BIO/SOC: Kiwi Commission on GM

Date: Thu Oct 19 2000 - 19:38:46 MDT

>NEW ZEALAND: GM multinationals admit that containment is impossible
>17 Oct 2000
>Author: Clare Harman,

>The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification opened yesterday (16 October)
>to hear two of the "big six" multinationals established in the field of GM
>products admit that it is impossible to guarantee containment. The two
>companies questioned were cross-examined by the anti-GM groups: Greenpeace,
>the Green Party, an organic industry group and the Nelson GE-free Awareness
>The 14-week Wellington commission is the first substantial inquiry into the
>topic of GM foods in the world, and it is seeking to weigh up the benefits
>and the risks of the new crops, dubbed "franken-foods" by anti-GM
>Aventis, the French pharmaceutical giant and manufacturer of the StarLink
>corn currently causing no end of problems in the US retail sector, stood
>before the hearing first. Product safety manager, Robert MacDonald, conceded
>that cross-pollination would occur and agreed that strong regulation "would
>be required."
>The company recommended a national biotech strategy to "realise the
>potential benefits" of the fledgling technology. Naomi Stevens, the head of
>public affairs, commented that future plants could combat diseases in humans
>and prove resistant to cold and drought, with the added advantage of
>improved nutrition and shelf life. She added, however that she was "not
> sure" that long term clinical testing would provide conclusive evidence on
>the allergenic effects of GM foods on human consumers.
>The US-based DuPont also admitted that there were no guarantees with GM
>products. Clive Holland, representing the company, commented that: "nothing
>in life is risk freeā€¦ but all our data shows we are comfortably way above
>the line on safety." To date, he added, no introduced DNA had been
>transferred into food products by animals reared on GM feed.
>DuPont accepted that public concerns were rife about the technology, and
>that: "While much of these concerns arise from misinformation or alarmist
>exaggeration, we nevertheless believe that we should proceed with caution. A
>scientifically impeccable process is needed and as much information as
>possible should be made available publicly." This said, the company stressed
>that GM crops could increase productivity, provide new products and reduce
>pesticide use.

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