New applications in New Zealand for GE crops to be allowed to flower and seed (1) and for more GE animal experiments (2) could set farmer against farmer and prompt civil conflict.
The latest push for GE applications by Crown Research Institutes, locally-based speculators and overseas biotechnology investors threatens New Zealand's export markets and reputation for producing safe, clean, natural food, and mis-directs much-needed investment in sustainable IPM and organic production.
As such the plans run counter to the values of the majority of New Zealanders and threatens the livelhoods of thousands of farmers who already benefit from our GE-free, clean-green reputation.
"We know from past experience that accidents will happen. Allowing experimental GE plants to flower would be tantamount to sabotage," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ (in food and environment).
"So too is the push to create more GE animals when Fonterra and other exporters are selling to the world using advertising that portrays normal cows eating natural grass in the fields of New Zealand. This is in contrast to other countries where animals are kept enclosed in sometimes aweful conditions, pumped with hormones or antibiotics, or fed artificial feed including GE crops."
The plans to promote GE are no less than an attack on the reputation and economic value of Brand New Zealand.
"These vested interests wanting to push GE must understand that the markets in New Zealand and overseas do not want it," says Jon Carapiet.
"Do they not realise that even the hundreds of millions of middle class Chinese - now in the sites of New Zealand businesses- want to buy our products because they are NOT full of pesticides, GE- contamination and toxins?"
The risk of pushing the GE barrow is that conventional farmers will be forced into conflict- in the courts, or even in the field - to defend their land and export markets.
Conflict will also be created with suppliers wanting to meet the demands of major companies like Goodman Fielder, Watties, and Zespri, who do not want GE contamination.
Independent research commissioned by the Sustainability Council of New Zealand shows some 70% of New Zealanders - including a similar proportion of farmers, see no role for GE in our agicultural system.
New Zealand has no GE releases and yet is hugely successful. Our scientists already benefit from uses of ethical gene technology in containment that can guide breeding programmes without the need for GE release.
Why can't these people pushing GE focus on such ethical applications in containment, and respect the wishes of consumers?
The future for an ethical biotechnology strategy for New Zealand is clearly shown by local and overseas success with non-GE development of high-yield, insect-tolerant, and other beneficial characteristics that avoid the unacceptable ethical, cultural, environmental and food-safety risks associated with transgenic Genetic Engineering.
Contact Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
1) Green Party Press release: 11 April 2008
Moves to kill NZ GE-free status by stealth
A proposal to set up a new field trial in Canterbury of genetically engineered onions, spring onions, garlic and leeks adds to evidence that government agencies are trying to ruin New Zealand�s GE-free status, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.
�Field trials, especially one like this allowing plants to flower and seed, risk contaminating New Zealand�s safe and GE-free food supply brand,� she says.
�What is at stake is New Zealand�s market access for food that can still be guaranteed to be GE free, in other words the type of food consumers in Europe and Japan want. That alone is reason enough to exclude GE organisms from New Zealand.�
Crop & Food Research announced yesterday it had made an application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to undertake a �field evaluation� of the GE crops in a new �field evaluation site� of up to 2.5 hectares.
�Significantly this test takes the risk to new levels by allowing a small number of onion plants in the field to flower and set seed within special cages, rather than preventing GE plants from reproducing as in previous trials,� Ms Fitzsimons says.
�What worries me is that, despite strict regulations aimed at preventing the spread of GE organisms in field trials including in this one, it is in the interests of the Labour-led government, Crop and Food and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to have an unfortunate accident and ruin this country�s GE-free status.
�There is precedent for sloppy controls leading to such �accidents� in previous brassica trials and in the Northland tamarillo trial which was strongly criticised by the Royal Commission on GE.
�With each trial, the risk of accidents happening is increased. Unlike the Greens, and most New Zealanders, MAF bureaucrats and Labour ministers don�t care whether we are GE-free or not.�
2) Soil & Health Association of New Zealand Media Release-11 April 2008
Euthanase GE Animals, Don�t Create More!
An application by AgResearch to trial many different genetically engineered animal types in its laboratories and farms is an ugly step in the wrong direction for brand New Zealand�s clean green 100% Pure image, according to the Soil & Health Association.
�Kiwis don�t want GE. Our export markets don�t want GE. The GE trials we have already are being mismanaged. It is time to euthanase AgResearch�s current GE cattle, not add a macabre zoo to their unnatural and unwanted experiment,� says Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
AgResearch is preparing an application to undertake genetic engineering research and development on a wide range of species including cattle, sheep, goats, deer, zebu, buffalo, horses, chickens and rabbits, and use genetic material from a wide range of donor species including human (synthetic) proteins.The application is to also include a scaling up of current research and to undertake normal farm-scale activities so that sufficient numbers of animals can be maintained to enable pharmaceutical and nutraceutical production.
�The broad range of animals and recombinations envisaged by AgResearch comes when previous and existing experiments have still not been adequately managed and very real risks have still not been properly investigated,� says Mr Browning.�On a site inspection at AgResearch�s Ruakura GE facility, Soil & Health saw non GE sheep and cattle grazing on land subject to drainage from the GE facility. (PHOTOS ATTACHED). There is a poor level of care and concern about the environment within and beyond this and previous GE experimental facility boundaries.�
�GE constructs and derivatives including antibiotic resistant genes have been located in the soil at current GE facilities yet further research and clean up has been minimal, and one retired GE sheep experimental property at Whakamaru is once again for sale with conventional animals grazing there without any follow up residues research.�
�AgResearch appears to act as a law unto itself, and in one example AgResearch breached conditions of its GE cattle consent by inserting a GE embryo into a GE cow. Its penalty was remonstrating with itself by a review of its procedures. The original consent had expressly disallowed such a procedure, and it is very difficult to imagine a science technician not being well aware of their actions.�
�Every ERMA approved field trial, whether plant or animal, has fallen down on its conditions and for AgResearch to be applying for a veritable zoo to play with, is both risky, unethical and goes against New Zealand�s point of difference in the world, clean green, 100% Pure and essentially GE Free.�
�Euthanasia of AgResearch�s current GE herd and elimination of all GE field tests will be better for New Zealand�s environmental and economic future,� says Mr Browning.
Soil & Health promotes an Organic 2020 with food and environment free from GE.
NOTE: Photos are available at higher resolution.
Contact: Steffan Browning- 021 725655 Spokesperson