GE decision ring-fenced from common sense
Hearings on plans for a GE trial in New Zealand have been effectively "ring-fenced" from common sense, as important real-world data and "future considerations" are being deliberately excluded.
ERMA's hearings on the application to field-test GE brassicas begins Wednesday but coincides with new reports of farmer�s suicides and deaths of livestock associated with the growing and eating GE cotton plants containing the Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt) gene.
These new reports come when the ERMA Authority is considering an application for field tests of genetically engineered Bt Cauliflower, Cabbage, broccoli and forage kale, but will not be considering the fact that the scientists involved have admitted the experiments have no commerial future.
The GE Bt plants include laboratory-constructed DNA, made by putting together genes from bacteria (kanamycin) and viruses (CaMV). The expected insect-toxicity comes from the very high expression of the Bt gene in every cell of the plant, which overseas experience already shows may be short-lived as insects have developed resistance. In contrast to the proposed GE plants, the naturally occurring Bt is a common foliar external spray, which is destroyed by sunlight and water.
In the Evaluation and Review (E&R) report ERMA has chosen to avoid genuinely relevant objections and information (such as proven alternative approaches to growing brassicas, and the lack of any future market for the GE product) by declaring it 'beyond the scope of the application'.
�The ERMA evaluators have expressed opinions and bad judgement by overruling and deliberately ignoring relevant information. This could be construed as attempting to mislead the Authority and the public� said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in Food and Environment
After ten years of seed production there will be tonnes of seed. The review report has not specified what the requirements for seed management and disposal and as they stand the seed could be removed off site or exported.
The report goes on the say that HGT is highly improbable yet it occurs every minute of the day between the soil bacteria regardless of whether it is genetically engineered.
However, the report did identify that essential tools for detecting the effects on the environment and health of people have not been developed.
�This does not mean HGT does not occur. We cannot afford to wait 25 years for some virulent pathogen, like the recent CJD case, to arise because we could not be bothered to develop a tool for detection,� says Claire Bleakley.
�This application is not written to the standards required for robust scientific data to be gathered. We still have no idea on the safe levels of Bt toxin for human consumption,� she says.
�The E&R report has excluded common sense. It discounted and deliberately ignored scientific data on the hazards to the economy, health of animals and people. The Authority must re look at the data presented and consider whether they are really a Risk Management Authority or a rubber stamp for who ever wants to conduct GE trials�.
GE Free is calling on the Authority to
� Require independent human and animal feeding studies
� Require clinical trials on the safe RDI levels for Bt ingestion in all populations
children to elderly) before allowing field tests.
� Require the annual destruction of seed
� Require experiments on HGT, and insect resistance to be fully conducted in contained glasshouses and litter bags.
�This experiment must carry out the relevant animal, human safety and environmental tests in full glasshouse containment before consideration of any movement of plants into the outdoors�.
Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731
ERMA hearing Millennium Hotel, 14 Cathedral Square Christchurch, 11-13th April