22/12/2008

Flowering GE Brassica field trial threatens Canterbury horticultural

 

After one season the secret GE Brassica trial site in Boundary Road in Lincoln, Christchurch has been shown to be in breach of its controls by allowing the GE plants to flower in the open field.

The 2008 year started with a disastrous breach in the perimeter fence at the GE field trial site at Scion, Rotorua leading to the cutting down of 19 GE trees containing reproductive genes and later led to the closure of the site and felling of all the trees.

When concerns were raised in the OrganicNZ magazine over the monitoring and upkeep of the facility, that had large rabbit warrens dug under the fence, the Authorities denied the breaches and stated that the holes were dug for publicity reasons.

Now at the end of the year a more serious breach has been reported by The Press, this time at the Crop and Food secret location site with the flowering of a GE Brassica.
Yet again the authorities have denied that a breach has occurred.

In 2006 the Environmental Risk Management Authority approved a trial – GMF 06001- to genetically modify three species of Brassica –Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli with Bacillus thuringiensis Bt insecticidal genes.

The secret site is overgrown with weeds; the remnants of the kohl rabi and red cabbage buffer row plants are all setting seed pods. It appears that the GE plants have been cut of at ground level not dug out as required in the controls and some stalks have re grown.

One plant inside the buffer row had bolted with open flowers and a well developed seed pod with a label saying Cry1Ba1, confirming that it was a rogue GE brassica that had escaped detection.

There is a possibility that the GE plant pollen could have out crossed with any weedy or cultivated Brassica within the area as the pollen is known to spread at least 200 meters.

“The site is within 3 km’s of the Lincoln University Biological Husbandry Unit and the successful Heinz Wattie Kowhai organic farm,” said Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment. “This event is not science for New Zealanders benefit but further endangers New Zealand’s GE Free brand and biosecurity status.”

It is of even more concern that when Crop and Food was rung and told of the breach the lead researcher had gone on holiday with the new the director Dr Tony Connor being contacted. When Steffan Browning went down to the site a second time the offending stalk flower and seed had been removed.

“These dangerous irresponsible GE field trials must not be allowed to contaminate our horticulture land and further endanger farmer livelihood. The researcher’s cavalier attitudes, shoddy research, secret locations and poor adherence to controls mean that ERMA must immediately call a halt to all trials,” she said

GE field trials in New Zealand are becoming a real threat to the farmer and the clean green quality brand name that has been developed over the last two decades.

“If the Environment Risk Management Authority and Biosecurity New Zealand fail to take action to punish the culprits they will once again have proved themselves to be nothing more than facilitators for the cheap tricks turned by the rogue scientists at Crop and Food Research rather than regulators working in the national interest. The trial must be shut down immediately and all seed within the area tested for adventitious GE contamination”

ENDS:

Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 /027 348 6731

References:
Annual Report for GMF06001 July 2008

OrganicNZ November/December 2007, Soil and Health Association.

Surprise biosecurity check on field trial (The Press, http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4802084a7693.html

back to directory