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Moves to kill NZ GE-free status by stealth

11 April 2008

Moves to kill NZ GE-free status by stealth

A proposal to set up a new field trial in Canterbury of genetically engineered onions, spring onions, garlic and leeks adds to evidence that government agencies are trying to ruin New Zealand's GE-free status, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"Field trials, especially one like this allowing plants to flower and seed, risk contaminating New Zealand's safe and GE-free food supply brand," she says.

"What is at stake is New Zealand's market access for food that can still be guaranteed to be GE free, in other words the type of food consumers in Europe and Japan want. That alone is reason enough to exclude GE organisms from New Zealand."

Crop & Food Research announced yesterday it had made an application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to undertake a 'field evaluation' of the GE crops in a new 'field evaluation site' of up to 2.5 hectares.

"Significantly this test takes the risk to new levels by allowing a small number of onion plants in the field to flower and set seed within special cages, rather than preventing GE plants from reproducing as in previous trials," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"What worries me is that, despite strict regulations aimed at preventing the spread of GE organisms in field trials including in this one, it is in the interests of the Labour-led government, Crop and Food and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to have an unfortunate accident and ruin this country's GE-free status.

"There is precedent for sloppy controls leading to such 'accidents' in previous brassica trials and in the Northland tamarillo trial which was strongly criticised by the Royal Commission on GE.

"With each trial, the risk of accidents happening is increased. Unlike the Greens, and most New Zealanders, MAF bureaucrats and Labour ministers don't care whether we are GE-free or not."


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