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Forest and Bird seeks GE moratorium extension

September 11, 2003 – Wellington


Forest and Bird seeks GE moratorium extension

Forest and Bird today announced that it would seek an extension to the GE moratorium as a result of concerns raised by members, including concerns about the effectiveness of the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).

“It’s important that the moratorium stay in place until ERMA’s effectiveness improves and the scientific work has been done to provide a sound basis for decision making,” said Acting President Dr Peter Maddison.

“Forest and Bird lacks confidence in ERMA’s present ability to regulate the release of genetically engineered organisms. We have seen the failure of many local authorities to meet their obligations under the Resource Management Act (RMA) and we do not want to see the same problem happen with ERMA,” he said.

“Conditional release will only work if the rules are tight, the organisms can be contained and monitoring regimes are in place. All too often Forest and Bird has seen other environmental permits like concessions and resource consents poorly administered. Mistakes with GE could last for ever,” he said.

“Biosecurity is critical to New Zealand. We have too many pests and diseases causing harm to our native plants and animals. In the past, animals and plants such as possums and gorse were let loose for commercial gain without good scientific understanding of the impacts that they would have. We should not make the same mistake with GE,” he said.

“Forest and Bird is concerned that work has only just started into the science around the potential impact of GE on our natural environment. At a recent Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FoRST) seminar, researchers conceded that it was early days and that at least three years were needed to verify results,” he said.

“New Zealand scientists have a very important role to play in assessing the risks associated with the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment. It’s vital that government fund this work and that the results are communicated to the public,” he said.


Forest and Bird’s executive recently unanimously passed the following resolution:

Forest and Bird’s executive support the continuation of the GE moratorium, in light of the precautionary principle, because there are a number of unresolved issues including that:

- ERMA is not in a position to administer or oversee the process;
- Scientific research on the environmental impacts of GE has only just started;
- The potential effects on biodiversity through biosecurity breaches

We also note that New Zealand has not ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Contact: Peter Maddison, Acting President 09 818 6803 (w)
Kevin Hackwell, Conservation Manager 04 385 7374 (w)

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