Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

March 13, 2001

Subject:

60 Minutes, RICO, E-coli, Monarchs, Labels, NZ,

 

http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,275254-412,00.shtml

Colleagues, the "food scare" industry never sleeps. Brace yourselves.

What Have They Done to Our Food? Modifying Food Via Biotechnology
Is It Really Safe? Watch Tonight, 9 p.m. ET/PT 60 Minutes II airs
regularly on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Up Next: March 13, 9 p.m. ET/PT
What Have They Done to Our Food? Would you eat food that’s been
genetically engineered? You may have no choice, because it is practically
everywhere. 60 Minutes II found a salmon growing three times faster than
nature intended, and that’s just the beginning.

http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,275254-412,00.shtml
---------------

Do you think biotech food is safe? Post your view on 60 Minutes II's
bulletin boards.

http://forums.prospero.com/n/main.asp?webtag=cbs60mins2&nav=messages&msg=11
<http://forums.prospero.com/n/main.asp?webtag=cbs60mins2&nav=messages&msg=11>
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 14 Mar 2001 16:15:36 -0000
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: RICO

I was most interested in Thomas Redick's contribution on liabilities
relating to mycotoxins and the use of Bt technology. I would like to know,
from Mr. Redick, or any other lawyer who might be on this list, if it
might be possible to restrain the excesses of some anti-biotech and
related activist groups through an application of the Racketeer Influenced
and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act (18 U.S.C. 1951 et. seq), especially
in light of the US Supreme Court's 1994 decision in the case of National
Organization for Women (NOW) vs. Scheidler. In the NOW case, the court
found that RICO could be applied against activist groups disrupting
interstate commerce, whether or not
they did so for purposes of economic gain, and that the defendants in
the case could not raise a defense based on the First Amendment (freedom
of speech).
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 13 Mar 2001 19:32:38 -0000
From: Craig Sams Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Allergen, Mycotoxins, Your World, Organics,
Borlaug, EU, Ecology, India

I have refrained from responding to the conspiracy theories about why
Europeans reject biotech food, sinister plots by Greenpeace and the
wholefoods industry to discredit biotech in order to boost sales of
organic food and the speculation about mycotoxins in non-GM food (as a
peanut butter manufacturer I regularly test peanuts and the organic
ones are consistently lower in mycotoxins because the plants are that much
healthier. I can't comment on corn but think it's always dangerous to
generalise from a limited base of information)

Which brings me to the reason for this posting. Yet again the
scurrilous nonsense that organic food carries an E.coli health risk
because of the use of manure as a fertiliser has been published on your
site. Yet again I make the statement that nobody can challenge, not even
Dennis Avery, the author of the original falsification, namely; "There is
no known case of E.coli O157:H7 arising from certified organic production
practices."

The quote from Hindu Business Line repeats this daft canard, which you
might expect from Hindus who may be unfamiliar with the unhygienic
practices in US feedlots and slaughterhouses which are where the actual
fatalities, sickness and disablement arising
from mutant E.coli originate. I am reluctant to criticise them as their
analysis of the havoc wrought by the pesticides that accompanies the Green
Revolution are shocking, but I have made it my life's mission to
continuously rebut this one misstatement of fact about E.coli.

I have learned a lot about science and scientific judgement and integrity
as a result of following the GM saga and for that I am grateful, but
please stop giving airtime to this particular lie.

If some anarchist crank came up with cooked up 'evidence' that GM soybeans
made your ears fall off and this nonsense was successfully rebutted, would
you continue to repeat it ad nauseam? Of course not. Why not do the same
on E.coli?

Craig Sams
President, Whole Earth Foods Ltd.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 13 Mar 2001 21:10:43 -0000
From: Frederic Abraham
Subject: GM and Impact on natural envionment

I'd like to comment on Mr. Chrispeels latest post about GM and the
impact on the environment.

Firstly, as for the relation in "destructiveness" between GM technology
and traditional agriculture practiced throughout the history of humankind,
I think it is nonsense to make the comparison: the context between the two
kind of practices is way too different! The impact of GM crops on the
environment has to be measured and appreciated globally since it enters
the realm of global economy. One cannot compare those two agriculture
practices solely on a quantitative base: the difference in the impact on
the environment has to be appreciated qualitatively and by integrating the
context in which each practice is evolving. It's only then that you can
fully appreciate all the potential impact GM technology could have on
the environment: don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying the impact
could be disastrous. It might as well be very little... What I'd like to
point out here are some key factors one shouldn't forget when trying to
appreciate the impact of a new technology on the environment.

