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6-Regulation: Professor warns of lifting New Zealand's GE moratorium

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Professor criticises GM release plan Government's proposal to lift
        moratorium opposed
SOURCE: Otago Daily Times, New Zealand, by John Gibb
DATE:   Jan 10, 2003

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Professor criticises GM release plan Government's proposal to lift 
moratorium opposed

Government plans to lift a moratorium on the release of genetically-
modified organisms have been criticised by the head of Oxford University's 
zoology department, Prof Alan Cooper.

Genetic modification techniques had a valuable role to play in the 
laboratory, said Prof Cooper (36), a New Zealander, who was born in Dunedin 
but grew up near Wellington.

However, he opposed New Zealand Government plans to allow a moratorium on 
the commercial release of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) to expire 
in October.

The scientific precautionary principle should apply to any environmental 
release of GMOs, given the precise outcome was unknown, he said in an 
interview in Dunedin yesterday.

Unless "100% guarantees" of safety could be given, such organisms should 
not be released.

New Zealand had a strong competitive advantage by being able to promote its 
foodstuffs as coming from a nuclear-free and GM-free environment.

Once GMOs were released, New Zealand's strong marketing position as a food 
exporter to Britain would be badly compromised, he warned.

British consumers and supermarkets had rejected GM food, and customers were 
prepared to pay a big premium for organically-grown produce, he said.

Prof Cooper, who gained a doctorate in biochemistry and genetics at 
Victoria University of Wellington in 1994, is an award-winning scientist 
and is believed to be the youngest zoology professor in the history of 
Oxford University.

He gave a public talk at the Otago Museum last night on his studies of 
ancient DNA, including that of extinct birds such as the dodo and the moa.

Prof Cooper is director of the Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Centre 
at Oxford University.

The centre is a leader in the analysis of ancient DNA.


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