12/05/2008

Legal Decision Paints Dim Future For GM Crops in NZ

 

A ruling by Justice Mallon in the High Court reaffirms that the HSNO Act (under which ERMA operates) does not require testing for negative impacts of GM organisms to be part of any research during field trials. But the lack of safety research makes it unlikely GM crops will ever be commercialised in New Zealand in the forseeable future.
Under the current HSNO Act ERMA is powerless to require such research as part of a field trial. On the other hand, under the same law ERMA is required to assess such data if it is to ever legalise GE crops.
As GM companies can avoid proper testing the trials are a scientific 'dead end' with insufficient data to ever support an application to release these crops in New Zealand. Having exposed New Zealand in the field trials, overseas investors may then impose their products on countries with even poorer regulation.

The decision confirms at least two disastrous flaws in the HSNO Act; ERMA is powerless to require such safety testing, and the public purse is liable if things go unexpectedly wrong.
GE Free NZ (in food and environment) challenged the process of ERMA's approval of GE brassica in our role as a public watchdog and without malice. The decision to uphold ERMA's approval of the trial confirms the concerned public of New Zealandís worst fears.

"Turning a blind eye to proper scientific research as part of field trials may be convenient for the GE companies right now but it is fated to come back and bite them. Given problems overseas with similar types of GE crops, the HSNO Act would require ERMA to block any commercial release down the track, simply because the applicants were never required to gather the safety data", says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ (in food and environment)

GE Free NZ is fearful that the costs of the case will be used as a stick to beat down public-interest watchdogs and silence the public in itís engagement with the ERMA process.

MADGE went out of existence after a previous legal challenge. When it comes to costs we are the David to industry's Goliath. We are at the mercy of ERMA and the GE companies in hoping they will not try to crush public involvement so important to democracy and good governance. In any event the law must be changed to bring it into line with public expectations and common sense.
Reference:- CIV-2007-485-1340 GE Free NZ In Food & Environment Inc v Environmental Risk Management Authority & Ors

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