Secondly, my comment will be in response to this statement made by Mr.
Chrispeels: "Crops genetically engineered with genes that make proteins to
kill only specific insects require fewer pesticide applications; as a
result, fields of these crops have more
insects and a greater diversity of insect species, including beneficial
ones".

As I pointed out before, that is an example of an appreciation of the
impact of GM crop based solely on quantitative terms ("fewer pesticide"
and "greater diversity"... Personnally, I find it outrageous to appreciate
the value of biodiversity in terms of number of species...) This
statement, in my opinion, misses totally the point... In fact, what really
is of concern here (ecologically speaking since we are considering the
environmental
impact) is the fact that a plant is being engineered to specifically
kill one or more species of insects: now, what has to be considered here,
is the impact of the precipitated disappearance of species of inscets on
the ecosystem. Furthermore, you also have to take into account the fact
that the GM pollen might propagate abroad and generalize the effect on the
environment. Once again, I'm not saying the effect might be that much of
concern... I'm just stating that this kind of considerations absolutely
have to be made in order to properly assume the potential impact of GM
crops on the environment. I mean, Come'on!: this is classical
environmental risk
consideration...

Frederic Abraham
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.icgeb.trieste.it/~bsafesrv/bsfn0103.htm

From: Giovanni Ferraiolo

CALL FOR APPLICATION FOR A POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP AT THE BIOSAFETY
UNIT, ICGEB HEADQUARTERS, TRIESTE, ITALY

The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
offers a postdoctoral fellowship in biosafety. Training is proposed
in the areas of activity of the Biosafety Unit (information sharing,
capacity building and international co-operation in biosafety) with
special focus on dissemination of scientific information on risk
assessment and management for the environmental release of
genetically modified organisms. A short summary of the activities of
the Biosafety Unit is available from the ICGEB Biosafety WebPages at
http://www.icgeb.trieste.it/biosafety
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: Mar 14 2001 02:14:03 EST
From: Bruce Chassy Subject: Golden Rice rebuttal by Dr. Chassy

Part of my letter to the NYT that wasn't published. It was in
response to a nutritionist, Marion Nestle, attacking golden rice
right around new year's day.

"All can agree with Dr. Nestle that "Conquering these problems
requires more challenging interventions than a single high-tech
product," but we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation where
advocates who claim to care about the needs of the poor are
determined to block the use of biotechnology to help them. One must
ask what is more important to these zealous opponents, the poor and
hungry, or pursuit of their own ideological zeal? If activists spent
more time working on ways to feed the hungry and less time
criticizing those who are, the world might be a better place. Let's
make a New Year's resolution that we will come together and work to
address all the causes of hunger and malnutrition by all and whatever
means necessary."
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 14:05:16 -0800
From: Peter Gothro

While much of the furor over Bt-corn and Monarchs has abated, or so
it seems, I just received the following email regarding an event that
shows what I believe to be a greater threat to the survival of the
Monarchs. Somehow, I don't think that all the Bt-corn in the US (or
the world?) would have the impact that this event has had. Although
the concerns over non-target effects of GM crops are quite valid, the
event below is very sobering.

Thank you for the wonderful discussion list.

Regards, Peter Gothro
-------
From: "Lincoln P. Brower" Subject: Fwd: Monarch butterfly massacre in Cerro San Andres

