is a cow that lives in Ham- ilton. She chews and moos like any other cow. But Daisy s inquisitive eyes and spotted nose were splashed across the news last October when it was revealed she has an ability no other cow does. She is a world first -- a cow with the potential to produce hypo- allergenic, high-protein milk. But Daisy also has another, less envi- able trait. She does not have a tail. And most alarmingly, those who brought her into existence do not know why. Which begs the question: If these frontrunners of the scien- tific world, these brilliant minds wielding the financial power of AgResearch, are at a loss when it comes to their own creation, how much do we really know about genetic engineering? Not enough, comes the quick response from Green MP Steffan Browning, who believes genetic engineering has the potential to damage New Zealand s clean, green image. He proposed the Hazardous Organisms and New Organisms (Genetically Modified Organisms Moratorium Reinstatement) Amendment Bill last year. It will further restrict what genetically engineered material can enter the country. Mr Browning says New Zea- land s 100 per cent pure brand helps sell products overseas, but genetic engineering threatens that image. Putting a $10 billion a year industry at risk for half a glass of milk is not something to be celeb- rating. He says genetic engineering is not all bad, but it is trade- orientated. An international biotechnology conference was held in Rotorua last year and Mr Browning describes the attendees as racing around for patents to make money. It s not genuinely about feed- ing the world, he says. They have such a distorted approach, they could be car sales- men. All genetically engineered food entering the country has to be approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). FSANZ public affairs officer Saffron Urbaniak says FSANZ has not identified any safety con- cerns with genetically engineered food so far. Other regulators across the world who have independently assessed the same foods have rea- ched the same conclusions. GE Free New Zealand spokes- man Jon Carapiet says the auth- orities are compromised because they are not doing their own tests. It s all a farce actually. FSANZ has never done any independent testing in its life. It s dodgy as because they re not doing their job. Ms Urbaniak says FSANZ understands there are differing views when it comes to genetic engineering, but the agency does keep New Zealanders safe from unwanted products. Our safety assessment process is used by food regulators around the world. Genetic engineering has long been a controversial topic in the public sphere. Jack Heinemann, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Canterbury, has experienced a backlash from com- panies for speaking out about the potential dangers of GE. It turns into nastiness at the messenger, he says. He is often accused of being anti-science. Which is absurd, because those of us who are expressing concerns about safety are scientists, he says. It s extremely off-putting, because no one wants to be outside the pack. Mr Carapiet says scientists have become afraid to speak out because they will be absolutely hammered by public relations campaigns from powerful pro-GE companies such as Monsanto and DuPont. Mr Browning agrees. There s a lot of mischief from the pro-GE fraternity whenever research shows up, he says. He points towards tests conduc- ted recently in France by Pro- fessor Gilles-Eric Seralini from the University of Caen. His two-year project found rats fed or exposed to genetically modi- fied maize developed higher levels of cancer and died earlier than control animals. Dr Seralini was slapped with accusations of being biased, sloppy and anti-science, all of which he has disputed. According to Mr Carapiet, com- panies such as Monsanto, whose modified corn was used in Seralini s trials, are spending huge amounts on PR campaigns to convince people to accept it, eat it and not want it labelled . He says companies are exploit- ing New Zealand s poor regulatory system to use as an example to the rest of the world. They re waving a flag, saying Australia and New Zealand allow it, so it must be OK . Ultimately, Dr Heinemann says people do not want their food to be tampered with. Every survey done everywhere in the world, the majority of peo- ple responding are sceptical about having genetically engineered organisms in their food, he says.
January 3rd 2013
January 10th 2013