24/01/2009

Public Forced to Pay for Officials to Investigate GE Trial Breach

 

Representatives from the NGO* community-group GE-Free NZ and the Soil and Health Association met with Federated Farmers, OANZ*, HortNZ* and MAFBNZ* to present photographic evidence of the regulatory breaches of the GE brassica trial (GMF06001).

“These meeting were vital to put things into perspective as initially MAF-Biosecurity and Plant and Food denied that any breaches had occurred. Though they later admitted to them, they downplayed the seriousness of the event” says Claire Bleakley, President of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"New Zealand's public must be protected against the potential to white wash the incidents.”

The series of meetings provided an opportunity for officials to review photographic evidence showing that a GE plant and 'buffer' plants had been allowed to develop to flowering over a 5- 6 week period. This was a period during which Plant and Food staff were supposed to have twice inspected the site to prevent such an occurrence.

Composting of plants, which had been removed from the site after the first alarm was raised, was also indicated to be ineffectual. The composting process is supposed to destroy seeds that could be GE/buffer plant hybrids, but in the photographs the compost is clearly too dry to do this.

Concerns of pollen escape outside the containment facility were expressed as the land surrounding the trial site has experimental, Organic and conventional horticulture farms in close proximity. Brassica (mescalin greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale) are pollinated by bees, native insects and the wind, which also poses a strong possibility that pollen could have contaminated the honey.

Both GE Free NZ and Soil and Health asked for the trial site to be closed down and further planting stopped.

The meeting with MAF BNZ and ERMA was well recieved and very informatibve. Despite being shown evidence of Plant and Food GE field trial breaches of regulatory controls intended to prevent contamination, the officials from MAF-Biosecurity and ERMA say they are powerless to halt further plantings of GE crop trials next week.

GE Free NZ were told by ERMA that the only way to halt further planting is to write in a formal request for a reassessment. In light of this GE Free NZ submitted one however they were later notified that it cannot be processed unless a payment of over $560 accompanies the request.

"The imposition of a fee before a reassessment is made is a wake-up call for farmers and the food industry that our regulatory system exposes innocent parties to significant costs to protect their interests," says Mrs Bleakley.

GE Free NZ is already carrying costs of legal action in the public interest and for maintaining public engagement with the ERMA process.

"It should not be up to the public to pay the regulatory and enforcement agencies to carry out their duties. New Zealand's biosecurity must be protected against the mistakes, recklessness and incompetence of scientists and staff who potentially undermine our exports with GE contamination from their field-trials. The trial site must be closed down” said Mrs Bleakley.

ENDS
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731
Jon Carapiet 0210 507681


Other REFERENCES:

OANZ* - Organic Aoteraoa New Zealand,
HortNZ* - Horticulture New Zealand
MAF BNZ – Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Biosecurity New Zealand.
NGO – Non Governmental Organisation
The Press | Tuesday, 20 January 2009, David Williams Environment reporter, GE activists call for trials to be ended

Picture of breach – 4.85 MB - www.gefree.org.nz

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