Below is a telling letter to Ministers in the New Zealand government from Dr Elvira Dommisse, a former GM researcher at New Zealand's Crop & Food research institute (1985-1993).
Dr Dommisse's letter is about the behaviour of the New Zealand delegates at the Bioisafety Protocol meeting in Montreal, and it makes some very important points about the mindset of the New Zealand government. She points out how the Government has narrowly focused on commercial GM research projects at the expense of risk assessment work and more strategically intelligent approaches, like Marker-Asssisted Breeding ("Smart" Breeding).
Dr Dommisse is amongst those who originally encouraged the NZ government to ratify the Cartagena Protocol. She argued that the Protocol is needed to protect New Zealand's biodiversity from the "potentially disastrous" effects of LMO (Living Modified Organism) release. Dr Dommisse warned the government that although some of the direct effects of an introduced GMO may be predictable to a point by experimental monitoring, indirect and downstream effects may well not even have been thought of, let alone taken into account. http://www.mft.govt.nz/foreign/env/biosafety/subindividuals.html&e=9711
Dr Dommisse has also previously pointed to the high degree of unease among those in the GM research industry, who she keeps in touch with as former colleagues. They express their concerns only privately through fear of losing their jobs.
Dr Dommisse has also warned the New Zealand government that the haste and secrecy with which it has sought to forge ahead on GM issues, threatens the country's international markets which have been built on a reputation for food safety and quality: "What scares me is normally there are long-term tests but everything is being fast-tracked and hush-hushed."
Dear Mr Goff and Ms Hobbs
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my e-mail with concerns over the MOP/2 at Montreal (Cartagena Biosafety Protocol). I have read the media statements and would like to make a few comments on them.
It was not the Green Party or NGOs that first criticised New Zealand and Brazil for their unco-operative stance at the meeting. It was those delegates from the many other countries who were in agreement with each other, but not with New Zealand and Brazil. I have followed the writings of the Ethiopian scientist Dr Tewolde Egziabher, one of these delegates, and with all due respect, his understanding and knowledge of the risks and problems associated with GMOs/LMOs far exceeds anything that I have heard/read from any NZ government politician or official.
Your government should admit that making money from GMOs is high on its list of priorities, given the huge investment that the government has put into GE "research". I put research in inverted commas, because the work I did whilst at DSIR/Crop&Food and the work others did and still do (see C&F website) was/is not strategic research, but about developing protocols for a "product" that might earn NZ big export dollars in the future.
Risk assessment work is poorly funded and falls far behind the GE "product" research. Why is the government not investing so generously in Marker-Asssisted Breeding ("Smart" Breeding), which carries some advantages of GE work, but none of the risks? It does, however require specialised technical skills and knowledge that some of our GE scientists do not have.
Furthermore, you also criticised Jeanette Fitzsimons in your media release. She is not anti-GE per se, but opposed to any field release and GE crops in food. She is not opposed to GE laboratory work. She is also not anti-trade. The Greens wholeheartedly promote fair trade that is environmentally and socially sustainable, something the Labour government has chosen to ignore.
Please have a look at this article on MOP/2 by Ashok Sharma, an award-winning journalist, who is respected by both the pro- and anti-GE lobby.
Dr Elvira Dommisse
Brazil, New Zealand block LMOs proposal
ASHOK B SHARMA
June 06, 2005