Former Crop & Food Scientist says GE Brassica field test approval lacked scrutiny

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A former Crop & Food GE scientist, Dr Elvira Dommisse, said today that proper scrutiny by ERMA of evidence would have prioritised the need for food studies over fund-wasting field trials.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has once again approved an application to field test genetically engineered (GE) crops, namely GE brassicas – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and forage kale for stock feed.

This decision, which gives Crop & Food Research in Lincoln the go ahead, has angered groups with scientific and environmental safety concerns, who note the lack of scrutiny ERMA has shown in its decision.

At the public hearing in April this year, a number of scientific submitters with referenced evidence, stressed that it was important to first carry out rat feeding experiments with these GE crops to establish that they were safe to eat, according to Dr Elvira Dommisse of Soil & Health.

“One thing that needs to come through very clearly is the huge waste of public money if, at the end of ten years, rat feeding trials take place and the crops are found to be toxic or allergenic.”

“This is quite possible, given the past record of other GE crops. We only have to look to Australia, where GE peas modified with a harmless bean protein produced immunological problems in mice. The GE brassicas to be field tested at Lincoln are modified with a highly altered bacterial protein, which produces a pesticidal toxin. This is all the more reason to believe that such crops will be toxic or allergenic to mice or rats and ultimately humans and other animals.”

Yet when asked about rat feeding experiments on National Radio Dr Mary Christey, the leader of the GE brassica project said, “we do not think that food safety experiments are necessary.” [Our Changing World, Thurs 3,10 May, 2007]

“Apparently in support and bypassing solid food safety evidence ERMA have said, “She’ll be right Crop & Food, have your play at taxpayers expense, and we’ll worry about the real point of all this later,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Food safety scares in other parts of the world have increased the international demand for organically grown produce, which has much stricter criteria about what crop protection measures can be taken to deal with plant pests and pathogens.”

“Organic certifiers BioGro and Organic FarmNZ are receiving increased applications for organic certification with BioGro receiving a record number last week. This is indicative of the huge worldwide growth in consumer demand for safe, natural and nutritious produce. GE crops are excluded from that demand for good reason. It is time for ERMA and government to listen.”