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More than 16,000 New Zealanders Say 'No' to Ge Trees

13 August 2017 Media Release

More than 16,000 New Zealanders Say 'No' to Ge Trees

Pressure on the Ministry for Primary Industries over the last two years has resulted in MPI removing controversial clause 6.4 (GE trees) from the new National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry.

The new NES-PF (1) gives foresters, councils, and communities clear guidelines on how to protect the environment while achieving a sustainable forestry industry.

GE Free Northland welcomes the removal of the clause that would have permitted the planting of GE trees anywhere in NZ and specifically overriden any precautionary or prohibitive GE policies and rules of local councils (including those of Northland and Auckland).

“We are pleased MPI has listened to the many thousands of submitters who have called for the removal of the controversial clause,” said Martin Robinson, spokesperson for GE Free Northland.

"Despite the ongoing push by the National Party for risky outdoor GE experiments and releases (including the unsuccessful recent attempt by Minister Nick Smith to destroy our valuable enforceable GE Free Zones (2) by amending the RMA), MPI backed down in the face of 16,000+ submissions opposing the GE tree clause. MPI states in their analysis (point 3.6.2) that “… it is not appropriate for GM tree stock to be included as a permitted activity in an NES.” (3)

"GE trees, if introduced, would have greatly increased the risk of transgenic contamination. Ordinary pine pollen travels hundreds of kilometres even at moderate wind speeds, thousands of kilometres with stronger winds. (4). Pine pollen causes allergies, gets into waterways, and is even found in the ocean at depths of more than 10,000 metres," noted Mr. Robinson. (5)

"Both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), global certification bodies for truly sustainable forestry, do not allow GE trees in their certified forests, due to the serious ecological risks and their commitment to the precautionary principle" said Robinson.(6)

"We have enough invasive weeds already without creating genetically engineered, herbicide resistant wilding pines. Growers who have gone to the trouble and expense of obtaining FSC or PEFC certification in NZ should not have their valuable enterprises threatened by risky outdoor use of GMOs."

“The eleventh hour insertion by MPI of proposed clause 6.4, which would have allowed GE trees, was of concern to not only the NZ Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA), Forest and Bird, and Fish & Game but for a huge number of submitters. It is extremely important to communities in New Zealand to keep our environment GE-free,” said Mr Robinson.

GE Free Northland thanks all the councils from Auckland to Cape Reinga, Hastings District Council, and all Tai Tokerau Iwi authorities, for putting in place a much needed additional tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs.

This local protection is necessary given serious deficiencies in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, as identified by Local Government NZ, many councils, mana whenua, and primary producer boards. ENDS



[1] www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2017/0174/latest/whole.html#DLM7371050


(2) "Progress for GM Free Zones" 5 April 2017 Pure Hawkes Bay Media release


(3)Report on submissions and recommendations, 3.6.2 and 3.6.2, page 31


(4) pine pollen drift

Williams, C. G. (2010). Long-distance pine pollen still germinates after meso-scale dispersal.American Journal of Botany 97(5): 1-11. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.0900255

An up-to-date study undertaken in India established pollen drift over 600 kilometres:

Singh, G. et. al., "Pollen-Rain from Vegetation of Northwest India." New Physiologist, 72, 1993, pp. 191-206.

(5) "NZ pine pollen found 11,000m under the sea" (21 April 2017 Newshub)


(6) "Use of genetically modified organisms shall be prohibited"- Criterion 6.8 of Forest Stewardship Council's Principles and Criteria.

PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)

PEFC- 4.2 Guidelines for Forest Management Practices

"Genetically modified trees shall not be used"

Further background information on the new National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (released on 10 August 2017)



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