Dear Colleagues,

Independent lines of evidence are suggesting that more than one of the
over wintering colonies of the monarch butterfly in Mexico have been
sprayed by insecticides. Please see the below carefully worded report
from the Group of 100 in Mexico City, received today by Lincoln Brower (10
March 2001) and the following, apparently completely independent
statements. David Marriott (Dir. of the Monarch Program, San Diego)
called me last night (9 March 2001) from Valle de Bravo and left a message
that he had been told yesterday by ejidatarios that the Cerro Pelon
Sanctuary had also been sprayed in late December 2000 and that the spray
had killed 75% of the colony. He is due back Monday night, and I will try
and get the facts more clearly as soon as I can. I also managed to contact
Dr. William Calvert in the Hotel Cortez last night (9 March 2001) in
Mexico City and asked him to obtain samples of the dead butterflies,
freeze them and bring them back for analysis. WWF-Mexico is trying
independently to do the same thing. Today (10 March) I heard from yet
another independent source (that I can not divulge) that ejidatarios in
another municipality also alluded to spraying. It is important to realize
that Cerro Pelon was protected in both the 1986 and 2000 Presidential
Decrees, whereas San Andreas was not. Cerro San Andreas is about 60
miles northwest of Cerro Pelon, and therefore, if these lines of
uncertainty all prove to be true, then there must be a conspiracy to
destroy the butterflies. I also called Betty and Homero Aridjis in Mexico
City at 10:40PM last night and as we were talking, Televisa National News
was broadcasting a segment called "Cemetery of the Butterflies" in which
they showed the national police (Profepa) walking through the San Andreas
colony amongst many dead monarchs and showing, in particular, devastating
logging in and adjacent to the colony. The narrator, Joaquin Lopez
Doriega (sp. ?)stated that there was uncertainty whether the dead
butterflies had been killed by storms or by insecticides, reflecting the
content of the message I sent to you all yesterday. Whether or not
spraying occurred, we have a very serious problem on our hands. I will
keep you posted as further information materializes.

The below is forwarded to you herewith. It is a translation of what Homero
Aridjis of the Group of 100 sent to the Mexican Press in the last 24 hours.

Lincoln Brower.

-------
From: GRUPO DE LOS CIEN INTERNACIONAL Subject: Monarch butterfly massacre in Cerro San Andres

MONARCH BUTTERFLY MASSACRE

(report by Homero Aridjis, President, Grupo de los Cien)

Evidence is piling up that an intentional application of pesticides caused
the death of millions of monarch butterflies in the Cerro San Andres
sanctuary in Michoacan state recently.

The Cerro San Andres sanctuary, located in the triangle between three
municipalities of Maravatio, Ciudad Hidalgo and Zinapecuaro, is one of 13
sanctuaries where the monarch butterflies hibernate in Mexico from
November to March each year after a long flight from Canada. Five of the
sanctuaries were officially protected by the government since 1986, but
San Andres was one of eight sanctuaries that was not.

Loggers have been cutting heavily in the San Andres area, trying to get
out as much wood as they can before the sanctuary becomes an officially
protected area.

We believe that loggers sprayed pesticides, possibly DDT, on the trunks
and branches of oyamel trees, killing all of the Monarchs (Danaus
plexippus) in the colony. The witnesses who first discovered the mass
deaths noticed that the wings of the butterflies they saw on the forest
floor had an unusual brilliance, and they smelled petroleum or pesticide
in the air.

What was a sanctuary a short time ago is now a cemetery of dead
butterflies and tree trunks. Loggers have been carrying away bags and bags
of dead butterflies and now very few remain as evidence that there were
millions of them in the forest. In each hectare (2.24 acres) of forest up
to 10 million monarchs can gather.

The Grupo de los Cien (Group of 100) environmental group contacted Jose
Jaime Hinojosa Campa, the mayor of Maravatio, from the leftist Party of
the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who told us that during the yearly
Monarch Butterfly Festival (February-March) the director of the town's
House of Culture went to the San Andres sanctuary to locate the monarch
colony but came back reporting huge quantities of dead butterflies.

One witness, who cannot be identified because loggers have threatened him,
said he saw the trees full of butterflies days before the massacre, but on
February 5 he heard that "something was going on in the butterfly
sanctuary, and that a huge number of the insects were dead." Police were
ordered to investigate and they reported a smell of illegal pesticide DDT
but found no container.

In a February 6, 2001 report to Mayor Hinojosa, eyewitnesses said that "in
effect the scene is catastrophic. You can observe that the ground is
carpeted with dead butterflies." Witnesses said the dead butterflies piled
up as deep as 20 centimeters.

The same report cited peasants in the area who said they had never seen
anything like this in all their years living in the area, and they suspect
that there was some kind of intentional poisoning.

