GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 7th November 2003

Authorities Turn Blind Eye to Forestry Threat as Containment Breached

Even before any 'conditional' GE releases have been decided by ERMA there are major concerns that GE tree field-trials planted out earlier this year have put New Zealand at risk. 

An investigation is being carried out into the failed segregation of GE pine trees and plants infected with pitch pine canker by the Forest Research Institute, reportedly stored side by side in greenhouse conditions.

Pitch pine canker was described in 1999 by Kevin Smith Forest and Bird Conservation director as a major threat to New Zealand. "The arrival in New Zealand of one fungus from  the United States, the pine pitch canker, could wipe out our $5 billion plantation forest industry, he said.

Despite voicing concerns about bio-terrorism in January this year, it now appears that the FRI itself imported this material and that concerns of cross -contamination were ignored by ERMA.

Failures such as these leave little reason for confidence in ERMA . The regulatory system is already in break-down mode and unfortunately it seems now just a matter of time before we see the costs of that breakdown.

In collaboration with HortResearch, forest health scientists apparently investigated the effectiveness of induced resistance to disease and carried out research programmes in quarantine to evaluate the effect of the fungus on other nursery plants.

In another recent story biotech industry player Bayer were found having breached buffer controls in Australia by allowing a non GE variety in a buffer zone to flower adjacent to growing GE canola.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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