Docstoc

Witness Brief

Document Sample
Witness Brief Powered By Docstoc
					Witness Brief of C. Hartlage to Royal Commission on GM                                   page 1


Witness Brief
Royal Commission on Genetic Modification                                         Form 2


1.     Name of Witness

4. Christy A. Hartlage

My name is Christy Hartlage. I have a Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of
Auckland. Prior to my degree I travelled with the International Honours Program studying environmental
ethics and globalisation. I taught a Women and the Environment course at the University of Auckland
Centre for Continuing Education in 1996. As part of that course my students and I looked into the
implications of the "newly developed" genetic engineering technology for food and food production.
Since then I have been doing my own research and writing for magazines about genetic engineering and I
have been giving talks to inform the public about the issues and implications of genetic engineering.


5. Name of "Interested Person" (on behalf of whom the witness will appear)

Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics New Zealand - Charitable Trust


6. Witness Brief Executive Summary

Other than when I am making a direct quote from another source I will use the term "Genetic
Engineering" in this brief rather than the term " Genetic Modification".

I am most concerned with the social, ethical and environmental considerations of genetically engineered
organisms (GEO's) and GE crops.

PSRG submits that changes are required to the HSNO Act as it applies to Genetically Engineered
Organisms (GEO's) imported into or developed and held in laboratory -based containment in New
Zealand. (see Dr. P. Wills Witness Brief.) see paragraph 4

Our recommendations are:

* importation of a GEO into containment be treated the same as development in containment
* that oversight and approval of ALL GE research be delegated to a non industrial body
* that assessments be organism, project and company based
* that a committee of experts be selected on higher risk applications
* that no GE experiment be exempt from requiring approval, and
* that laboratories using GEO's be upgraded to a 'safe' containment category.

7. Evidence by Section (as specified in the matters set out in the Warrant)

Section A (1) the strategic options available to enable New Zealand to address, now and in the
future, genetic modification, genetically modified organisms, and products.

1.) World wide trends show that consumers do not want to eat genetically engineered food. If we consider
this issue on a purely economic level, then consumer demand must be taken strongly into consideration.
Witness Brief of C. Hartlage to Royal Commission on GM                                       page 2

If we push ahead and plant millions of dollars worth of GE food crops only to find there is no market for
them we have made a foolish step and wasted money that could have been used to promote premium
crops that consumers want.

2.) Organically produced food, on the other hand, must be seen as a viable alternative to genetic
engineering. The New Zealand Organic Products Exporters Group (OPEG) shows the dramatic increases
in organic exports: 1994 - $3 million, 1998 - $30-45 million, the anticipated exports for 2000 are $65
million and those profits are anticipated to increase to $100-150 million by 2005. Organic exports to
Japan, Europe, and America suggest that all of the organic apples, avocados and kiwifruit produced in
New Zealand could go to these markets and the current demand would still not be met. It has been
suggested that the premiums (depending on the crop, ranging from 30-200%) on organic products will
decrease as the market is flooded. However, our experience with organic consulting and growing shows
that as organics become more and more available they begin to take over from the conventional food
market. The British Government is now involved in the second reading of a bill that calls for 30% of
agriculture to be organic by 2010, that at least 20% of food consumed be organic by 2010, and that the
government should provide incentives to ensure that more people have access to and are able to afford
organic food. The UK currently imports 80% of the organic products sold (see The Ecologist, September
2000, p. 14). If we do not embrace organic growing systems we will be left behind.

3.) In a small country like New Zealand, genetic engineering and organics cannot exist together. The risks
of accidental contamination through cross pollination are far too great, and the research that has been done
shows that buffer zones do little to contain GE plant material. I know of no organic certification authority
that allows any level of genetically engineered material in products that are certified organic. (see Dr. Neil
Harl, "The Starlink Saga." Agricultural Law Digest, Vol. 11, No. 22, Nov. 10, 2000)

Section A (2) any changes considered desirable to the current legislative, regulatory, policy, or
institutional arrangements for addressing, in New Zealand, genetic modification, genetically
modified organisms, and products.

4.) Strategies for regulation and monitoring of genetically engineered organisms must consider research
done in monitored safe containment in laboratories, research into medical uses for GEO's and genetically
engineered food crops separately.

