11/09/2010

Biosecurity Risks after Quake Must Be Addressed

 

Risk's to New Zealand's biosecurity from flooding, earthquake, and other natural disasters are not being adequately addressed and require urgent action by MAF- Biosecurity NZ and other organisations responsible for containment of genetically engineered organisms.

Lincoln University has reported severe damage to their buildings, closing down the University whilst engineers inspect them for safety. The University is to be commended for taking the precautionary approach to safety, but it is imperative that there be an assessment of the risks of escape of transgenic and biological material from their laboratories.

"With continuing after shocks from the devastating earthquake, urgent action is needed to ensure there is no transgene leakage from the laboratories and glasshouses into the surrounding farmland," says Claire Bleakley from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

"Ensuring that there is no escape of damaging GE material into the surrounding countryside is imperative as agriculture will be the most important sector to provide economic security for the Canterbury region as it rebuilds".

One hundred and fifty farms have been “beaten by nature”, the land has been significantly damaged, roads have disappeared, hillocks have appeared on flat ground, deep fissures have opened up in paddocks and hedge fences have moved up to 3 meters. High water levels and cold weather conditions are causing dangers of electrocution.

"We are relieved that all GE field trials have been closed down but this is a wake-up call for ERMA/MAF to reconsider their assumptions and blind faith in their GE trial controls as they are inadequate to protect New Zealand from such unexpected natural events,” says Claire Bleakley.

The fault line that precipitated the earthquake was not even known to scientists, and shows that unexpected events must be taken much more seriously than ERMA and MAF Biosecurity have done to date. ERMA approvals for field trials and other experiments have taken little note of concerns about the potential of flooding, and other natural events to overwhelm systems intended to keep new organisms out of the environment.

The lesson for ERMA is 'to expect the unexpected', and has major implications for the way it approaches approvals for living GE organisms to ensure they do not escape.

GE-Free NZ offers its sincerest condolences for those all those who have suffered the trauma of recent events.

ENDS:

Jon Carapiet 0210507681

Claire Bleakley 06-3089842 / 027 348 6731

References:

Irrigation concerns for quake hit farmers

http://tvnz.co.nz/business-news/irrigation-concerns-quake-hit-farmers-3771259/video

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