28/05/2007

GE Brassica Approval lacks common sense- but nice job for some

 



GE Brassica Approval Lacks Common Sense - But Nice Job For Some

The decision by ERMA to approve 10-years of field trials of GE brassica is a defeat for common sense and undermines the Authority's credibilty as a regulatory body.
The decision excludes any consideration of "the future", effectively ring-fencing the process from common-sense. It also ignores proven alternatives to "solving the insect problem" the GE field trials are supposed to solve.

The approach to be used in the field trials has already been shown overseas to be short-lived, with target-insects developing resistance or new species becoming pests as the original target-species declines.

The main beneficiaries of this decision are a handful of scientists who will be paid to undertake research that:

- Has no commercially viable outcome (admitted by the researchers themselves)
- Ignores lessons from overseas where such techniques have failed
- Pretends existing solutions for pest-control that are already in use 'do not exist'
- Plans to grow plants that have never been tested to confirm they are safe to eat, and which may indeed be toxic as has been found to be the case in other GE-foods
- Undermines New Zealand's Brand image as a source of safe, clean, natural produce
- Runs counter to the wishes of 70% of New Zealanders who believe GE has no place in the future of agriculture in New Zealand (source: Sustainability Council research)

"The decision shows that ERMA is fatally flawed in its mechanistic application of the HSNO Act and willingly turn a blind eye to common sense as well as community values," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"The decision was deliberately "ring fenced" from common sense and any consideration of the future, when 'the future' is precisely what needs to be considered," Mr Carapiet says.

"Of the 60 field trials to date there has been no research published on the environmental, human or animal effects. There are still no diagnostic tools for looking at health impacts or horizontal gene transfer, and there is no responsibility for the applicants to develop them."

However, the scientists set to benefit from years of unnecessary, but public-funded research are to be congratulated. Many people will envy them the job-security and pay-packets resulting from having won approval to spend time and money doing something that has no potential market, little scientific value, and ignores the national and international consumer trends against GE foods.

What little valid information might be gleaned from this research could be, and should be done in containment. Plans to artificially introduce insect infestations to the field trials makes nonsense of the applicant's claims that external field trials are the only research option because it is more "realistic".

ERMA will have lost the public's confidence in the decision-making process, and by approving research that at the end of the day has no reasonable justification.

ENDS
Jon Carapiet- 0210 507 681

Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842 / 027 348 6731


REFERENCE
ERMA media release- 28 May 2007
The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand) has approved an application by the New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research to field test genetically-modified brassicas in the Lincoln region.
However, ERMA New Zealand has included strict controls to manage the risk of GM material escaping from the site.
Crop and Food applied for permission to assess the agronomic performance of four genetically-modified vegetable and forage brassicas – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and forage kale – on a 0.4 hectare plot over a 10-year period. The brassicas would be modified for resistance to caterpillar pests like cabbage white butterfly and diamondback moth, with genes derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringensis.
A public hearing was held in Christchurch last month to consider the application, which attracted 959 submissions.
The Authority has approved the field test with a number of controls, including:
a requirement to prevent the flowering and therefore pollen release of GM brassicas while they are planted in the field test site;
a requirement to ensure that all GM brassicas are removed from the field test site on completion of the research and do not enter the human or animal food chain, in any form.
a requirement to monitor the field test site for one year after the last brassicas have been removed to look for any “volunteer” GM plants.
ERMA New Zealand’s General Manager, New Organisms, Libby Harrison, says the field test is subject to strict controls to ensure that the GM brassicas remain contained within the field test site, and do not enter the food chain.
Dr Harrison would like to thank all submitters and acknowledge their contribution to the decision-making process.
Application GMF06001
Media contact: David Venables, Manager, Communications, ERMA New Zealand

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