It was recently revealed that 15 transgenic ingredients have crept into NZ foods unknown to the consumer because of inadequate labelling requirements. The group, Health Freedom New Zealand, is reportedly investigating. With NZ poised to enter a Free Trade Agreement with the US we will have to accept their produce and cannot turn it away on the grounds of GE content or contamination as Codex and the WTO have approved certain GEOs as acceptable. Refusal would mean trade sanctions and fines. The EU currently pays $130million to Canada and the US annually for refusing to accept their transgenic beef. Because of these fines, the EU is now considering reversing its stand on GEOs.
Now the German chemicals giant, Bayer, wants to release GE rice onto the market that is resistant to glufosinate – also produced by Bayer – a herbicide that is being banned in many countries. For video and petition see www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/genetic-engineering/hands-off-our-rice/hands-off-our-rice.
Why should we be concerned about a plant being genetically engineered to be resistant to glufosinate? Here are a few reasons –
· It is a neurotoxin; it has been clinically shown to affect the central nervous system in mammals, including growth retardation and deformities.
· The surfactant used in glufosinate formulations is also toxic.
· It has been shown to be toxic to beneficial soil micro-organisms.
· Herbicide-resistant crops can lead to herbicide-resistant weeds, and generate increasing dependency on the use of more herbicides.
· Reducing biodiversity by favouring one strain of rice has an enormous potential for large scale crop failure due to disease. Up to a half of the world’s population is dependent on rice as their staple diet. Biodiversity is nature’s way of not putting all the eggs in one basket.
Further info on glufosinate at www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/impacts_glufosinate_ammon.pdf. Further info on risks posed by monocultures at www.guardian.co.uk/science/2003/jan/16/gm.science.
‘GE Rice Heading our Way,’ 28 May 2009, email@example.com.