03/08/2008

Storm Damage to GMO field trials

 

There are concerns that recent storms have impacted GM crop trials in Lincoln, opening up the risk of GM material escaping from the site. The trials are in an undisclosed secret location in the middle of the North Canterbury farmland.

“There is a strong possibility that detritus and viable GMO material may have escaped from containment and polluted the surrounding farm land,” Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

The hurricane level storms this week has closed down parts of New Zealand’s rural sector with extensive damage from flooding and high winds. The estimated cost will run into the millions, but the bad weather also raises the bio-security risks from open-field GE experiments now and in the future.

“In the severe floods of 2004 produce from market gardens in the Manawatu was found on the beaches in the Horowhenua, and a warning was released for the public not to eat any produce found."

"The severity of the damage in the north Canterbury region highlights the strong possibility that GE produce being trialled in the open environment could have be washed into waterways and be eaten by animals or humans.”

The risks of GE material accidentally escaping field trials as a result of flooding has previously been dismissed by Authorities as negligible, and plantings have been allowed.

But the recent storms demonstrate that it is time MAF and ERMA took the matter more seriously to prevent contamination and to ensure that GE Free production is preserved.

The Bt constructs that the GE Brassica contain have never been tested for human safety. The cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli have been engineered to contain an insecticidal toxin that cannot be washed off. Published studies on the safety of Bt plants show that there have been deleterious changes to the blood and body organs with symptoms including severe allergy, diarrhoea and vomiting.

“It is important that MAF Biosecurity properly assess the situation on behalf of the public and report all findings," says Claire Bleakley.

"The secrecy around the GMO field trial and potential damage is a threat to public security. As these type of severe weather events become more common the ability to segregate and contain GMO’s will be increasingly undermined."

ENDS:

Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731

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