Repeated breaches of regulatory rules meant to protect New Zealand from GE contamination appear to have been allowed over a long period at the site of recently-terminated trials of GE brassica crops.
"New Zealand farmers and food exporters are being betrayed by organisations who fail to maintain the mandatory regulatory controls put on their GE experiments. These controls are to prevent contamination that could devastate our fragile economy," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE Free NZ.
GE Free NZ has just received documents and photographs that indicate a high level of non-compliance at the GE brassica field site from very early on. The continued high level breaches show that MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry), ERMA (Environmental Risk Management Authority) and Plant and Food, (formerly Crop and Food), have repeatedly failed to properly monitor or enforce strict adherence to controls around GE trial sites.
�The total continued disregard shown by researchers for the risk to farmers, consumers and the environment resulting from the escape of engineered transgenic material is arrogant and irresponsible� says Claire Bleakley President of GE Free NZ in food and environment.
�The extent of the breaches must be dealt with seriously and MAFBNZ (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - Biosecurity New Zealand) must recommend a full ERMA enquiry into this potentially economically-devastating incident.�
It is to be acknowledged that the trial site has been closed down and a strict inspection and monitoring regime will be carried out for a further 5 years. But material from the GE trial which had both a field-stage and a containment-stage for seed production, still presents significant risks given the historical failure to maintain controls.
"All material associated with the trial, including seed and plant material generated through the two stages of the trial must be identified and destroyed," says Ms Bleakley.
The latest photographic evidence calls into question whether Plant and Food have the resources, staff or ability to carry out yet more trials of transgenic Bt onion, leek and garlic that ERMA has approved to flower. If the only biosecurity-standard these organisations can achieve includes allowing repeated breaches of controls on GE research then it will be fundamentally irresponsible to conduct such trials, which continue to put at risk New Zealand's exports.
Claire Bleakley 06-3089842 / 027 348 6731
Jon Carapiet 0210507681