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Farm group warns ERMA of threat from GM rules

Farm group warns ERMA of threat from GM rules

The head of Federated Farmers- Neil Barton- has warned the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) that some farmers might break rules controlling GM crops and bring them in anyway if they feel controls are too restrictive.

At an ERMA workshop in Wellington on Friday 1 October attended by scientists and representatives from various ministries, industry, and community organisations, Mr Barton said that any restrictive rules used to control GM plants and animals might drive some farmers to import GM products illegally.

This has already happened with the release of rabbit calicivirus.

But Susie Lees from GE-Free NZ (in food and environment) who attended the meeting rejected as 'nonsense', the suggestion that farmers might act illegally to release GE organisms describing such a move as 'self-sabotage" that would seriously harm the farming sector economy.

Susie Lees says she was concerned at the suggestion and had expected Bas Walker from ERMA to respond by clearly rejecting what could be seen as a veiled attempt to pressure for laxer regulations.

She also says that the warning from Federated Farmers shows the organisation heads are out of touch with the wider farming and rural communities who have signalled a preference for GM-Free conventional and organic production. An AFFCO study presented at the Royal commission on GM showed over 70% of farmers wanted a GE-Free option for New Zealand's future.

"Even if some farmers believe there are benefits from GM they are not so stupid as to deliberately destroy their export markets by introducing contamination from GM constructs.'" says Jon Carapiet, from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

There is also confusion over what products might be imported. One major GE product - rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone) used in dairying has already been voluntarily excluded by farmers in New Zealand. A US medical school study recently confirmed its study showed the product was linked to increased cancer risks.

Mr Barton from Federated Farmers did not state what GE products would be so appealing to farmers that they might act illegally to side-step strict regulations.

The Royal Commission found that of the two main types of GE crops one type had no benefits for this country. Herbicide-resistant crops can increase use of herbicides and increase levels of absorption of residues into food by a factor of up to 200.

The other main type of GE products are Bt- crops which have also been found to have significant failings: the creation of insect resistance, destabilising populations of other pests, build-up as soil contamination, and international rejection by consumers.

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