Clark, Hobbs, Federated Farmers And Life Sciences Network Continue GE Corn Deceit
Auckland, 10 July 2002: Statements made today by Prime Minister Helen Clark and Environment Minister Marian Hobbs and supported by the Life Sciences Network and Federated Farmers are incorrect, according to the Seeds of Distrust by Nicky Hager.
The Government and ERMA both knew GE corn had been released into the environment in the 2000-2001 growing season. ERMA failed to adequately inform the Royal Commission and the public of this occurrence.
Marion Hobbs press release today states, “It cannot be claimed therefore that GM material was released …”
Helen Clark stated on Check Point on National Radio this evening “there was no GM proven in the seeds”.
Federated Farmers’ press release today stated: “There is no evidence that any GM contamination actually occurred” and the LSN and FF press statements (coincidentally identical in much of their text) both said, “The tests were contradictory and as a result inconclusive …”
Hobbs also states in relation to a press release on the issue: “I also said at the time that officials would submit a report to the Royal Commission on this matter.”
LSN and FF statements also suggest the issue was fully canvassed by ERMA at the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. The LSN states: ‘The entire saga was presented to the Royal Commission on GM’.
These statements are incorrect according to the evidence contained in Seeds of Distrust and continue to mislead the public on this issue.
Firstly, in a confidential memo from Dr Oliver Sutherland, Deputy Chair ERMA to the ERMA Board on 15 January 2001 (contained as an Appendix, page147 in Seeds of Distrust) states, in relation to the GM corn release; ‘Since we know that the Novartis sweet corn is contaminated, is it acceptable that it should remain in the ground?’ and ‘… it is a very substantial number of completely uncontrolled GM plants now growing in the field.’
These statements are based on a report for ERMA from Donald Hannah (ERMA) that states, “… with a considerable degree of confidence it can be concluded the Novartis sweet corn … has less than 0.5% GM contamination” (page 147)
Secondly, by any reasonable standards of providing clear evidence to a Royal Commission ERMA fed the deceit of the government on this issue by failing to fully outline the situation.
It is clear from Dr Sutherland’s memo (cited above) he was fully aware the corn was contaminated and yet he stated in evidence on 1st March 2001, “the discovery of POSSIBLE contamination in a 5.6 tonne shipment of sweetcorn into New Zealand last year …”. (page 59 of ERMA’s hearing evidence to the Royal Commission). Dr Sutherland then proceeded to explain a theoretically possible situation where GE corn was released and the regulatory difficulties of dealing with this situation.
Dr Sutherland’s evidence goes on to say: “The realisation that GM plants as inadvertent contaminants …” (page 61). This GE corn release was not inadvertent. The Government and ERMA both knew by this time that GE corn was in the ground in considerable numbers with at least 14,000 plants.