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GE Free

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GE Free
North Shore Cit

This is a very serious subject.

What we humans allow to be decided now could change what has taken literally thousands of years of evolution on planet Earth and affect the future for evermore.

It is my hope that a stong move against Genetic Engineering will sweep New Zealand. A better understanding of the issues may show you the importance of supporting such a move to protect our ecological future and that of all organisms from adverse effects of genetic engineering.  Even now, some of such defects are known about.  Evolution which takes generations, will reveal more.

New Zealanders were told in the 1970s' anti-nuclear debate that we would lag behind the rest of the world if we did not embrace the new technology.  Look at us now - we are well respected throughout the world for our anit-nuclear stand.  I predict this will be the same if we reject genetic tampering.

Should any GE research be justifyable on any grounds, it should be kept in the laboratory.

Further details about GE are below but here is a GE Free declaration that North Shore City Council could adopt to confirm an intent to promote a sustainable future. It also allows us to help the government take the decision to avoid GE of animals, crops and organisms by taking the lead in asking to be GE free.

  1. THAT North Shore City Council declares North Shore City a GE Free city as a demonstation of concern to promote a sustainable future.
  2. THAT Council urge the Government to recognise the concerns on philosophical, ethical, scientific, health and economic grounds of the implications of genetic engineering.
  3. THAT Council request that the Government require any genetic modification to be fully revealed on product specifications and labels so that concerned consumers are able to freely choose to avoid there use or consumption.

This is similar to the GE Free declaration resolved by Nelson City Council.  The declaration is symbolic.  It cannot and is not an attempt to prevent personal use of approved medicines produced in laboratories, but it does support the government’s moratorium on genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) in our environment.

There is a growing realisation, worldwide, of the importance of stewardship to support future generations.  Declaring a GE free city is as a symbolic gesture of support to all who care about the future of our city, country and planet.

I will call on Council to lead by becoming GE free itself. All food must be GE free.  An audit can be conducted of its suppliers and its vending machines.  This attitude has been well encapsulated on a billboard seen in Wellington: "Don't bugger with our tucker."


The recently released Royal Commission report on Genetic Modification had done little to allay concerns that modified substances could damage the environment.  You should be aware that there are reports of GE contamination of organic food produced in countries where GE crops have been grown.

The contamination occurs largely through the drifting of pollen from the GE crops into organic fields. BIO-GRO, Demeter and Soil & Health are very aware that New Zealander consumers have repeatedly stated that they want food free of GE products, and have moved to protect consumers' interests in this area. They have adopted, and maintain, their positions of zero tolerance of GM contamination in the interests of both consumers and growers in this country, and will continue to work for what the majority of New Zealanders have said that they want, a GE-free nation.

GE Genetic Engineering GMOs Genetically Modified Organisms?

What are they?

Basic Facts & Arguments for a GE-Free NZ.

What is GE / GMO?
GE = Genetic Engineering
GMO = Genetically Modified Organism

To Genetically Engineer / Genetically Modify means:
" to delete, change or move genes within an organism, to transfer genes from one organism to another, to modify existing genes or construct new genes and put them into any organism."
(from Royal Commission on Genetic Modification)

"GE is the unnatural insertion of a foreign sequence of genetic codes into the midst of the orderly sequence of genetic codes of the recipient, developed through millions of years."
(from Physicians & Scientists for Responsible Application of Science & Technology)

Is GE different from selective breeding?
Selective breeding is when 'parents' are selected to engage in natural mating. Selective breeding cannot cross the 'species barrier'. GE is a
laboratory process that can select gene sequences from any species to insert into any other species.

Who's doing it?
Many thousands of scientists and researchers, based in universities, hospitals and companies around the world. The majority are employed by a few large companies located in the USA.

Genetic research is happening in NZ universities, medical research institutes, Crown Research Institutes (e.g. AgResearch and HortResearch) and private companies.

What for?
Scientists are keen to learn more about how genes work. Companies are keen to develop new products and expand their business.

Genetic engineering is being used in farming and medicine for the following reasons:

Medical - to detect diseases and develop new medicines. Testing and manufacture mostly carried out in laboratories,

Agricultural - to produce crops that are resistant to herbicides, pests and diseases, or with changed food values. Testing and production carried out in contained or open fields.

What are they doing?

In agriculture ~ Plants such as cotton have been engineered to resist pests; plants such as soya have been engineered to be tolerant to herbicides.

In medicine ~ proteins from GE bacteria are being used to produce insulin for diabetes, GE is used to diagnose genetic disorders, and to treat a range of diseases.

What do we know for sure about the risks and benefits?

Benefits in food ~ no benefits for consumers

Risks in food ~ GE foods have not been tested to see if they pose any risks to human health. Bulk plantings of soya, corn and canola (rapeseed) - the main GE foodcrops - began in 1996. Feared risks are: allergic reactions, surprise toxins, reduced nutrition, suppression of the immune system and resistance to antibiotics.

Benefits in agriculture ~ it's too early to be sure that expected benefits of increased yields and reduced pesticide use are actually happening.

