13/11/2008

GE Onions Will End In Tears

 

The decision by ERMA on plans for GE onions to be field trialled in New Zealand has been deferred again, and if approved, New Zealand's brand image, economy and environment will be put at risk.

In July the Environmental Risk Management Authority conducted a hearing in Christchurch for a Crop and Food application to field test genetically modified allium species namely onions leek and garlic with a range of insecticidal, herbicidal and reproductive altering genes.

"These proposed trials are a threat to sustainable agriculture and could not be further from the kind of research and investment needed to build Brand New Zealand," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"It is deeply alarming that during the hearing it was revealed the research could be safely conducted inside a greenhouse except for a legal technicality in MAF's rules," says Jon Carapiet.

"The MAF rules actually forbid reseachers from undertaking comprehensive research into effects on soil and insects in glasshouses because only 'gro bags' with sterile soil - not natural soil - are allowed to be used."

It is a technicality that means serious and unnecessary risks are being taken with New Zealand's environment and reputation.

"This technicality constitutes a terrible threat to New Zealand as it effectively forces the research into our open fields and the natural environment, rather than allowing research in GE containment structures. Such a policy is bound to end in tears and expose the public to clean-up costs running into millions of dollars."

A previous trial on GE onions containing the herbicide resistant gene glyphosate was ended after 4 years. Results of this trial were poor and certain lines of plants suffered from severe thrip damage and the bulbs suffered from rot in storage. The site was de - commissioned on 29th May 2008.

There has been silence on the status of the new applications since the hearings ended and an extension sought.

The lack of any decision or notification to the public about the situation is concerning," says Claire Bleakley, President of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"This application should be withdrawn as it endangers the surrounding environment. Proposed changes to legislation being considered to enable co-existence of GE crops will not make GE any safer, and only allow for legalised contamination."

"We hope that the recent silence and delays mean that ERMA has for the first time declined an application after assessing the scientific and cultural concerns that were presented in the excellent submissions" says Ms Bleakley.

We have just been notified that the decision is now expected to be released by ERMA on the 28th November.

ENDS
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 0273486731
Jon Carapiet 0210507681

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