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Green Food

Recently I received a communication from Greenpeace requesting financial support for a campaign against "genetically modified" food, a "new and dangerous technology". Just sometimes, I agree with Greenpeace sentiments; at other times, such as now, when they are obstructing scientific development which has been practised for uncountable thousands of years and has brought the world to its present stage of progress, I can only regard their attitude as ignorant and childish in the extreme.

The term "genetically modified" has recently come into use, as science and technology have discovered exactly how and why the previously used term -- "cross breeding" -- has for centuries been found to be practical and beneficial to humankind. However, cross breeding was a slow way to provide benefit because all genes were crossed, which could lead to a backward step which would need to be bred out again. Today science and technology can identify specific genes which control specific facets of development. We are on the edge of a vast and exciting era of development of unimaginable benefit to mankind.

Greenpeace claims that nothing is known or proven about the results of "genetic modification". Absolute poppycock. I have been around the farming scene in New Zealand for 70 years, and have been aware of, or concerned with, the production of up to 10,500 stock units per year for much of that. For hundreds or thousands of years, all this product was "genetically modified" or crossbred. To help sustain and grow this stock in New Zealand, researchers actively crossed or "genetically altered" various pasture species to give better winter growth, resistance to disease, better fattening or growth nourishment; or produced different types of apples, better pine trees, improved varieties of poplars and willow for conservation purposes.

You, Mrs or Mr Reader, had a father and a mother who blended their genes and produced a "genetically modified child"! In 1985/86 a member of my totally "genetically modified" family was basically responsible for importing five new breeds of European sheep which have had a substantial beneficial influence on meat production through "cross breeding" or "genetic improvement" of New Zealand breeds.

It also must be recognised that New Zealand scientists and stock breeders have been responsible for the production of new breeds such as Coopworth, Perendale and Drysdale -- all now fine breeds, but all a result of "genetic modification", or wise manipulation!

Genetic manipulation, modification, alteration, engineering, call it what you will. It has been in operation since time immemorial and will continue, but at a greater and more exciting rate, thanks to our greater technological and scientific development, due to the modification of our genes.

James T. Tawse, Wanganui