GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 11th August 2003

ERMA urged to support Moratorium on GE-release

The chair and members of the Environmental Risk Management Authority meeting in Auckland today were urged to get behind New Zealand communities and local and international food companies to support an extension of the moratorium on GE commercial release.

At a scheduled meeting between representatives of the Authority and Non-Government Organisations, CEO Dr Bas Walker was challenged on the preparedness of ERMA to make decisions of national importance on GE release.

Only two organisations attended the meeting. GE-Free NZ in food and environment and Federated Farmers were both represented at the meeting that aimed to bring NGO’s and ERMA together as part of the consultation process. There are concerns that ERMA may be subject of a boycott as they lose the trust of public- interest and environmental groups. Previous meetings were supported by more than ten such groups.

ERMA was also asked to reject the proposal from Federated Farmers that ERMA should be left in charge of managing a "1% contamination" threshold for GE in normal food.

“ We asked ERMA to support calls for an extension of the moratorium, given the controls they are setting up to allow GE release are doomed to fail,” says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

“ We do not believe ERMA is anywhere near being able to make the decisions they will be forced to make come October, if the moratorium lapses,” says Mr Carapiet.

“It is ERMA’s duty to advise the minister that their response to the Independent Review of ERMA are not yet in place. ERMA do not even have proper economic models to assess the risks from trials, let alone the damage to our national economy as evidenced by the BERL report”.

However ERMA representatives claimed that a 40% increasing in staffing would help address the findings of the Independent Review before the October deadline and denied they were being “set up to fail”.

Bas Walker also denied that plans for release would automatically necessitate an “acceptable threshold” for GE contamination at the same time admitting that zero tolerance was also not achievable as recent contamination of corn has shown.

Dr. Walker said ERMA planned to encourage companies undertaking GE trials to do more research about their environmental effects, but that this was not something ERMA could require them to do.

“This is absolute nonsense from the perspective of learning about the risks. We have had years of field trials yet ERMA has learnt virtually nothing in terms of scientific research to guide future decisions, and even now can only encourage scientific research rather than require it,” says Mr Carapiet.

The ERMA representatives were urged to defend the rights of all New Zealanders by ensuring their decisions would preserve the production of GE-free food and the rights of future generations of New Zealanders to live in a GE-free environment.

Bas Walker claimed ERMA had a good record of preventing contamination from earlier field trials. When questioned about the lack of data that might have seen approval of an application from Monsanto to grow GE canola in the south island Dr Walker said he doubted if ERMA would have approved it even if the application had been formally lodged.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 337

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