NZ Public Forced to Pay to Investigate GE Breach

Sunday, 25 January 2009, 12:09 pm
Press Release: GE Free NZ

Public Forced to Pay for Officials to Investigate GE Trial Breach
Date: 24th January 2009

Representatives from the NGO* community-group GE-Free NZ and the Soil and Health Association met with Federated Farmers, OANZ*, HortNZ* and MAFBNZ* to present photographic evidence of the regulatory breaches of the GE brassica trial (GMF06001).

“These meeting were vital to put things into perspective as initially, Plant and Food denied that any breach had occurred, though they later admitted to it they downplayed the seriousness of the event” says Claire Bleakley, President of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

“The trial site must be closed down. New Zealand's biosecurity and public must be protected against the potential to white wash such a serious breach.”

Despite being shown evidence of Plant and Food GE field trial serious breaches of regulatory controls intended to prevent contamination, officials from MAF-Biosecurity and ERMA say they are powerless to halt further plantings of GE crop trials next week.

The series of meetings provided an opportunity for officials to review photographic evidence showing some GE plants and 'buffer' plants had been allowed to develop to flowering over a 5- 6 week period. This was a period during which Plant and Food staff were supposed to have twice inspected the site to prevent such an occurrence.

Composting of plants which had been removed from the site after the first alarm was raised is also indicated in the photographs to be ineffectual. The composting process is supposed to destroy seeds that could be hybrids of the GE plants and the buffer plants, but in the photographs the compost is clearly too dry to do this.

Concerns were expressed over the land surrounding the trial site which has experimental, Organic and conventional horticulture farms in close proximity. Flowering brassica (salad greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale) are pollinated by bees, native insects and the wind, which poses a strong possibility that pollen could have escaped outside the containment facility or contaminated the honey.

We were told that only way to halt the planting is to submit a formal request for a reassessment. In light of this GE Free NZ has submitted one to ERMA. However, this cannot be processed unless a payment accompanies the request.

"The imposition of a fee before a reassessment is made is a wake-up call for farmers and the food industry that our regulatory system exposes innocent parties to significant costs to protect their interests," says Ms Bleakley.

GE Free NZ is already carrying costs of legal action in the public interest and for maintaining public engagement with the ERMA process.

"It should not be up to the public to pay the regulatory and enforcement agencies to carry out their duties. New Zealand's biosecurity must be protected against the mistakes, recklessness and incompetence of scientists and staff who potentially undermine our exports with GE contamination from their field-trials. The trial site must be closed down” said Ms Bleakley.



OANZ* - Organic Aoteraoa New Zealand,
MAF BNZ – Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Biosecurity New Zealand.
NGO – Non Governmental Organisation
The Press | Tuesday, 20 January 2009, David Williams Environment reporter, GE activists call for trials to be ended

Picture of breach – 4.85 MB -