5.) Research done in containment can be highly monitored and controlled and the regulating body can put
in place guidelines to ensure that it is disposed of in a way that will not allow accidental release. This can
also allow highly controlled and monitored research at universities to be considered and costed separately
from research done by businesses who can afford to pay high application fees.

6.) Research into medical uses can also be done in highly contained and monitored circumstances. Full
information about the way a medicine is produced and the possible side effects can be given to people
before administration and they can make their own decisions about the risks and benefits for their health.
The process for the approval and use of medicines is already highly controlled and does not affect the
public as a whole.

7.) Widespread release of GEO's through food and food crops is an entirely different thing. There is no
containment, little consumer choice and little choice for farmers who do not wish to raise GE food crops
if a neighbour decides to plant GE crops next door. We do not yet know exactly how these plants spread
genetic material and how far it will go. Until we can answer these questions we are placing a huge risk on
the highly profitable organic industry, and on farmers and consumers who prefer not to use genetically
engineered products.

8.) In June 1999 I attended a meeting in Auckland for concerned stake holders to discuss proposed
amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO).
Witness Brief of C. Hartlage to Royal Commission on GM                                       page 3

I am extremely concerned that this Act allows companies with negative environmental, health and safety
records to continue their historical disregard for public health and safety without being held accountable
for their actions. Unless it is made very clear that the producers and users of new organisms will be held
accountable for containment and control of these organisms and will be responsible for any misuse,
negative health effects, or accidental release we will continue to see products that have been inadequately
tested for safety pushed onto markets with disregard for the damage that they may cause. The arguments
that I have heard to justify amendments to HSNO have been mainly economic arguments. There is no
question that if New Zealand is to be a part of a global economic system that economics must be part of
our considerations. However, if economic arguments are given higher priority over environmental
considerations, public health and safety, or spiritual and ethical interests we can only ever see part of the
picture.

Section B Relevant Matters

Section B (a) where, how and for what purpose genetic modification, genetically modified
organisms, and products are being used in New Zealand at present

9.) Genetic engineering is being used for research in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and medicine in
New Zealand. Unlabelled genetically engineered ingredients are found in many processed foods imported
into New Zealand.

Section B (b) the evidence (including scientific evidence), and the level of uncertainty, about
the present and possible future use, in New Zealand of genetic modification, genetically
modified organisms and products

10.) A point that is often brought up in discussions about the pros and cons of genetic engineering is that
if New Zealand wishes to remain competitive in the global economy then we must move ahead with this
technology quickly or be left behind. In traditional societies new food varieties would not be introduced
into the agricultural system until their effects could be observed for a long period of time, as long as seven
generations. (See B. Goodwin "How the Leopard Changed its Spots") Our present culture moves us to
make decisions quickly in order to be competitive; however, the best way for us to foster a sustainable
natural, economic and cultural system may be to wait and observe the effects of already developed GEO's
in controlled circumstances. When DDT was introduced scientists found no evidence that it would do us
harm, so it was rushed onto markets and touted as the saviour for farmers. We now know the devastating
and expensive environmental and health effects of DTT. Perhaps we could be more competitive now if
we had exercised caution then; we may, at least, have saved ourselves the cleaning bill.

11.) In the 1960's and 1970's the Green Revolution saw the application of scientific principles to crop
production to produce higher yielding grains. The companies that are now promoting GEO's (in many
cases) then encouraged farmers to plant these high yielding hybrids and to use their chemical fertilisers,
herbicides and pesticides the costs of which would be paid out of the profits from successful crops. In the
short term the Green revolution was wildly successful. In India more rice and wheat were produced than
the country could consume. However, in the long term farmers could not continue to pay for seeds and
chemicals, the soils deteriorated, precious drinking water was polluted or quickly used up to irrigate
hybrid crops. Thirty years later India is still recovering from the ecological disaster of the Green
Revolution. (see V. Shiva "Ecology and the Politics of Survival") The arguments that pushed the Green
Revolution forward were almost exactly the same as those that are being used to promote GE. 'We must
embrace biotechnology so we can feed the hungry.' 'Crops will be less expensive and higher yielding.'
'We will have a cleaner environment because we will be able to use fewer pesticides and herbicides.' Why
should we believe the same arguments that have already been proven wrong? Does it make sense to allow
companies that sell chemicals control our food?
Witness Brief of C. Hartlage to Royal Commission on GM                                        page 4