Risks in agriculture ~ bees and wind have carried GE pollen miles from where its been grown; weeds have developed resistance to herbicide; organic growers have found traces of GE in their crops, affecting their viability; seed patents have made it illegal for farmers to save GE seeds Feared risks are: insects developing resistance to plants engineered to produce insecticides;

Benefits in medicine ~ current uses in NZ
*GE insulin used in NZ since 1988,
* Diagnosis of genetic disorders, testing for risks of genetic disorders

Risks in medicine ~ some diabetics have had allergic reactions to GE insulin
Feared risks are: creation of unknown diseases, bacterial poisons, new viruses, side-effects from genetic therapy

What's NZ doing right now?
Most genetic research in New Zealand is carried out in contained laboratories. A small number of controlled field trials are underway.

There is no commercial production of GE food crops or animals at the moment but strong efforts are being made to bring these on trial and into use.

No fresh GE fruit or vegetables are being grown or imported into New Zealand. No 'whole' GE foods are being imported into New Zealand but some 'processed' GE foods (soya flour and oil, cornflour and oil) may be imported as food. It is not possible to know how much because labels are not yet required.

What do you mean - GE-Free?
NZ is 'GE-free' right now because GE crops have not been grown commercially, and small trial plots have been grown in containment.

The GE-free Coalition wants to keep the NZ environment free of GE organisms because -

  • GE is 'playing God' with the basic 'building blocks' of life.

  • The effect upon the soil, insects, plants, animals and human health is not known.

  • GE cannot be contained once it is released.

  • Any harmful effects cannot be undone. Indeed they may not be know for decades.

  • People and the environment will pay the price for any harm - insurance companies will not insure for GE risks.

  • Markets in Europe and Asia do not want GE products so release of GE in New Zealand would threaten a rapidly growing market for organics.

  • New Zealand cannot meet the present demand for organic produce.

  • GE crops contaminate non-GE crops - they can't be grown together, it's one or the other.

  • New Zealand is 'nuclear free' because we don't have nuclear power stations or weapons. We still get the benefit of x-rays and cancer treatment without risking our environment

What about medicine?

Most medicines are produced in contained laboratories and no living material - such as pollen or seeds - is released to the environment.

Medicines can benefit the people who use them; they can choose whether or not to use them; if there are any harmful effects they can be recognised by their doctors.

What can you do to stop the release of GE contamination?

Tell food manufacturers you don't want GE food, and demand to know whether they have it in their products.

Send emails, letters, faxes to Central Government politicians and Local Councillors and Community Board Members asking for a GE Free future.

Tell family, friends and neighbours of your concerns and write letter to newspapers and other media.

To understand more of the concerns about the GE issue read the concerns based on clear scientific evidence and consider the frightening implications that one eminent scientist has expressed to New Zealand Government Ministers in the letter below.


Open Letter to New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering


From: Dr. Mae-Wan Ho                    Tel: +44 020 73800908
Director, Institute of Science in Society 
PO Box 32097 
London NW1 0XR, United Kingdom 


13 August 2001



Peter Hodgson (Minister of Research, Science & Technology)   phodgson@ministers.govt.nz

Marian Hobbs (Minister for the Environment)   mhobbs@ministers.govt.nz 

Jim Sutton (Minister of Agriculture)   jsutton@ministers.govt.nz

Annette King (Minister of Health)   aking@ministers.govt.nz

Helen Clarke, Prime Minister   pm@ministers.govt.nz 


As one of the many scientists presenting evidence to the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering, I had high hopes that New Zealand would assume moral and intellectual leadership in rejecting this dangerous technology bolstered by degenerate science, so obviously serving the corporate agenda instead of the public good. It is still not too late for New Zealand to take on this role.

It has become increasingly evident that GM technology is inherently hazardous and unreliable both in agriculture and in medicine. The list of failures is growing apace. Let me mention a few recent examples that came to light since I presented evidence to the Commission. 

GM crops are inherently unstable, and this is fully borne out by numerous new scientific publications [1]. Even the top 'success', Roundup Ready soya, is showing every sign of breakdown: reduced yield, non-germination, diseases and infestation by new pests [2].

Molecular genetic characterisation, the first ever done on any commercially grown GM crop so far, has confirmed that both the GM construct of Roundup Ready soya and the host genome have been scrambled (rearranged), and hundreds of basepairs of unknown DNA has got in as well [3]. 

The 'next generation' crops are even worse. I draw your attention especially to those developed with terminator technologies aimed at protecting corporate patents and preventing farmers from saving and replanting seeds. Many are currently field tested and commercially grown as 'male sterile' crops. Not only are the constructs more complicated and hence more unstable and prone to horizontal gene transfer, the gene products used are cell poisons or recombinases, ie, genome scramblers. Female-sterile and even male-sterile genes (yes!) are being spread via pollen [4]. These dangerous genes will spread and wipe out other crops as well as wild plant species.

It has become all too clear that GM agriculture cannot co-exist with other forms of agriculture. Bees are known to travel up to10km or more in foraging for pollen [5]. And there is no way to prevent the horizontal spread of GM constructs to unrelated species, which can occur in all environments, including the digestive and respiratory tracts of animals, as stated in evidence I have already presented. There are both sound 'a priori' reasons as well as empirical evidence to support my contention, shared by other scientists, that GM constructs may more likely spread horizontally than non-manipulated DNA. Let me reiterate them here.

