Genetically engineering varroa (Varroa destructor) mites to self destruct is no Christmas present for New Zealand’s beekeepers, according to Soil & Health Association of NZ.
“Any future for New Zealand does not include genetically engineered mites being carried around New Zealand on the back of honey bees, any more than a real Santa Claus with reindeer,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“News today that Aberdeen University’s Dr Alan Bowman has announced a potential mechanism for the inoculation of mites, in a way that silences a gene in the mite, damaging its immune system, is being overstated. The research is in its infancy and potential hazards appear not to have been considered at all.” (1)
“Aberdeen University’s research needs to be seen in a broader ecological context of risk and actual potential success. Certainty would be needed that tampering with the DNA of the mite would not for example sport a mite or virus that is worse than the existing varroa, or have other unintended effects on bees, or affect mites naturally part of an indigenous ecosystem.”
“A more useful curative to varroa than what is currently available would save considerable angst and cost to New Zealand beekeepers, and more benign alternatives than genetic engineering are being researched continuously which would not impact on New Zealand’s largely GE Free status.”
“Pest control in New Zealand using genetic engineering is no more acceptable than growing GE food, forages or forests would be to Aotearoa New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure trading and tourism brand.”
“The 5 to 10 years of further research and development that Aberdeen suggests is necessary for their postulated GE solution, allows for significant development in less risky alternatives, and research dollars would do well to be directed to those.”
“GE pest control research should always include scientists that are independently capable of imaging the very real risks that go hand in glove with such technology. Too often, research such as from Aberdeen claims potential solutions as part of touting for further research dollars, while completely ignoring the ecological risks,” said Mr Browning.
Soil & Health – Organic NZ wishes for research spending be directed to a GE free and organic varroa solution for Christmas 2011.