High Court appeal upheld - GM animal applications invalid

GE FREE NZ Press Release 7 June 2009

In a precedent setting case, the High Court has upheld the appeal by GE Free NZ in Food and Environment against ERMA and AgResearch.

After 12 weeks of deliberation, Justice Clifford found that ERMA erred in receiving the applications from AgResearch and has declared them invalid. The decision sets aside the decisions by ERMA to proceed with the applications. ERMA is to take no further steps toward hearing and assessing the applications.

In October 2008 GE Free NZ went to the High Court to appeal a decision by ERMA NZ to notify four applications submitted by AgResearch that ranged from importing genetically engineered embryo's created overseas, to field trialling and commercial production of pharmaceuticals in milk, development of animals to model disease and virtually ‘anything else’ that would be of commercial interest.

"It is fantastic news that our concerns about the broad and indefinite nature of these applications have been upheld." says Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ in food and environment. "The cruelty and unregulated exploitation of animals for unsound GM research is not acceptable to New Zealanders."

The decision instructs ERMA to immediately halt processing the applications made by AgResearch who sought the right to modify nine species of animals, for an unlimited period, for commercial ventures anywhere in New Zealand.

"This was not the ‘case by case’ regulation of ethical research that government promised the public, following the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, but a wholesale rush to commercialisation that would likely devastate New Zealand’s export and tourism image," says Jon Carapiet spokesperson for GE Free NZ in food and environment.

The plans directly contradict the recommendations of the Royal Commission to not use food animals as bioreactors. Given the potential to damage rather than develop the economy and to dramatically increase the incidence of unethical treatment of animals, the decision is cause for AgResearch to comprehensively rethink how it serves its mission to ‘create sustainable wealth for the New Zealand pastoral and biotechnology sectors’. Neither AgResearch nor overseas investors must be allowed limitless scope to exploit New Zealand as a GE play ground and threaten the very core of the New Zealand Brand.

"There is an urgent need for Government to direct Crown Research Institutes, like AgResearch, to comply with a Biotechnology Strategy that does not include genetic modification, but one that builds on our existing reputation and supports clean, natural and sustainable production," says Jon Carapiet.

"In developing the country’s approach to gene technology, it is vital we learn from the history of Mad Cow Disease, Foot and Mouth, Swine Flu, animal deformity through cloning, the failure and bankruptcy of previous GE-animal commercial ventures, and the public distaste for extreme animal cruelty."

"This is a precedent-setting case and an amazing win for the public of New Zealand that protects our farmers and exporters," says Claire Bleakley. "We would like to thank all who supported and helped us in the process of the case."

Ends.

contact:

Jon Carapiet 0210507681

Claire Bleakley 06 -3089842 /027 348 6731

Zelka Grammer (Northland) 09 4322155