The Soil and Health Association says a new gene-splitting technique must be defined as genetic engineering. If not, it contends, more new techniques like it may be used in crops, food and other products without public knowledge and with unknown consequences.
The association is referring to zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), a class of engineered DNA-binding proteins that facilitate targeted editing of the genome by creating double-strand breaks in DNA at user-specified locations.
“There is a raft of new technologies being developed that are the next wave of genetic engineering,” says Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health – Organic NZ.
“These new technologies must be thoroughly and independently scrutinised and the precautionary principle applied. Otherwise, it’s an uncontrolled experiment that could have adverse effects for people, animals and the environment.”
The Soil & Health Association commends the Sustainability Council for challenging a decision by the Environmental Protection Authority that zinc finger nuclease is not genetic engineering.
The EPA committee that made the decision went against staff advice, the assocation says.
The case will be heard in the High Court in Wellington in November.