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SCIENCE & REGULATION: Potential GM fungus outbreak at Lincoln University in New Zealand



                                  PART 1


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

TITLE:   POTENTIAL GM OUTBREAK AT UNIVERSITY

SOURCE:  Otago Daily Times, New Zealand

AUTHOR:  The Associated Press, New Zealand

URL:     http://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/250070/potential-gm-outbreak-university

DATE:    19.03.2013

SUMMARY: "The Government is investigating a potential outbreak of genetically modified fungus at Lincoln University. Two secured laboratories and a greenhouse have been locked down as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) checks the biological scare. Lincoln University researchers informed MPI and the Environmental Protection Agency on March 7 that it had evidence to suggest a fungus (Beauveria bassiana) supplied for research was potentially a strain modified genetically to include a marker so it could be traced in plants. The fungus had been believed to have been a ?wild strain? that is already present in the environment and so was being researched outside approved genetically modified containment facilities."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


POTENTIAL GM OUTBREAK AT UNIVERSITY

The Government is investigating a potential outbreak of genetically modified fungus at Lincoln University.

Two secured laboratories and a greenhouse have been locked down as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) checks the biological scare.

Lincoln University researchers informed MPI and the Environmental Protection Agency on March 7 that it had evidence to suggest a fungus (Beauveria bassiana) supplied for research was potentially a strain modified genetically to include a marker so it could be traced in plants.

The fungus had been believed to have been a ?wild strain? that is already present in the environment and so was being researched outside approved genetically modified (GM) containment facilities.

Work undertaken by the researchers indicated that the fungus had already been genetically modified.

After the alarm was raised, containment procedures were put in place.

Experts are testing whether the fungus is genetically modified and, if so, the extent of its presence outside approved GM containment facilities.

?The university and MPI take potential breaches of containment very seriously and the investigation into how it occurred will be thorough,? university vice-chancellor Stefanie Rixecker said.

?Although there is no evidence to suggest the genetic modifications made to the fungus in question have increased any health risk to humans or animals, there is a clear process that we must follow to ensure containment and that the same breach cannot happen again.?

The fungus was being researched on campus property in glass houses and laboratories with restricted access.

MPI and the university say they are confident that all of the known samples and plant materials containing the fungus are now contained.

The fungus Beauveria bassiana occurs naturally in soils throughout the world, including New Zealand, and infects a wide range of insect species.

It is used as a biological insecticide to control a number of insect pests.

The scare should be a ?massive wake-up call? to New Zealand?s environmental regulators, the Green Party said today.

?It?s absolutely not acceptable that almost two weeks after this breach the ministry still doesn?t know how it occurred,? genetic engineering spokesman Steffan Browning said.

?New Zealanders are constantly reassured that GE organisms are contained securely when used in research, but here we have another example of those restrictions not working. We deserve answers now about what has gone wrong here, and how the Ministry are going to assure it doesn?t happen again.?

Lincoln University and Crown Research Agencies have previously been implicated or found responsible for other GE experiment breaches, with some trials closed down, Mr Browning said.



                                  PART 2

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

TITLE:   GE FUNGUS LEAK BREAKS REGULATIONS

SOURCE:  The Green Party, New Zealand

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/ge-fungus-leak-breaks-regulations

DATE:    19.03.2013

SUMMARY: "The unapproved release of a genetically engineered fungus is massive wake up call to our environmental regulators, the Green Party said today. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed today that a genetically engineered fungus has been found outside of its approved containment facilities at Lincoln University?s campus. ?It?s absolutely not acceptable that almost two weeks after this breach the Ministry still doesn?t know how it occurred,? said Green Party genetic engineering spokesperson Steffan Browning."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


GE FUNGUS LEAK BREAKS REGULATIONS

The unapproved release of a genetically engineered fungus is massive wake up call to our environmental regulators, the Green Party said today.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed today that a genetically engineered (GE) fungus has been found outside of its approved containment facilities at Lincoln University?s campus.

?It?s absolutely not acceptable that almost two weeks after this breach the Ministry still doesn?t know how it occurred,? said Green Party genetic engineering spokesperson Steffan Browning.

We deserve answers now about what has gone wrong here, and how the Ministry are going to assure it doesn?t happen again

?New Zealanders are constantly reassured that GE organisms are contained securely when used in research, but here we have another example of those restrictions not working.

?We deserve answers now about what has gone wrong here, and how the Ministry are going to assure it doesn?t happen again.

The Ministry confirmed that wild strains of this fungus are widely spread in the environment.

?There are questions to be asked about any risk of cross contamination into wild species.

?The question is, how far has this unacceptable GE fungus spread? Either by insects, soil or water from the unapproved facility,? said Mr Browning.

Lincoln University and Crown Research Agencies have previously been implicated or found responsible for other GE experiment breaches, with some trials closed down.

?Our clean, green brand that adds value to our agricultural exports, depends on our GE free status,? said Mr Browning.



                                  PART 3

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

TITLE:   EPA WORKING WITH MPI TO ADDRESS GM BREACH AT LINCOLN UNIVERSITY

SOURCE:  Environmental Protection Authority, New Zealand (EPA)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.epa.govt.nz/news/erma-media-releases/Pages/EPA-working-with-MPI-to-address-GM-breach-at-Lincoln-University.aspx

DATE:    19.03.2013

SUMMARY: "The Environmental Protection Authority is working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and Lincoln University to determine how a genetically modified fungus came to be used outside approved containment facilities at Lincoln University. Lincoln University informed MPI and the Environmental Protection Authority on 7 March that a fungus (Beauveria bassiana) it was researching was potentially a GM strain.

The fungus was being researched indoors in laboratory or glasshouse facilities."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


EPA WORKING WITH MPI TO ADDRESS GM BREACH AT LINCOLN UNIVERSITY

The Environmental Protection Authority is working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and Lincoln University to determine how a genetically modified (GM) fungus came to be used outside approved containment facilities at Lincoln University.

Lincoln University informed MPI and the Environmental Protection Authority on 7 March that a fungus (Beauveria bassiana) it was researching was potentially a GM strain.

The fungus was being researched indoors in laboratory or glasshouse facilities.

It had initially been thought to be a wild strain that is already present in the environment, and so was being researched outside approved GM containment facilities.

The EPA?s principal scientist, Dr Geoff Ridley, says the potential risk to humans or animals is very low.

?There is no evidence to suggest that genetic modifications that may have been made to the fungus in these labs have increased any health or environmental risk.?

MPI is working with Lincoln University to make sure that all of the known samples and plant materials containing the fungus have been contained or destroyed.