Questions on GENETIC ENGINEERING for Dr Stephen Goldson



In order to expand the debate on genetic engineering the following questions and requests are submitted for Dr Stephen Goldson. 

These questions and requests are submitted as a result of an article written by Sandra Taylor entitled "GM forage paper informs debate" that was published in Country - Wide Southern on 15th March 2010.

Taylor quoting Goldson: Irrespective of "how", something has to be done if New Zealand is to maintain its leadership in pastoral industries, he says. "If it doesn't maintain that leadership in pastoral industries it will be a very bad prospect for New Zealand."

Question: Please explain how not maintaining it's leadership in pastoral industries will be a "very bad prospect for New Zealand".

Taylor quoting Goldson: This country needs to stay at the cutting edge of science and technology in this area because it is where NZ truly does lead, he says.

Question: I agree that it is important for Dr Goldson''s economic viability that New Zealand is "at the cutting edge of science and technology in this area" but why is it important for New Zealand to be "at the cutting edge of science and technology in this area"?

Taylor quoting Goldson: Globally, the area under GM crops has increased markedly; last year 134 million hectares were in GM crops. This is a lot more than at the time of the royal commission inquiry and Goldson says there have been no consistent reports of untoward GM effects.

Request: "No consistent reports" means reports regarding "untoward G.M. effects" exist. Please provide references to the reports of "untoward GM effects".

Taylor quoting Goldson: Proponents of the technology put forward a strong argument that GM crops are important for food security, and argue that the evaluation of the impact of traits (which are an expression of an underlying gene) are more important than whether the traits were a result of classical breeding or genetic modification.

Question: Why do food crops have to be GM to enable "food security"? Do non GM food crops enable "food security"?

Taylor quoting Goldson: Goldson acknowledges that while trait-by-trait evaluation is important, strong attention needs to be paid to the GM component of organisms, particularly when looking at plants. He says the work the science community has done on GM forages has advanced significantly since 1999 and there is now no question that scientists can grow plants that are drought and insect resistant and that use nutrients more efficiently. The question now is whether these plants can be tested in field evaluations.

Question: Does Dr Goldson agree that drought and insect resistance can also be made available to open pollinated plants if an optimum natural environment is made available for them to grow in?

Taylor quoting Goldson: Goldson explains that NZ has been working on two types of genetic modification: cisgenic, which involves manipulating genes within a species, and transgenic, where genes may be sourced from elsewhere. He believes there is likely to be less resistance to cisgenic modification because it is perceived to be less risky, but adds that many in the science community doubt there is any difference between the two.

Question: Does Dr Goldson agree that the opinion of the science community on this subject is irrelevant and it is the perception of the consumer that is paramount.

The paper discusses adverse risks of GM forages. These include promiscuous pollen, or the spread of pollen outside the containment area, which can lead to the inadvertent spread of GM plants, as well as the risk of increased weediness due to enhanced traits.

Question: How does Goldson rate the risks in these areas? If liability for contamination continues to lie with the contaminator does Dr Goldson think growing GM crops is economically sustainable for the grower?

Taylor quoting Goldson: Horizontal gene transfer has been identified as a risk but Goldson says the science community believes the risk of this is minute.

Request: A minute risk means a risk exists. Please provide references to the research that identifies horizontal gene transfer as a risk.

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