12.) So far we have only seen the short term effects of GEO's. In the short term there may be some
increased yields, and we may have yet to see overwhelming negative effects. However, scientific evidence
has been presented to suggest that GEO's do not have higher yields than conventional varieties, that there
is a significant risk of GEO's exhibiting novel toxins and allergens, that pollen from GE corn crops is
killing Monarch butterflies and reducing the life span of bees. Dr. Arpad Puzstai was silenced for
presenting evidence that GE potatoes had serious health effects on rats. I have heard scientists on both
sides present compelling arguments to support and refute the above studies. Knowing that submissions to
this commission have probably used one or all of these studies to illustrate the risks of GEO's I hesitate to
bring them up again. Scientists on both sides of this argument are biased and that bias determines their
response and their science in regard to GEO's. Dr. James Maryanski, the FDA's biotechnology co-
ordinator, acknowledges that there is NO CONSENSUS about the safety of GE foods in the scientific
community.

13.) Horizontal gene transfer involves the transfer of genes from one organism to another, of the same or
different species, by means other than cross breeding. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho suggests that "horizontal gene
transfer (and consequent recombination ) is the greatest threat to public health facing us to-day, especially
if commercial scale genetic engineering biotechnology is allowed to continue unchecked." (see "Genetic
Engineering Dream or Nightmare? 1998) Part of the reason for Dr. Ho's concern about horizontal gene
transfer is that the presence of antibiotics, in widespread general use in our society, can actually increase
the frequency of horizontal gene transfer ten to 100 fold. (see Ho and Tapesser 1997, Davies 1994,
Mazodier and Davies 1991, and Torres et al. 1991) It has been suggested by proponents of GE that we
should not worry about horizontal gene transfer because it happens naturally. The force that drives genetic
engineering is to increase the facility of horizontal gene transfer in order to create novel products. There is
no direct evidence, at this point, to link genetic engineering technologies to the spread of virulence and
antibiotic resistance, but there is clear evidence that horizontal gene transfer is responsible for both. The
vectors that are created for GE biotechnology are designed to overcome species barriers, and they can
easily recombine with a wide range of disease causing viruses to create new viruses. "Genes carried by
vectors can persist indefinitely in the environment." (Ho 1998, p. 164) Horizontal gene transfer happens,
not only in "ideal " laboratory conditions, but also between bacteria in the sea, in freshwater, in soil and
sediment and in wastewater treatment ponds. It has also been observed to happen in the gut bacteria, of
mice and chickens and in the uro-genital and respiratory tracts of human beings. Our regulations, at this
point, do not require monitoring for horizontal gene transfer. Is this wise?

Section B (d) the international legal obligations of New Zealand in relation to genetic
modification, genetically modified organisms, and products.

14.) The UN 1991 Rio Earth Summit produced the Agenda 21 document to which New Zealand is a
signatory. The most powerful guideline to come from Agenda 21, the precautionary principle, suggests
that countries or consumers have the right to demand that a chemical, a crop or a technology be proven
safe before it is released for public use. If there is any evidence to suggest that there may be negative
human, environmental or cultural effects then any country or people have a right to avoid risk (Local
Agenda 21 Survey, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, United Nations Department
for Policy Co-ordination and Sustainable Development, February 1997). The precautionary principle was
upheld by the 1999 Montreal Biosafety Protocol which suggests that if, using the precautionary principle,
any country deems the evidence of risk for genetically engineered organisms too great, then that country
cannot be forced to accept GEO's. Section 104 (1) of New Zealand's Resource Management Act (RMA)
requires that when making a decision for a resource consent, the consent authority must have regard to
any actual and potential effects on the environment. Section 3 of the RMA specifies that the word "effect"
includes within its definition any past present or future effect.

