Wednesday, July 6, 2022

MPI investigates GM breach

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating how a genetically modified (GM) fungus came to be used outside approved containment facilities at Lincoln University’s campus.

“Based on what we know at present, the potential biological risks from this discovery appear very low,” MPI verification and services deputy director general Roger Smith said. 

“At this stage, we believe it is unlikely any potentially genetically modified Beauveria bassiana fungus has spread further. The fungus in question was found indoors in glasshouses and laboratories with restricted access. 

“Wild strains of this fungus are widely spread in the environment and are commonly found in plants. There is no evidence to suggest the genetic modifications made to the fungus in these labs have increased any health risk to humans or animals.” 

Lincoln University informed MPI and the Environmental Protection Authority on March 7 that it had evidence to suggest the fungus it was researching was potentially a GM strain. 

“MPI is treating the situation very seriously. MPI inspectors visited the campus on Friday March 8 and immediately put in place controls to prevent further potential breaches,” Smith said. 

He said it remains unclear how the breach occurred but further investigative work is being done to find out.

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