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ERMA's statement of intent shows darker side of GE


ERMA's statement of intent shows darker side of GE 'cost-cutting' agenda.

ERMA's new Statement of Intent heralds changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) that suggest priority is being given to "managing costs" rather than maximising bio-security.

The document adds to concerns that latest round of MfE consultations "Implementing changes to the HSNO Act in relation to New Organisms" are a farce and will further erode the quality of risk assessment and protection of the country's environment.

"The strategy appears to be changing the Act to support a GE -release agenda. Given the lack of scientific data for ERMA's "risk assessments" it is a misuse of the regulatory process" says Claire Bleakley, from GE-Free NZ ( in food and environment).

ERMA's focus on the monetary cost of approving field tests and releases relates in part to dealing with the many public submissions (on average over 90%) opposing the use of GE in food and environment. The intense interest and concern being expressed by the public from scientists to mothers shows that the Government is being hasty in trying to push through a technology that is riddled with failures and inconsistencies.

Evidence on adverse effects from GMO's reviewed by the Royal Commission have yet to undergo further investigation. The knowledge gap includes studies by Dr Puzstai and Dr.Ewan (health), Mae Wan Ho and Professor Cummins (horizontal gene transfer, (HGT)) and the impact on farmers who have lost their livelihoods from pollen contamination, poor segregation and reduced crop yields. Yet, ERMA hopes to educate the public in such a way that applications become routine and are always approved (Part V (HSNO)) .

"Public education is vital, but it is difficult to see what information ERMA will use for its public education programme in hope of routinely approving Part V of the Act," says Ms Bleakley. "Their agenda seems to be to approve all GM applications rather than protect NZ from risks," she says.

"This totalitarian bow to the creators of New Organisms disregards the reason that ERMA was set up in the first place. Only now is the ESR doing limited soil studies into effects of GE on bacterial populations and these results will take another three years before we know the outcome, Despite this the push for release continues."

The lack of safety data for risk assessment is one reason why insurance companies are refusing to indemnify GE products, and raises questions about whether ERMA itself should seek liability insurance to cover "risk management" decisions based on insufficient data.

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