The inspectors asked for SEMARNAT (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos
Naturales, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources) to do a
thorough investigation of the case, and to also investigate the wholesale
logging in the region. They attached
photographs of cut trees and samples of dead butterflies to be analyzed to
determine why they died.

"I think someone did something bad to the butterflies. To begin with it
was not cold. There was a light rain that night, but that wouldn't harm
them. I cried in the sanctuary. All the butterflies were dead. Every hole
in the ground was full of butterflies, between rocks, in the dust. Some
were lying dead on recently-cut trees that still had fresh branches. Five
million butterflies. I felt horrible," said the witness who cannot be
named. "People in the area say they used to fumigate the butterflies,
because they thought they were a plague."

The same witness said that the loggers are a strong, armed group, and have
even kidnaped an employee of SEMARNAT. "Last year five trucks carrying
illegal logs were stopped in Maravatio and 30-40 armed men came to get the
drivers out of jail. These groups are protected. They are people with
connections to Michoacan´s Governor Victor Tinoco Rubi (of the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)) and PRI Deputies David Molina and
Sabino Padilla. The loggers cut at night, from 2-6 in the morning. They
disappear in the day time. They do everything in the wee hours. They have
special trucks to operate at night. 60,000 feet of wood a day pass through
Maravatio alone."

According to the PROFEPA office in Michoacan,(Procuraduria Federal del
Medio Ambiente -- Attorney General's Office for the Environment) local
biologist Xiomara Mora claims that "the butterflies froze to death, due to
climate conditions registered in December (rains, continuous low
temperatures). Other circumstances that contributed to the butterfly death
in San Andres are: The forest where the colony is situated is of very
young trees with very unstable climate conditions. Nearby is an area that
suffered a severe fire in 1998."

But the eyewitness says "That report makes no sense to me. It says the
butterflies died of cold, but it wasn't even cold. It also says that they
died because there were no trees, but there are still a lot of trees. The
forest burned, but that was three years ago."

The Cerro San Andres sanctuary is at 3420 meters above sea level.
According to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve Monitoring Program, some 10
million butterflies can be found in one hectare.

In 1998 the Group of 100 complained that loggers in the San Andres area
were cutting down huge amounts of trees and were also driving over
butterflies on the ground.

Year after year the Group of 100 has lodged complaints about
out-of-control logging in the monarch butterfly reserve, and that logging
companies in the region have grown bigger and more numerous. Armed groups
have taken over parts of the five butterfly sanctuaries that were decreed
protected areas in 1986. The other eight sanctuaries are being mowed down
by loggers, as is the case in Cerro Pelon, where there are also suspicions
of pesticide spraying causing massive butterfly deaths. Systematic logging
has destroyed the forest's microclimate exposing the butterflies to the
cold when there are sudden drops in the temperature.

In November 2000, then President Ernesto Zedillo announced plans to expand
the protected butterfly areas from the 16,100 hectares (39,767 acres)
decreed in 1986 to more than 56,259 hectares (138,960 acres).

The Grupo de los Cien calls on the government's environmental authorities
to immediately investigate the recent events in Cerro San Andres and other
butterfly sanctuaries, and to arrest and punish the loggers to the full
extent of the law. Unfortunately, the heavily armed loggers operate under
the protection of local, state and federal authorities, and even if they
were prosecuted the maximum punishment they would face is a laughable fine
of 20 times the minimum wage.

Corruption in the justice system has prevented action against the loggers
thus far. Police and inspectors involved in night patrols in the area tip
off loggers so that they will not be discovered. And when loggers have
been arrested they are immediately set free by rotten elements in the
prosecutor's office.

The Monarchs arrived in early November -- as they do every year -- to
hibernate in the central Mexican mountains. Normally they begin in late
March their long migration through Mexico and the U.S., to Canada. The
massacre of an entire colony of butterflies, using pesticides, is
unprecedented in Mexico and will surely have a serious impact on the
reproduction and migration of the butterflies in years to come.

Grupo de los Cien Internacional
fax (52) 5520-3577
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 13 Mar 2001 20:37:51 -0000
From: "Willy DE GREEF"
Subject: another on-line seller of anti-biotech products

I came across the website below of a company that specialises in
selling organic products and makes it sales pitch by misleading statements
about GM crops. one of its major claism is the monarch story. This company
is also organising a letter writing campaign to FDA over GM foods. I think
it would be interesting to send them a few facts about some of their
claims about GM crops (and maybe a fact or two about some organic crops as
well...)

