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Crop Vandalism Should Not Be Tolerated

23 December 2003
PR 263/2003

Crop Vandalism Should Not Be Tolerated

Any attempts or threats to destroy a field trial of genetically-modified onions must be met with the full force of the law, says Hugh Ritchie, a National Board member of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

Mr Ritchie, the Federation's spokesman on genetic modification (GM), was responding to reports that a group is threatening to destroy a field trial of onions genetically-modified to tolerate a common herbicide. The trial has been approved, with controls, by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), and should be allowed to proceed.

The Press reported that the People's Moratorium Enforcement Agency believed it had a 'civic duty' to remove the crops, and would run a two-day direct action training camp.

"If accurate, these comments are unacceptable and a sad day for New Zealand. The New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research has carried out its civic duty in seeking ERMA's approval for the trial. All groups had the opportunity to make submissions to ERMA, including this agency.

"Federated Farmers considers the field trial presents the most negligible risk possible for this type of work," Mr Ritchie said. "It will also generate valuable information in the context of New Zealand agriculture. "Glyphosate-resistant onions have potential to enable use on onions of more environmentally-friendly substances. Some of those currently used are toxic and persistent in the environment.

"Remember this is just research. Any decision on the commercial release of these onions is a long way off and will depend on further ERMA scrutiny. Importantly, it will also hinge on whether consumers want these onions. Farmers will not grow what the market does not demand," Mr Ritchie said.


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