Compelling Evidence Presented Against GE Trial
The compelling evidence presented by submitters to ERMA against GE field-trials is a sign New Zealand has been right to prevent further steps for release on GE crops here, even though the moratorium has officially lapsed.
"The submissions were excellent and it would be difficult for anyone to disregard the information presented," says Claire Bleakley from GE Free NZ (in food and environment).
"Submitters are to be congratulated, especially those who had to pay the costs of the conference-calls to ERMA, which was a requirement for many wanting to be heard."
Evidence before ERMA from the public, New Zealand producers, businesses, and many others shows the need for investment in projects that will not threaten New Zealand's future GE-free production status. Co existence does not work; weather, pollen drift, insect, seed, silo, and human error are all unable to be controlled. In countries where GE plants are grown seed contamination is a real problem. New Zealand farmers have experienced first hand the problems with GE testing and lax border controls of imported corn seed.
Crop and Food Research applied to ERMA for approval to trial GE brassica for agronomic performance. ERMA was advised by those supporting the project to ignore the fact there is no market for the product, and existing alternative solutions to the insect-problem the project-scientists say they are trying to solve.
Federated Farmers was strongly in support of the field trials. However, their submission revealed little consideration had been given to overseas research on the link between Bt pollen/corn syrup and the devastating "bee colony collapse" disease.
Reports of toxicity in Bt cotton plants causing deaths and illness in stock which had eaten the leaves, has also prompted the Indian government to warn farmers about grazing Bt cotton fields.
Other effects have included causing a root rot not previously seen in the non-Bt cotton fields, and insect resistance occurring just 7 years after the introduction of Bt cotton crops in the field.
Federated Farmers representative did say however, that if resistance occurred after 5 years they would ask some very serious questions of the technology.
The engineering of Bt into the DNA of a plant means that the toxin is expressed in every cell of the plant and cannot be washed off. In some plants Bt is expressed in high levels. This new way of introducing and using toxic insecticides means that plants which have normally been safe to eat, can become dangerous for humans and animals.
"The dilemma is that the levels safe for human and animal consumption may not be high enough to kill the butterflies and moths and resistance will quickly develop. On the other hand, high Bt levels have shown to be toxic for human and animal consumption," says Claire Bleakely.
ERMA will make a decision on the field trial in 3 to 6 weeks.
Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731 / (06) 3089842
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