Best regards,

Willy De Greef
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Truth Behind the Feel-Good Labels

New York Times
Marian Burros
March 14, 2001

BIRD-FRIENDLY, shade-grown and cage-free are just a few of the new
marketing labels being plastered on food packages, and if you do not have
a clue about what they mean, you are not alone. Even when you do, what
proof is there that the claims are accurate?

Now that organic labels have become commonplace, a new kind of feel-good
labeling is making its way to the grocery store. In its broadest terms,
this ''green shopping'' movement deals with man's relationship to the
environment, and the treatment of farmworkers, just two topics that led to
riots last year at the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle.

Doing well by doing good is not a new idea, of course. Ben & Jerry's and
Newman's Own are the most obvious success stories. Ben & Jerry's mentions
its use of recycled paper for its ice cream cartons, and Newman's has
famously donated its profits and uses organic ingredients in its salsas
and other products. Stonyfield Farm has taken things a step further. Its
yogurt containers boast: ''We give 10 percent of our profits to the
planet.''

But a more narrow comparison can be drawn to the early days of organic
food, when anyone could claim a food was grown organically without any
evidence, and to the days before nutrition labeling was regulated, when a
product like vinegar could be labeled cholesterol-free.

Once again, the watchword wherever food is sold is: buyer beware.
Federal law requires all labeling and advertising to be ''truthful and not
misleading,'' but regulatory agencies admit they do not have the resources
to monitor compliance unless someone discovers life-threatening claims.

As a result, a new certification industry has sprung up, following the
example of the organics industry, which has established independent
certification. Organizations like the Rain Forest Alliance charge for
their seal of approval. It took almost 10 years for the alliance to
certify that Chiquita Brands International, one of the largest marketers
of bananas in the world, had met its criteria for the Eco-OK Better Banana
label. The program requires conservation, pollution control, worker safety
and less use of pesticides.

Pacific Rivers Council's Salmon-Safe has certified some 40 farms, dairies
and vineyards in the Pacific Northwest for improving farming practices to
restore water purity to salmon habitats. Some wine labels already carry
the Salmon-Safe logo. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is certifying
coffee that is shade-grown, a method that does not require clear cutting
of forests and is bird-friendly, as it does not destroy the habitat of
migratory birds.

Consumers Union has just opened a Web site, www.eco-labels.org, that is
useful in sorting out the standards and claims of various certifying
agencies. Otherwise shoppers have to call or send e-mail to a company to
ask what a claim means and what proof there is for it.

Gerald Celente, editor of the newsletter Trends, said that ''eco-friendly
is going to be a huge business, particularly when outbreaks of
foot-and-mouth disease and mad cow disease hit us.'' And he is convinced
they will.

Sunspire, which makes certifiably organic chocolate chips, claims on its
labels that it supports rain forest ecosystems. Asked what that means and
how it can be verified, Maggie Puertas, the company's sales office
coordinator, said, ''That's a good question.'' She added that only the
president of the company could answer it, and he did not return two phone
calls.

Sea Bear, a smoked-salmon processor, claims its fish is wild and caught by
hook and line, which suggests that it is of better quality than salmon
that is farmed and netted, and environmentally more desirable. A company
representative said it does its own verification of how the salmon is
caught and where it comes from.

Egg cartons offer some of the most interesting reading, although the words
are seldom enlightening. One company says there is no animal fat in the
feed. Does that mean there are other animal parts in the feed? Other egg
cartons claim that the hens are ''cage-free.'' Is that meant to suggest
that the chickens are free-range or simply that they are not in cages but
in large enclosed areas where they stand beak to beak?

One of my favorite labels is from a chicken producer that says its birds
have ''no artificial hormones.'' A double asterisk beside the statement
leads to this notice: ''U.S.D.A. regulations prohibit the use of
artificial growth stimulates and hormones in this product.'' The company
is making a virtue out of not doing what it is not permitted to do.

Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rain Forest Alliance, calls that
kind of labeling the ecological version of whitewashing. ''Green-washing
schemes make a company that does not have a good environmental record look
better,'' she said.

Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association,
who has spent many years making order out of chaos in the organic world,
sees such claims as a threat. ''If consumers lose faith in product
labeling, we'll be affected by that,'' she said.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Labelling exemptions defended

The Dominion
March 9, 2001

THE Government's food safety agency told the Royal Commission on Genetic
Modification yesterday that it saw no paradox in championing consumer
choice but rejecting the need for labelling in restaurants.
After being asked to appear to answer numerous criticisms, the Australia
New Zealand Food Authority strongly defended the several exemptions to the
labelling regime. These include where mingling of GM and non- GM
ingredients leaves the product substantially the same, where the GM
presence is deemed minute, and where the food is eaten at the point of
sale.

"A universally mandatory labelling system would be extremely difficult and
extremely expensive," managing director Ian Lindenmayer said. There was a
case for labelling, but not to the extent of costing the industry billions
of dollars, costs that would be passed on to consumers.

Cross-examined by David Collins, QC, for GE-Free New Zealand, Mr
Lindenmayer conceded that the authority had an aim to ensure consumer
choice and labelling was the only way to achieve this.

He also conceded that restaurants and takeaway bars represented a
"significant proportion" of the modified food sold in New Zealand and
Australia.

"Therefore the consumer will not get an informed choice in such
institutions?" Mr Collins asked.

Authority biotechnology manager Paul Brent: "They will have the
prerogative of seeking that information from staff. It will be an
obligation on suppliers to provide the information and on restaurant staff
to relay it if requested."

Mr Lindenmayer said that, Britain aside, no country deemed mandatory
labelling sensible in such circumstances, because of the costs that would
have to be passed on, and the ability of the market to provide for
particular requirements.

Asked by commission chairman Sir Thomas Eichelbaum about Britain, he said
that on personal visits there he had failed to find restaurants displaying
the information on their menus, or obeying British requirements to place
notices advising customers to ask. "I inquired and was told no one ever
asks for it. I was informed there was little interest."

The authority also strongly rejected accusations that its safety
assessment processes were not scientifically comprehensive, or that its
toxicity and allergenicity tests were inadequate.
Though it did not do its own tests, relying on information supplied by
producers, the approval process was open, consultative and based on
scientific and peer review, Mr Lindenmayer said.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NZ must ride technology wave with GM : Cullen

Waikato Times
March 12, 2001

Finance Minister Michael Cullen has warned of economic decline if New
Zealand adopts too cautious an approach to genetic engineering.
He said deciding whether and to what extent New Zealand embraced
biotechnology would probably be "the single most important strategic
policy decision that governments will make in the next 20 years".
Addressing a business conference in Turangi at the weekend, Dr Cullen said
the drive to make New Zealand a high performing economy would depend, in
part, on the development and application of the new technology.

It offered major gains in production and also had the potential to make
industries technologically obsolete if New Zealand failed to catch "the
right technological wave".

A Royal Commission on Genetic Modification is due to report to the
Government by June 1 on its findings. Some groups want the practice and
most genetically engineered products banned from New Zealand.
Dr Cullen said biotechnology spanned a wide spectrum, from the "absolutely
uncontroversial to the highly scary".

"We have to get the pitch right, because there are as many risks from
being too cautious as there are from being too cavalier."
Motor cars, for instance, killed tens of thousands of people every year.
"But we do not turn our backs on the technology.

"We do not ban the car nor do we allow unconstrained use of cars. We try
to set rules and contain damage and then live with the residual risk
because the advantages of the technology demand that we do so."
Setting the right controls, but also permitting the development of the
full potential of biotechnology would be the real test of New Zealand's
national maturity, Dr Cullen said.

National finance spokesman Bill English said New Zealand couldn't afford
to lose any more time on the development of its unique biotechnology.

He said the country was losing skilled people and investment in
biotechnology because of the moratorium on genetic engineering imposed
when the Labour-Alliance Government took power.
Mr English said New Zealand had a long record of technology leadership
with some crops and ruminant animals.
"This existing expertise is the base of our future in biotechnology.
"But we are losing our comparative advantage to other countries, such as
Australia, that are investing large amounts of money and recruiting the
world's best brains while we are standing still."