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ERMA sidelining King Salmon GE issue

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today urged the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) not to sideline New Zealand King Salmon's genetic engineering programme until after the election.

"On August 13 this year the authority's chief executive Dr Bas Walker said it would take six to eight weeks for a formal reassessment process on King Salmon, but nothing has eventuated," she said. "I now understand the review has not yet begun and is going to take weeks more."

Despite serious concerns by an authority subcommittee about environmental dangers in the GE programme, it was being allowed to continue, she said.

The authority was also contravening its own Act, by declining public participation in the review process.

"Some ERMA staff are unashamedly pro-genetic engineering, and do not want to disturb election of a National-Act government which will extend New Zealand's role as a GE test ground for multinational companies," Ms Fitzsimons said. "And yet under its rules ERMA is tasked to represent the public, not GE scientists."

Ms Fitzsimons said ERMA was "bending the rules" in declining to have a public hearing over the King Salmon issue.

"The authority has given King Salmon's genetic engineering project the unusual title of a `development project' despite the fact it has been underway for years," Ms Fitzsimons said. "This is so as to try to sidestep section 53(2) of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act that says a public hearing should be held in cases of `significant public interest'.

"While the final decision will be made public, it will be too late then for any public input, including from scientists outside the cosy pro-GE loop.

"No public hearing has ever been held on the King Salmon work, despite an ERMA subcommittee report of August 4 saying: `It is not clear whether the existing controls are sufficient to ensure that viable fish, eggs or sperm cannot escape from the trial site'. Meanwhile the experiment is allowed to continue and expand.

"National has now put another $142,000 into genetically engineered salmon in the latest round of science grants. No-one other than King Salmon is going to benefit from this taxpayers' money."

ends

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