01/12/2009

All GE trial facilities must be shut down at Plant and Food

 

GE-Free NZ in Food and Environment is calling for the immediate closure of all GE trial facilities at Plant and Food sites following the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Biosecurity (MAFBNZ) discovery of GE plants outside the laboratory in which they were supposed to be contained.

The plant Arabidopsis thaliana is called mouse-ear cress and is closely related to the cabbage, rocket and mustard (brassica) family; it is a small invasive self-pollinating herb with white flowers. It has been extensively used in the creation of genetically engineered plants.

It takes 5– 6 weeks from seed germination to the production of a new crop of seeds, and one plant can produce up to 10000 seeds. Over 6 million transgenic (GE) Arabidopsis thaliana seeds were sent to overseas partners, under the Cartegena protocols in the first 6 months of the year.

“The New Zealand taxpayer is yet again carrying the risks and the costs of contamination for an overseas company. The continued breaches of regulatory controls by Plant and Food threaten New Zealand’s Biosecurity and export markets,” said Claire Bleakley President of GE Free NZ in Food and Environment.

“Plant and Food are taking on the same sloppy working practices as their previous CRI sister company, Crop and Food, in regard to GE regulations and appear to be happy and willing to contaminate New Zealand's sustainable farming brand and threaten our overseas agricultural exports.”

This is not the first time that Plant and Food have been found in breach of regulatory controls. In January this year MAF discovered a serious breach in their field trial conditions. A GM brassica plant was found flowering with a fully formed immature seed pod (silque).

Plant and Food immediately closed down the field trial site and MAF ordered extensive spraying and monitoring for the next five years. However the regulatory bodies did not place any penalty on the breach, and in fact reported that the ERMA regulatory protocols were not clear. In effect they turned a blind eye to the effects of the breach.

“It appears that Plant and Food has been arrogant enough to believe that they can be cavalier and sloppy in their laboratory work as they were in their field trials. They are showing that their scientists have a callous disregard for New Zealand biosecurity safety protocols,” said Ms Bleakley.

“GE Free NZ calls for the immediate closure of all GM facilities run by Plant and Food and a monetary penalty that reflects the enormity of their continued and seemingly deliberate GE breaches.” ENDS

Claire Bleakley 063089842 / 027 3486731

Jon Carapiet 0210507681

References –

MAFBNZ investigating possible GM breach of containment http://www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/press/2009/301109-gm-breach-of-containment.htm retrieved 30/11/09

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