The Environmental Risk Management Authority has been told that MAF rules mean that GM plants must be put into the field to test their impact on soil, because MAF don't allow the same research to be done in containment.
At a formal hearing on the Crop and Food Institute application for field-trials of GE onions, garlic and leek, the lead scientist Tony Conner told ERMA that current MAF plant containment rules (glasshouse facilities) only allow the growing of GM plants in sterilised soil and constrained in pots.
These regulations mean basic research cannot be conducted in containment and contentious GE research is being forced outside into open fields.
"We were all surprised that the MAF rules were forcing the GE research into open fields when better and lower-risk alternatives could easily be made possible," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
"GE crop field-trials present a serious risk of contamination of the environment and damage to New Zealand's brand image."
The Authority (ERMA) has been asked to consider the option of a simple rule-change to provide conditions that allow the use of real soil medium in glasshouses as an alternative to the proposed GE field experiments.
The Minister for the Environment Trevor Mallard will also be asked to take action to make contained ethical GE research feasible.
Contained applications of ethical gene technology is the ideal middle path that will serve the National interest. It can provide gene science with research facilities that do not risk contamination of land, other crops or destruction of the clean, green, natural image underpinning New Zealand's economy.
Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Claire Bleakley 0273486731/ 06 3089842