GM constructs are designed to cross species barriers and invade genomes. They possess homologies to a wide combination of viral and bacterial DNA and are hence much more likely to recombine with, and transfer genes to all those agents. GM constructs are well known to be structurally unstable and hence prone to fragment and recombine. Some constructs such as those with the CaMV 35S promoter are extra unstable on account of the presence of recombination hotspots. I have mentioned the now abundant empirical evidence of structural instability of transgenic DNA and trangenic plants above. The CaMV 35S promoter has been shown to be extra unstable in GM crops. And horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA has been demonstrated both in the laboratory and in the field. 

I note from your report that Dr Daniel Cohen, a plant scientist in the Plant Health and Development group of HortResearch, had attempted to refute my warnings about the CaMV 35S promoter. But he, like other GM proponents, had failed to counter my point that the isolated, recombined CaMV 35S promoter cannot be equated with the promoter in the intact viral genome or the intact virus. The intact viral genome had evolved over millions of years. The host range of the virus itself is restricted to the cabbage family, and it has a well-tried and tested life cycle in the host cell that does not require integration into the host genome. The fact that no transfer from the virus into the plant genome has taken place in the course of evolution attests to the effective biological barriers that keep species distinct. 

The same promoter, removed from the viral genome and put next to strange genes in the GM construct, is entirely different. It now functions promiscuously across the living world, including animal and human cells. Its destabilising effect on GM crops is such that many scientists, including those who pioneered its use, are now phasing it out. There is no justification for releasing any GM crop containing the CaMV35S promoter into the environment. 

I note that you have approved the field release of GM tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea) for resistance to tamarillo mosaic virus at Kerikeri Research Station. This crop not only contains CaMV 35S promoter, but also has a kanamycin resistance marker gene. The approval of this marker gene was a regulatory blunder committed in the United States and elsewhere, as it is clear that kanamycin is still widely in clinical use, and the marker gene confers resistance to new generation aminoglycosides as well [6]. There is also plenty of evidence that GM crops with viral genes are prone to give rise to recombinant viruses, some of which more virulent than the 'wild type' [7]. 

When I first drew attention to horizontal gene transfer in 1995, proponents of GM technology reacted by denying it exists. Now they, like Dr. Daniel Cohen, are saying it does not matter because it is a natural process. Horizontal gene transfer may have occurred in our evolutionary past, but GM constructs are anything but natural. They are synthetic genes and new combinations of genes that have never existed in billions of years of evolution, and cannot in any sense be regarded as natural. 

And, I am afraid, the GM proponents will have to change their tune again; for a rigorous reanalysis of the human genome and other data has failed to substantiate the claim that the human genome has 113 to 226 bacterial genes transferred into it [8]. The actual number could well be no more than a few, or none at all. What is the lesson? Precisely as I have always said, horizontal gene transfer does not readily happen without genetic engineering. Genetic engineering enhances it, with dangerous consequences.

In biomedical applications, the gene-centred approach is equally misplaced and pernicious [9]. So-called 'health genomics' is a drain on our intellectual and financial resources. It is preventing us from addressing the real, overwhelming causes of ill health: poverty, malnutrition, social injustice and environmental pollution. It is stigmatising and victimising those most in need of care and treatment, and making even the most unethical applications, such as human cloning and 'therapeutic human cloning', seem compelling. 

Furthermore, the 'cures' on offer are literally deadly. The toll from 'gene therapy' trials so far is at least 6 deaths and more than 650 adverse events. It is now admitted that gene therapy has been oversold by the scientists themselves [10]. Presumed stem cells from human foetuses transplanted into the brain of 5 Parkinson's patients turned into an irredeemable nightmare because the cells grew uncontrollably [11]. The latest verdict from an international team of cloners is that mice embryonic stem cells are uncontrollably variable in culture, the clones themselves are also subject to uncontrollable and unpredictable variations and defects [12].

And xenotransplantation is widely condemned because there is clear evidence that endogenous viruses from animal organs can cross into humans [13].

New lethal viruses continue to be created in genetic engineering labs, some of the latest being SHIVs, hybrids of human and monkey AIDS viruses that can infect both [14]. Finally, AIDS virologists have issued serious warning against AIDS vaccines that undermine the immune system, making it more susceptible to viral infections, and have the potential to generate lethal viruses and bacteria in the vaccinated populations [13]. 

A sweeping paradigm change is long overdue if we are to survive the destruction that reductionist science and technology have wrought on us and on our planet. We have all the means to deliver genuine health and food security to the world without using GM technology and going against the wishes of the vast majority of people. Only the political will is missing.

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho 

For Reference documents see -  http://www.i-sis.org.uk/isp/GMOFree.php



Greenpeace NZ http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/
GE Free New Zealand www.gefree.org.nz
Organics NZ www.organicnz.org
GE Food Alert www.gefoodalert.org

Thanks to some of these sources for some of the material used on this page.


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 Last modified: 24 Apr 2012

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