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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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HomeCulture WarNew Zealand's terrifying new world of genetic engineering

New Zealand’s terrifying new world of genetic engineering

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The writer is in New Zealand

THE National Party, aka Chris Luxon and Judith Collins, have announced their genetic engineering policy. They say GE will benefit our climate, healthcare, environmental protection and economic growth. Under National it will be open season for gene editing on and off the farm. 

We will no longer be left behind in the dark ages. Cows will chomp their NZ-engineered astro turf and stop causing climate change. Crops will yield fruits in every season, while pests lay down their lives in compliance. The sick will rise from their hospital beds in perfect health. Microplastics will be eaten by nano bugs. We will all be living the good life on meat-free GE burgers, and crucially, according to Collins and Luxon, we will get rich quick – a mouth-watering prospect.

National argues there are immense economic benefits to liberalising New Zealand’s GM rules. Luxon told TVNZ, ‘The biggest risk is not adopting new technology.’ Now tell me if I’m wrong, but haven’t we just had three years of full-on biotechnology-orientated health policy in New Zealand? Are we more healthy or less? Are we better off economically or worse off? Has our climate improved and is our environment cleaner?

Judith Collins has told the NZ Herald: ‘GE has the potential to deliver vast benefits for human health. Recently a 13-year-old in London was cured of cancer using GE.’So the alleged short-term health outcome of one young person in London is now going to determine the health policies of New Zealand, not a trial of thousands or even hundreds?

Let’s examine this case a little more carefully. The young person was diagnosed with rapid-onset leukaemia in 2021. Now what else happened in 2021? Oh yes, there are dozens of published studies reporting cross-connections between leukaemia, Covid-19 infection and mRNA Covid vaccination. Do I also remember that someone said that Covid-19 might have been created in a biotech lab?

I am being sarcastic here, because I have read that the novel leukaemia treatment of the 13-year-old in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London is subject to ongoing evaluation. Scientists may start a follow-up trial involving ten subjects. The long-term outcome is unsure. Last week I reported on a recent case of a young girl undergoing gene therapy who died, an outcome that is unfortunately not rare. 

Gene therapy is hugely costly: a single intervention with one patient may cost millions. This is a prescription not for universal healthcare but for the wholesale transfer of public wealth to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. New Zealand has just spent $70billion to fund pandemic measures on the recommendation of pharmaceutical interests. It is sobering to review the economic and social outcomes for New Zealand and contrast them with Pfizer’s vast profits.

According to the Herald, National has announced this policy in order to win the farm vote. I was a senior manager at Genetic ID, a global food safety testing and certification company. Our core business included testing for genetic contamination and certifying bulk foods destined for export. Our clients included many of the world’s largest agricultural producers. It is notable that small producers struggled to afford testing and certification and were consequently pushed towards either selling their produce exclusively to multinational companies or selling out their farm holdings entirely.

As GE crops have taken over in the US, small holdings have progressively disappeared. Bill Gates is now one of the largest ‘farmers’ in the world. Corporatisation of farming is a model that would not suit New Zealand or enterprising farmers. Moreover, GE has increased the use of farm chemicals, not decreased it. Companies such as Monsanto, and now Bayer, have spent vast sums hiding the health effects of GE crops and their paired pesticides, as this report discusses.

Biotechnology relies upon hordes of highly paid biotechnologists and profit-hungry biotech corporations; it doesn’t really take note of the needs of farmers. Costly patented seeds and processes are the name of the game. Vast scale is important. You can look in vain for real biotech agricultural success stories. You are more likely to find statistics of farmer suicides than increased crop yields. Moreover, retail acceptance has not taken hold, except where the government abandons consumer labelling.

Dozens of stories have appeared in the press over the last ten years of projects to render mosquitos incapable of breeding, but trials haven’t worked on a scale that might make any difference to the incidence of malaria. The projects have however consumed money from governments and investors, something the biotech industry needs more and more. Don’t think biotechnology is a get-out-of-jail-free card, or even something proven useful. It harms biodiversity and undermines traditional agriculture with projects crafted to dazzle politicians looking for election-winning policies. Policies which will ultimately waste the hard-earned dollars we pay in taxes each year. There is no scientific indication we will become more healthy, productive, rich, happy or wise as a result. In fact the opposite is the case.

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Guy Hatchard
Guy Hatchard
Guy Hatchard PhD is a former senior manager at Genetic ID, a global food testing and certification company. He lives in New Zealand.

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