GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 24th November 2005

ERMA Warned that Decision on GE Cows May Face Legal Challenge

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has been warned that their recent decision to extend approvals relating to AgResearch's GE Cow projects may face legal challenge.

The warning was made at a meeting in Auckland last night between ERMA, environmental and community groups which went ahead despite a boycott by some groups over long-held concerns about ERMA's processes.

Representatives for GE Free NZ in food and environment formally protested the decision of a three-person committee to make the amendments without allowing public input, and advised that a number of community groups were seeking advice on a possible legal challenge.

ERMA staff said they would notify AgResearch that a challenge in law was being investigated but said only an injunction on AgResearch could prevent them from acting on the current decision allowing them to import and implant GE embryos supplied by overseas partner Pharming (Netherlands).

ERMA also confirmed that the three-person panel approving the amendments had included George Clark Deputy Chair of the Authority, but not the CEO of ERMA as mistakenly stated in a GE Free NZ press release of 23 November.

"We are relieved the new CEO was not involved in the decision and apologise for the error," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment."However the concerns remain that the process has deliberately cut out the public and allows AgResearch to directly contravene a core recommendation of the Royal Commission on GM."

ERMA's amendments may also undermine one of the core justifications of the original approval for the AgResearch's project which was to gain scientific knowledge including the development of genetically modified embryos in New Zealand. The deal with Pharming (Netherlands) and ERMA's amended approval means the GE embryos can now be developed by companies off-shore and brought
in for implantation using New Zealand as a breeding ground.

A decision on the feasibility of a legal challenge is expected within the next two weeks.


Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681

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