New Zealand's legislation for GE organisms needs to be overhauled to enforce strict liability in order to stop unacceptable risk-taking by developers of commercial GMOs.
The public and environment are once again facing the potential costs of damage from a breach of containment by a GE fungus developed at Lincoln University.(1)
There are particular concerns that bees may be harmed by this fungus now it is outside containment.
The University of Connecticut warns pesticides based on non-GE forms of the organism should not be applied to areas where bees are actively foraging. Beauveria products are also potentially toxic to fish.(2)
Lincoln University and staff at the Ministry of Primary Industries are struggling to work out how far the GE fungus has spread and to discover how the escape happened.
The event follows recent warning that New Zealand authorities are not properly prepared to deal with serious biosecurity threats. A breach leading to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease such as that near the Pirbright laboratory in the UK would be devastating for Fonterra and the country.(3)
As well as urgent remediation and an investigation into the escape of the GE fungus, the government must strengthen biosecurity and pass legislation in order to hold users of GMOs strictly liable.This is essential to encourage business compliance when the whole of the New Zealand economy is at stake.
Under The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, the risks are 'socialised'. The government must stop what has become a public subsidy of corporate users gambling with GMOs.
It is unacceptable that major 'commercial' risks are being underwritten by the public under the HSNO Act. Universities and Crown Research Institutes get the financial benefits of contracts based on socialising the risks of GMOs and externalising costs.
"It's time to stop public subsidy for the GE gamble that threatens New Zealand Inc.
and to ensure industry are held liable for all cost of clean up and compensation," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
"The current support for risk-taking seriuously threatens our economy including exporters like Fonterra and Zespri, not to mention the bees."
New Zealand cannot afford to deal with the magnitude of risks that are now being created by our reduction in biosecurity and subsidies for GMO-gambling.
3) Retrieved 19/3/13. http://www.hse.gov.uk/news/archive/07aug/pirbright.htm
Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 0273486731