17/03/2008

N.Z taxpayer could be left, yet again, with a contaminated GE site to clean up.

 


GE Free (NZ) in food and environment has received information that Crop and Food have not planted GM onions this year and that the trial site it is pending early de-registration, even though there is just over 51/2 years before ERMA approval runs out. The reason for the failure to complete the field trial has not been disclosed.

Background:
In 2003 ERMA gave a ten year approval to field trial GE herbicide resistant onions engineered with Monsanto patented genes that confer tolerance to Round-up Ready glyphosate. The trial was part of a private/public partnership with American corporate Seminis, Monsanto.

Annual reports over three years of trials reported dismal results and plant failures. The onion plants were subject to poor germination, weak growth, Thrip damage and the bulbs succumbed to disease during storage. Herbicide spray applications averaged at 2-3 times per season with high dose spray regime, of 2x, 4x and 6x the recommended glyphosate application rates.

Weather, seed and planting times were given as the reason for the low success rate but no explanation was given of the reason bulbs rotted quickly and did not store well. Further, ERMA did not require any environmental effects testing to be carried out.

GE Free NZ have concerns regarding the Lincoln site in which the GE onions were planted. There have been no soil tests carried out to investigate GE or high dose spray effects on soil microbial communities & ecosystems, the occurrence of horizontal gene transfer, new diseases resulting in the soil or transfer of GE DNA to other organisms.

“It is not surprising that the onions are a failure as GE is inherently a defective technology” said Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

“To avoid a complete waste of public money GE Free NZ would like ERMA and MAF to ensure that in the two years set aside for post trial monitoring, diagnostic tools are developed to gather robust data on the long term ecosystem and environment effects of the GE onions”.

“It is a mockery to call this a scientific experiment if all that is being done is seeing if the plants can survive 6x the recommended spray dose. Where are the tests to show it is a safe site to go back into conventional farming or housing development? As it stands, our families, children and grandchildren could potentially suffer health effects in the future from site contamination” she said.

ENDS:
Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842, Mob: 027 348 6731

References:
Annual Report to ERMA on GM onion field Trial CC Eady, 2004/5, 2006, 2007
IOA report on GMF03001
GMF03001
MAF provided you with the March 2007 audit report for GMF03001 under the official information Act, OIA240, sent to you on 28 August 2007. This was the only audit conducted on the field trial site in 2007, and coincided with th eharvest period. No further plantings have been conducted in the facility since then.
Tim Knox

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