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GE Tree cut down

GE Tree cut down.

The biosecurity containment facility at Scion (Forest Research Institute Ltd) Rotorua has been breached and investigations by MAF are underway. The breach was reported to MAF on Monday night. GE Free (NZ) was told that entry was gained by cutting of a wire fence underground and access was gained to the site where 19 GE trees were cut down. A GE Free sign had been left at the site.

This comes in the wake of ERMA and MAF scrutinising containment facility and enforcement of control conditions after it had been found that rabbits had dug large burrows running along the perimeter fence. The holes were fairly deep and fence wire was exposed. They were also given a picture of a pile of withered prunings exposed to the elements. Controls required these to be incinerated, however GE Free NZ were told that a section.67A non notified amendment allowed prunings to be left on site.

The December issue of Organic NZ magazine published photos which showed that rabbits were accessing the facility through a warren of holes. Some rabbit holes had moss and algae growing in the passages showing that they were well established. It appears that the mandatory weekly fence inspection had not been conducted.

There have been many breaches in CRI protocols and containment facility standards that have not been fully resolved. These include the illegal importation of GE onion seed, impregnation of GE embryos into surrogate GE cows, and the numerous rabbit holes around the Scion site, as reported by Organic NZ magazine.

“Rabbits have been a continuing problem and inspections were clearly not regularly conducted” said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment

“Each year GE Free (NZ) raises concerns over issues pertaining to compliance and we are always fobbed off. We must hope that no GE material was taken from the facility. Responsibility for this negligence and the carelessness leading to the breach should lie in part, with the inspection and monitoring agencies”.

In light of repeated breaches ERMA should impose a moratorium on approval of any further trials that cannot be completely contained and stringently monitored. This is especially necessary given major issues around liability and the damage caused by GE escape and contamination.


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