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Alarm Bells Ring Over Threat of GE Trees

[Scoop note: Arborgen has responded to this release - ArborGen does not undertake any research into GE trees in NZ]

04/07/2017 Alarm Bells Ring Over Threat of GE Trees

Genetically engineered (GE) tree plantations are a direct threat to the environment, ecosystems, and biodiversity of ecological systems.

The buy out of Arborgen by New Zealand-owned Rubicon ties New Zealand even more deeply into the biotech tree industry pushing a dangerous and unsustainable programme involving millions of GE trees.[1]

One of the biggest global GE Eucalyptus tree nurseries, owned by Arborgen NZ, already exists in Te Teko. The EPA has not demanded any accountability on this site, there are no annual reports, no inspection or monitoring for potential breaches, escape of GE matter or even that the trees are fully contained.

"This is a ticking time bomb for the environment and New Zealand forestry exports," said Claire Bleakley, President of GE-Free NZ.

"The lack of accountability is a serious concern for New Zealand, as escape of any material would threaten New Zealand exports."

The recent serious biosecurity breaches highlight the fact that MPI are monitoring from their desks and allowing importers and businesses to regulate their own businesses. The outcomes of this approach threaten the environment and economy.

For New Zealand the alarm bells are ringing. GE trees threaten to create zones devoid of life that is important to forests and to the wider ecosystem.

The plantation monocultures displace native trees and disrupt natural systems due to their engineered traits of herbicide tolerance, insect killing, and altered reproductive traits. GE trees may be made sterile and will only produce reproductive parts if sprayed with hormones.

GE tree exudates kill the surrounding soil ecosystems. They also have high water needs and suck the rivers dry.

The risk of catastrophic fire has also been demonstrated overseas. Eucalyptus and pine trees are the most incendiary trees and can spontaneously combust in hot, dry stormy weather. Lightning strikes have set off devastating fires, damaging millions of acres of plantations and destroying lives.

GE trees are now emerging as a grave threat in South America. The regulations are poor and in Chile they can grow GE plants but cannot sell them on the local market. Thousands of acres of GE plants and trees are being acquired to benefit overseas companies, threatening local food production. This is creating landless indigenous people, as valuable land for food is converted.

The EPA must demand that all GE tree trials regardless of whether they are private or public must be transparent, accountable, controlled and contained.

“The EPA must immediately enforce controls to ensure secure containment, monitoring, inspection and comprehensive annual reporting at the Arborgen site," said Bleakley “To ensure that there is no long term threat from industry pushing GE trees”.

[1] Rubicon http://www.rubicon-nz.com
[2] ERMA200825 goo.gl/3aks64


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