Professor Don Huber, a plant pathologist, at a workshop in Wairarapa on Monday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
By Hayley Gastmeier
An American plant pathologist says New Zealand is setting a positive example on the world stage for its GE free stance.
Don Huber, a former professor at Purdue University, Indiana, is in the country attending a range of agricultural conferences and meetings discussing disease control and crop productivity.
Mr Huber gave a talk to about 50 people in Featherston on Sunday about the impacts that genetically modified organism (GMO) production was having on human health.
He also ran a workshop in Greytown on Monday.
His kiwi visit was to impart knowledge gained during his 55 years of research, in the hope “that NZ doesn’t make some of the same mistakes we [America] have”.
He said NZ set an example to the rest of the world by providing “healthy and nutrient-dense” food products.
“You have tremendous opportunities [here in NZ].
“You’re one of the very few countries that hasn’t polluted the soils and general environment with the genetically engineered proteins — many of those we don’t even know what they are or what the full safety effects are, we are just know we are seeing the health effects.”
Mr Huber said the deterioration of health in America was “extremely serious” reaching “epidemic proportions”, and there was a “direct correlation” between this and GMO toxicity.
Many safety studies on GMOs had until recently been kept from the public arena, he said, and research coming to light was enabling experts to evaluate the effects on human health.
He said about 32 diseases had so far been linked to GMO proteins, including some cancers, inflammatory bowel-type diseases, diabetes, depression, neurological conditions, and obesity.
To date, no fresh produce grown in NZ is genetically modified.
“I hope that [NZ] maintains that so that the rest of the world has the encouragement to maybe follow suit.”
Mr Huber said NZ was “a very important niche in the food supply system”, and he hoped politicians would not succumb to the “tremendous pressure” being applied to adopt GMO practices by companies with patents on the products.
“I think future historians will look back and write about our time — not about how many pounds of pesticides we did or didn’t apply, but about how willing we are to sacrifice our children and jeopardise future generations with this experimental process we call genetic engineering that’s based on flawed science and failed promises just to benefit the bottom line of the commercial enterprise.”