Section B (e) the liability issues involved, or likely to be involved, now or in the future, now or in
the future, in relation to the use in New Zealand of genetic modification, genetically modified
organisms, and products.
Witness Brief of C. Hartlage to Royal Commission on GM                                      page 5

15.) Cigarette companies maintained for years that cigarette smoking caused no harm to smokers. Now;
however, we are seeing those companies taken to court for health damages to smokers. This is setting
precedence that suggests that companies must be accountable for the effects of their products on public
health and safety. All people have to eat, and if GEO's do indeed prove to be harmful in the future the
companies who are producing those foods, and possibly the authorities that approve them will be
responsible for those negative effects.

16.) There was a recent case in America of a farmer whose crop was contaminated by GE material sued
for damages to his crop. Organic farmers will have strong cases if their organic certification, and premium
profits, are lost because of GE contamination.

Section B (f) the intellectual property issues involved, or likely to be involved, now or in the
future, in relation to the use in New Zealand of genetic modification, genetically modified
organisms, and products.

17.) The patenting of life forms is an intellectual property issue that has grave implications for indigenous
people in New Zealand and all over the world. Living organisms have an intrinsic self organisation that
cannot be reduced to human invention or discovery by patent holders. Vandana Shiva describes biopiracy
as the theft of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge through patents. It allows scarce biological
resources, usually used by indigenous people, to be under monopoly control by corporations. this is theft
from the poorest 2/3 of humanity who depend on the biodiversity of native species for their livelihood and
basic needs. (see Vandana Shiva, The Threat to 3rd World Farmers," The Ecologist, September 2000, pp.
40-43.) Michel Chossudovsky, in his article "The Real Cause of Famine in Ethiopia" (The Ecologist,
September 2000, pp. 26-28) notes that according to the Rural Advancement Foundation (RAFI) "US
farmers already earn $150. million annually by growing varieties of barley developed from Ethiopian
strains. Yet nobody in Ethiopia is sending them a bill.

18.) I listened with interest to a radio interview with bioethicist Dr. Gary Comstock, who served as an
expert witness to the commission in November. Dr. Comstock made the statement that developed
countries have an obligation to help less developed states. His suggestion was that widespread anti-GE
sentiments could shut down research establishments in countries that can afford to do GE and indirectly
deprive the needy. If we are so arrogant to assume that the technologies developed in First World
countries will be desirable, appropriate and ethical in poorer Third World countries, then we are not
respecting the rights of Third World and indigenous people to make their own decisions and to determine
the most appropriate technologies for them to use themselves. The experience of the Green Revolution
should have shown us that what may be appropriate in one part of the world may be inappropriate,
expensive and damaging in another.

Section B (h) the global developments and issues that may influence the manner in which New
Zealand may use, or limit the use of, genetic modification, genetically modified organisms, and
products

19.) According to a November 7, 2000 article in The Age, Australia by Andrew Darby Hobart Australian
states now have the right to determine their policies on GE/GE Free for themselves. States have the power
to ban individual crops on marketing grounds and they are free to create GE Free regions and states if they
choose. Tasmania has already imposed a year long moratorium on all GEO releases. If New Zealand
chooses to move forward with commercial releases of GE crops we will not be able to export those crops
to the increasing number of regions that are declaring themselves GE Free zones. As a small country we
can only produce and export a limited amount of product. Why limit ourselves even more through the
adoption of genetic engineering? Markets that accept GE foods will also accept GE Free and organic
foods, but markets that have chosen GE Free will not accept GE crops.
Witness Brief of C. Hartlage to Royal Commission on GM                                     page 6

20.) In July 2000 the US "threatened the EU with a formal complaint to the WTO, on the grounds that
labelling GM products is an unfair discrimination against US goods and a 'restraint' of trade." (The
Ecologist, September 2000, p. 11) Former US Ambassador to New Zealand, Josiah Beeman, issued a
similar threat here. I find this argument completely irrational. The only way that labelling GE foods could
possibly effect US trade is if consumers do not want to buy those products. Consumers must be able to
make an informed choice about what they eat. It is the responsibility of the United States to reconsider
their export and production practices if they are producing goods that consumers do not want. This is not
our problem.

Section B (j) the main areas of public interest in genetic modification, genetically modified
organisms, and products, including those related to:

* human health (including biomedical, food safety and consumer choice)
*environmental matters (including biodiversity, biosecurity issues, and the health of ecosystems)
* cultural and ethical concerns

Trees!! holistic picture of ecosystems

				
DOCUMENT INFO