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Field Trials Must Be Included In Moratorium

Government Heading In Right Direction On GE But FIELD TRIALS Must Be Included In Moratorium

September 7 2001: The Coalition for a GE-Free Environment Aotearoa New Zealand today told the Government that all genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) must be kept out of the environment. This would include the release of GMOs in field trials.

The Coalition was responding to the Government signal that it is looking at a moratorium on the commercial or conditional release of genetically engineered crops and animals.

"We welcome the direction the Government is heading in with regard to the release of GEOs into the environment, but the only way to protect the environment is to ban all releases. This includes so-called field trials, which are in fact small scale releases (1). The Government should also be clear to ban all GEOs, not just food crops and animals" says Seager Mason, Chief Executive of Bio-Gro.

"It is impossible to contain GE experiments outside the laboratory. Experience abroad, as well as in New Zealand is that containment of field trials is inevitably breached", says Annette Cotter of Greenpeace "In Tasmania alone, there have been 21 documented breaches of GE field trials (2)".

"Here in New Zealand, we have several experiences of breaches. This includes the GE tamarillo trials conducted by HortResearch in Northland, where the Royal Commission shared concerns at containment (3). Everyone's familiar with the GE salmon debacle, and the possibility that GE eggs escaped", says Cotter. "Its time to learn from these mistakes."

"The only way to prevent contamination and to protect the environment and primary production from potential risks of GMOs is to keep all experimentation in contained laboratories," says Seager Mason. "The Government must include field trial releases in any moratorium".

Notes to Editor


1. None of GE field trials conducted in New Zealand are fully contained, because the GMOs, whether genetically engineered pine trees, cattle or maize, are able to interact with the soils. Hence the door is open for the potential migration of GE material from the trial site to the wider environment.

2. Australian Federal Government Draft Report, March 2001.

3. The Commission confirmed public concerns about the containment of the field trial (Chap 6 para 91).

Members of the Coalition for a GE Free Environment Aotearoa New Zealand: www.gefree.net.nz

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