New Zealand is being humilliated by its representative delegation at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, (COP/MOP4, Bonn from 12th -31 May) by opposing the African and European nations remit for a precautionary approach to GM trees.
The New Zealand delegation has signaled it will vote with Australia and Canada, opposing African nations' calls to suspend the release of GE trees until there is sufficient understanding on the risks they pose.
As well as undermining the precautionary approach of developing nations, New Zealand's stance may also be based on poor science designed to serve the interests of investors at the expense of the environment. It is strange that New Zealand's GE trees are being pulled up at the same time as we are blocking international regulation.
"It is of concern that this vote might have been influenced by the false and unsupported conjecture that the GE Scion experiment was a success," says Claire Bleakely from GE Free NZ (in food and environment).
In May Scion notified ERMA that it was closing its field trial site down claiming the trials were a success. Yet no evidence of the claimed success has been released, and research on environmental and ecosystem impacts have only been carried out for three years. Yet Pinus Radiata trees take at least 9-12 years before pollen production and are not considered mature until 20.
Now it emerges Scion will be pulling out all remaing GE trees over the next few weeks. MAF biosecurity confirmed the trial would be carried on indoors under their original development approval.
GE Free (NZ) has written twice to find out where the reports on these "successful results" can be found. The requests, and other enquiries from independent scientists have been met with silence.
"It can only be concluded that in fact the experiment has been a failure, or some serious issues have emerged to warrant early termination. If this was not the case is surprising the experiment had to be withdrawn after 4 years into a 22 year trial" says Claire Bleakley.
"The New Zealand delegation should be careful is siding with Scion's vested-interest opinions when they are not supported by scientific peer review."
New Zealand forestry is going to be a billion dollar export industry and we do not want the world to think that we are willing to forsake our sustainable clean green status, and to block GE regulation demanded by developing nations. It is also important we live up to the Forest Stewardship Council Standards which guarantee that our trees reach the highest quality and are not genetically engineered.
The New Zealand delegation has yet again let down our great New Zealand nation and shown that it represents the failing and unwanted genetic pollution that will inevitably silence our forests, affect our insects and starve our birds.
Yet again the government has sacrificed Natural environment for the mirage of wealth. We ask that the NZ Government change their directive and support the African Delegation suspension on the release of GE trees.
Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842 / 027 348 6731
In 2003 The New Zealand Forestry Institute now Scion applied to ERMA to grow genetically engineered Pines and Norway Spruce to express a suite of herbicide resistant and altered reproductive development genes. Two of these lines lines carried the Terminator Barstar/barnase genes which contravenes the World voluntary moratorium.
The GM Tree facility was severely compromised by rabbit warrens that eventually destroyed the trial on GE Spruce. In January 2008 a breach of the facility removed 19 trees 17 of which carried the reproductive altering genes.
UN Convention on Bio Diversity COP/MOP4
Planet Diversity Conference
No Environmental Impact from Genetically Modified Research Trees, 2 May
2008, Scion PR, http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0805/S00008.htm
The Review of the Forty-Nine Recommendations of the Royal Commission
2008, Sustainable Future.
Kathryn Hurr, MAF Report on Scion site breach. www.maf.govt.nz