Biotechnology has made important advances adding much of value to our scientific heritage. However, the technology of genetic engineering is seriously flawed.
Moving genes between species is changing the shape of our world. It, and the patenting of plants and animals, has extended property rights into biology, providing the potential for direct control over much of the world's agricultural production and thus its food supply.
Testimony presented to Northland Regional Council on 21 June 2013 by Dr Peter R Wills, Department of Physics, The University of Auckland.
I am a theoretical biologist with 30 years research experience at The University of Auckland, the United States National Institutes of Health and Santa Fe Institute and a large number of research institutes and universities in Germany, most recently the Universität Tübingen. My main area of research concerns the way in which biological systems interpret genetic information. My latest publications in this area are about:
pathological reinterpretation of host genetic information by prion agents;
the fundamental character of genetic information and coding in nature;
biomimetic “genetic coding” control of electronic-chemical nano-particles;
ethical and societal aspects of new biotechnologies.
This research is concerned with the foundations of genetics and the processes responsible for expressing the effects of genetic changes, including those produced by using techniques of genetic engineering (GE). My professional contributions to discussions about genetic engineering include:
commentary for the Bioethics Council;
comprehensive testimony to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification;
testimony to the Waitangi tribunal;
chapter in a book about GE;
internationally published scholarly work;
authorship of an international scientists’ statement about GE.
In 1987 I was the first researcher ever to use the NZ Official Information Act to gain access to government documents concerning the regulation of genetic engineering activities in New Zealand and I made many submissions to the Environmental Risk Management Authority and the Australia New Zealand Food Authority during the 1990s. I take great care to separate scientific issues from policy issues and value judgments. I likewise take a cautious approach to claims of scientific certainty. I am a founding trustee of Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility (New Zealand).
Uncertainty in genetic engineering
18 April 2013
The Right Hon John Key
cc Ministries for Primary Industries; Environment. Ministries of Business, Innovation and Employment; Foreign Affairs and Trade; Health; Māori Development; Social Development; Women's Affairs; all Members of Parliament, New Zealand Councils, District Health Boards, and Community and Local Boards; relevant community groups and NGOs
Dear Mr Key
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the welfare of New Zealand and its people
Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility is a Charitable Trust established to provide independent scientific assessment and advice on matters relating to genetic engineering, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, (bio)geo-engineering and other scientific matters.
Ensuring protection for New Zealand and New Zealanders against harm from genetic engineering and novel technologies
We are concerned about the alleged secrecy surrounding clauses in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) under negotiation. While discretion is to be expected in any negotiation, PSGR asks your government to release clear acknowledgement that New Zealanders and the New Zealand environment will be safeguarded and not jeopardized in respect to the risks associated with genetic engineering, nanotechnology, synthetic biology and (bio)geo-engineering. Free Trade must not be at the expense of New Zealand industry and agriculture, its environment, or the values and well-being of New Zealanders, and it must not infringe in any way the basic human right of the public to freedom of choice.
We write because there has been no such assurance so far, despite indications that negotiations are proposing unacceptable compromises on standards and duty of care.
2 April 2013
Hon Nikki Kaye MP
New Zealand Representative on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
cc John Key, Prime Minister; all MPs, Ministries of Health and for Primary Industries, FSANZ, relevant NGOs.
DOW Transgenic Soy Application A1073 approved by FSANZ in February 2013
PSGR understands the COAG Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation will be confirming the approval of Application A1073 by early May.
As the sole New Zealand representative, we urge you to advocate against the approval of A1073.[i]
When decisions are made on transgenic foods, food ingredients and food crops without essential scientific data on the health impacts of those foods, Food Standards ANZ (FSANZ) and the Forum deny consumers fundamental information about the food they will have no choice in ingesting. This is a denial of the basic right to freedom of choice. Present labelling laws are inadequate to guarantee that choice.
Because of potential adverse effects on ingestion of transgenic soy, FSANZ and the Forum may even be vulnerable to litigation.
Negative health effects on consumers relative to the above are known: