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ERMA setting "second rate" standards

ERMA setting "second rate" standards in Risk Management

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) is setting second-rate standards for Risk Management says a report submitted to the Government's team undertaking a review of the Agency.

In a submission to the three-person team GE-Free NZ (in food and environment) warn that New Zealand is faced with unnecessary bio-security threats because of lower standards being set by ERMA in comparison with the Risk Assessments by the commercial insurance industry.

The report acknowledges the Royal Commission findings that ERMA was one of the better government- run authorities of its type. However it warns that the lack of rigorous risk assessments of data to the standard set by the Insurance industry has resulted in a two-tier standard for risk assessment with two conflicting outcomes.

"On the one hand commercial Insurers have warned the lack of data and potential for catastrophic outcomes makes many GM applications in the open environment uninsurable," says Jon Carapiet, a spokesperson for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment).

"On the other hand, ERMA have claimed to "manage" those risks on the basis of partial data, assumptions about the magnitude of unknown risks and the "socialisation" of risk. Data to support the scientific and economic arguments for approving field trials and possibly releases, are woefully inadequate," says Mr Carapiet.

The report says the engagement of ERMA with the public, which carries the "socialised risk" has also been less than ideal and calls for ERMA to urgently upgrade its methodology, including more direct dialogue with the new Bio Ethics Council.

The report calls for ERMA methodology to be upgraded, including measures to fully contain existing trial sites from the wider environment to prevent contamination.

Evidence that co-existence of GM and GM-Free Production 'impossible'

The submission also casts doubts that controls set by ERMA to prevent the spread of GE contamination will be effective and details examples of controls on field-trials which have already failed.

"Compliance is a major concern. We believe the evidence from overseas shows co-existence of GE and GE-Free production is impossible to manage. The pressure to allow up to 1% GE contamination in all foods is unacceptable," says Mr Carapiet.

ERMA should also encourage compliance by requiring all companies experimenting with GM organisms to have commercial insurance and not rely on the Public covering costs of damage.

In the next month the Government is due to receive reports from MAF and the Ministry of the Environment on how they propose to "manage" releases of GE products if the moratorium on commercial GE releases lapses in October.

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