30/06/2009

GE Animal Legal Appeal Is Against the National Interest

 

On the eve of a seminar on 'New initiatives to Improve Science in New Zealand’ AgResearch has launched an appeal to the recent High Court decision against the National interest.

It is a travesty that public money will be used to fund the appeal against the High Court ruling which invalidated four applications for indefinite, nation-wide commercialisation of GE animals.

“GE Free NZ believes that Justice Clifford wrote a robust and measured decision” said Claire Bleakley president of GE Free NZ in food and environment “The HSNO* Act guidelines are very specific as to what is to be in an application and we believe that the precedent setting High Court decision will be upheld.”

The public have made it clear that extreme science of genetic engineering of animals, with the associated abuse and deformities, is simply unacceptable in a modern democratic society with an economy reliant on food exports and our clean-green natural image.

Recent surveys show some 70% of New Zealanders are strongly against the GE animals being proposed by AgResearch in partnership with its overseas biotechnology investors.

Just last week the NZ Herald (Business: B1, 25 June) reported MAF have released a discussion paper signalling the huge opportunity for New Zealand as a world leader in "high-quality sustainably produced meat, rewarding farmers for meeting consumer expectations, in both traditional and new markets".

"The vision outlined in the GE animal applications is simply madness", says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "An approval of the enormous range of things being sought, including the right to import GE embryos from other countries, instigate GE animal production anywhere, anytime, and even using novel GE techniques yet to be invented, is tantamount to economic suicide for Brand New Zealand".

The notice of appeal highlights the core of the argument that has pitched independent scientists, farmers and the public against the vested interests of biotechnology entrepreneurs who are keen to undermine and exploit New Zealand sovereign law, but unwilling to find a middle path of ethical applications of biotechnology such as gene-marker assisted breeding (MAB) and use of recombinant vat fermentation technology in full laboratory containment.

The sly attempt by the applicants to undermine the HSNO*Act and establish a National Protocol that might benefit a handful of biotechnology investors, is an unprecedented betrayal of statutory protections.

The prospect of using genetically engineered food animals as 'bio-reactors' is a direct attack on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on GM, and would have been the subject of a comprehensive audit by the BioEthics Council had it not just been abolished by the National-led government.

ENDS:

Claire Bleakley 06-3089842 / 027 348 6731

Jon Carapiet 021 0507681


References

* HSNO - Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act

In response to specific points in the notice of appeal, GE Free NZ in food and environment offers the following observations on:

5a &5b:

'The Authorities [ERMA] expert opinion is needed in all but the most obvious cases of… outrageous or flagrant failure to comply with statutory information requirements.

Applying to conduct commercial ventures of an undetermined nature including future techniques of GE yet to be invented in undisclosed locations anywhere in the country, we believe is a failure to comply with statutory requirements.

5c: 'That the High Court had no authority to conclude the applications contained insufficient information for risk assessment'

ERMA agency staff recognised in their prior assessment of these applications that they lacked certain information and asked for it to be provided under HSNO Act s:53 which was not forth coming.

5e: ‘…It is not for AgResearch or ERMA to prove that risk cannot be assessed’.

It is impossible to believe ERMA had the capacity to assess the complex risks arising from the unspecified myriad of recombinant variations, over an indefinite period of; intended and accidental genetic recombination’s, animal behaviour and spread of novel disease, soil water and climate conditions throughout New Zealand, local iwi and community values, overseas markets, animal abuse including deliberate creation of deformities. ERMA cannot undertake cost-benefits of an undisclosed unlimited set of GMO combinations being applied for using an authentic or credible risk model . Experts can only assess risk when they know what it is they are assessing

6I: “…that the Authority is not dependent on public input in relation to Applicants claims”.

It is required that sufficient information for public submissions is provided. No information becomes meaningless. Even ERMA recognised that public input was a valuable component of consultation.. Without it, it takes the Authority into the realm of fascism aimed at riding roughshod over community involvement and enforces acceptance of unethical ventures and unsound science.

7: ‘...HSNO so provide in effect for a 'National Protocol'

The National Protocol is upheld through the HSNO Act and provides clear guidelines as to what is required by law. In the absence of a clear Ethical Biotechnology Strategy for New Zealand the deceitful attempt to pass such a protocol is unconscionable and would be tantamount to economic sabotage





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