05/05/2011

GE Cover-Up or Just Bad Science?

 

The failure by AgResearch and ERMA to properly test and monitor environmental effects from GE field experiments has put New Zealand's bio-security in serious jeopardy and needs immediate action.

An independent report on AgResearch's legal obligation to test soil for Horizontal Gene Transfer has found AgResearch's study [1] was totally inadequate for the task.

The review by Professor Jack Heinemann and colleagues from The Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) published in The Journal of Organic Systems [2] says despite the deeply flawed research AgResearch told ERMA that "no problems of HGT were found," which ERMA blindly accepted.

GE Free NZ believes that ERMA was 'remiss' in failing to ask for the full data.

Worse, ERMA then cancelled any further research into the environmental impact of GE animals when approving a new AgResearch experiment to run GE cows sheep and goats for the next twenty years.

GE-Free NZ has written to ERMA for an urgent reassessment of the AgResearch GE animal experiments [3] approved in 2010, including
- A stop to field-spraying animal waste from experimental GE cows, sheep and goats
- The overhaul of currently non-existent tests for environmental impacts
- mandatory animal segregation

A formal enquiry into the scientific and regulatory failure is also needed, and those involved need to be held accountable.

"This is a major breakdown in science that puts our economy at risk. ERMA had the wool pulled over their eyes, and failed to even consider the full report for almost a year and a half," says Claire Bleakley president of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

Soil contamination and spread of novel gene constructs could devastate New Zealand's agricultural sector. Testing for Horizontal Gene Transfer was intended as a central pillar for bio-security research.

Authorities have no idea what the impact on soil has been from previous GE 'novel' experiments. The whole process has been undermined because of a cover-up, scientific incompetence, or bureaucratic bungling, probably all three.

"GE-Free NZ are calling on Fonterra, Federated Farmers, and all sectors of the agriculture economy to support action requiring ERMA to stop the spraying of GE animal milk and effluent onto fields. Also there needs to be an immediate reassessment that would implement stringent regulations around ecosystem effects," says Ms Bleakley. "Any deleterious 'novel' GE ecosystem-changes if left undetected and unmonitored threatens the environment, biosecurity, farmers' livelihoods and our food exports."

References
[1] Microbial characterisation of soils from offal pits, 2004 -2009, AgResearch, recieved under OIA 2010.

[2] Heinemann J., Kurenbach B. and Bleyendaal N, 2011, Evaluation of horizontal gene transfer monitoring experiments conducted in New Zealand between 2004 and 2009, Journal of Organic Systems; Vol 6; 1; 2011 http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/Vol_6(1)/index.html

[3] ERMA 200223. www.ermanz.govt.nz

ENDS:

Claire Bleakley 06-3089842 / 027 348 6731

Jon Carapiet 021 0507681

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