New Zealand's exporters remain in the firing line despite the Sustainability Council winning its appeal against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to allow Scion (Forest Research Institute) to use unregulated novel genetic engineering techniques to produce GE trees.
The decision casts doubt on the level of the expertise the Authority has in protecting the environment and people of New Zealand.
The decision also increases the risk that companies with vested interests to release GMOs will use the decision as an excuse to dismantle legal protections.
It is vital for New Zealand to resist companies who lobby to downgrade our biosecurity and food safety laws. Instead we need to learn from the history of scientific failures, and longterm problems that can result from commercial pressures to rush to market at any cost.
As Simon Terry, Executive director of the Sustainability Council highlighted on Radio New Zealand, the Zinc Finger Nuclease (ZFN-1) and Transcription Activator-Like Effectors (TALEs) techniques are so new that the health and environmental effects have not been fully understood, nor the long-term risks evaluated.
Scion is wrong to try to circumvent regulation or to demand that current GM legislation is weakened by raising the old bogeyman of New Zealand 'being left behind' if we do not slavishly adopt practices accepted in some countries overseas.
On the contrary, The High Court case supports strengthening laws to preserve our valuable GM-free status and to position Brand New Zealand at the forefront of precaution, conservation and responsible application of technologies. This will ensure our products are produced ethically and sustainably and continue to appeal around the world.
�Far from the EPA taking a precautionary approach to protect our exports that are thriving thanks to New Zealand�s reputation as producer of safe, GE-free food, the EPA gambled on an industry-friendly liberalization of regulation,� says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
"The High Court found the EPA was wrong, but the case suggests real risks to the future of New Zealand from a cavalier attitude within the EPA and from some sectors of industry seeking to destroy the integrity of the legislation."
Scion's attitude suggests they would willingly put New Zealand at the 'bleeding edge' of experimental technologies, the status of which have not been considered by other countries. There is also concern that leaders within Federated Farmers (2) are seeking to promote GMOs and overturn local government protections for regional growers and communities(3). The government is also proposing to prohibit local government protections and oversight for outdoor use of GMOs, by changing the Resource Management Act (RMA).
The fact that the government has appointed industry leaders with strong pro-GE agendas to positions of influence on committees dealing with government investment suggests they are quietly pushing GM release in New Zealand.(4)
�It is of concern that the Authority overruled its own staff and maintained its tradition of never declining a GM application, in this case deciding to allow unregulated use of novel GE techniques,� said Claire Bleakley president of GE Free NZ.
�Scion may not like it, but The High Court decision is in the interests of all New Zealand - our farmers, environment, consumers and our international partners.�
The preservation of New Zealand's biosecurity and existing valuable GE-free status must be at the heart of decision-making.
1) High Court Judgement of Justice Mallon
2) Fed Farmers leaders GE agenda http://i.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/agribusiness/9939953/GM-in-NZ-on-farming-leaders-agenda
3) Fed Farmers appeal opposing Northland Regional Policy GM stand
4) Dr Rolleston appointed to committees
Jon Carapiet National spokesman, GE Free NZ 0210507681
Claire Bleakley President GE Free NZ 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731