12/04/2007

GE Inquiry Threatens Public Confidence in Regulators

 

GE Inquiry Threatens Public Confidence in Regulators

The ERMA hearing being held in Christchurch to consider a ten-year field-trial of Genetically Modified vegetables, has already prompted public protest.

Amid Crop and Food’s presentation about their application two frustrated members of the public forcefully expressed their lack of faith in the ERMA hearing process. They called on ERMA to stop and immediately decline the application before being told to leave the hearings.

In a legal submission for Greenpeace, Duncan Currie put forward that real risks were being underestimated and significant wider implications wrongly ignored. The ERMA Authority has approved all GE field test applications to date.

Concerns were also raised that the independent reviewer only evaluated the final report and never saw submitter’s evidence.

Expert witness, Julie Newman from the Network of Concerned farmers in Australia, talked about the problems of lack of liability and the cost to farmers who have lost markets from GE contamination. There is also the serious concern that extreme weather conditions can spread GE in the environment and contaminate non-GE seed stocks.

Dr. Judy Carmen epidemiologist and biochemist expressed concern over the lack of safety data on food containing high levels of Bt toxin. She highlighted the example of a trial of GE peas that went for ten years before it was discovered to be toxic to humans. The peas had to be destroyed, wasting millions of taxpayers dollars. She stressed that toxicity trials on the Bt plants must be conducted prior to further experimentation.

“Submissions were initially declared invalid and many concerns were disregarded and considered outside of the parameters of the field trial,” said Susie Lees of GE Aware Nelson (GEAN).

“Spending ten years on these trials when Bt has been linked to deleterious health impacts is irresponsible and puts us all at risk.”

GE Bt plants such as cotton and maize have been linked to illness and death among livestock and severe immune reactions in people.

“Before further trials there must be proof these plants would be safe to eat. ERMA has not shown a true understanding of risk evaluation particularly with respect to health effects on animals and humans and Bt toxicity” said Claire Bleakley from GE Free (NZ) in Food and Environment.

“The refusal of the project team to consider Bt-related adverse health effects shows there is not the expertise in ERMA to properly assess risks, which could lead to material flaws in their process."

GE Free (NZ) called on the ERMA Authority to decline the application until long term comprehensive health and environmental testing on Bt toxicity is carried out in containment, and the data peer reviewed and published.

ENDS
Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731

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