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ERMA Underfunding puts Country at Risk

ERMA Underfunding puts Country at Risk

A meeting between NGO 's and ERMA this week has revealed that the organisation is grossly underfunded and has raised new concerns that ERMA is unable to cope with demands of both New Organisms and Hazardous Substances because of a shortage of money.

Particular concern was raised about lack of monitoring of the PPL GE sheep trials which have now been terminated.The NGO/ ERMA meeting was told that PPL is due to be "signed off" and leave the farm in Whakamaru where transgenic sheep were being run until the collapse of the company. When questioned by GE Free (NZ) the Authority told us that there would be no post monitoring of the site and that they had no idea where the ashes of the incinerated genetically modified sheep were put. ERMA believe the ashes were most likely spread around the farm land.

Further ERMA said there would be little scientific information published for New Zealanders to find out about the results of the nine year trial except they acknowledged failure of the milk in clinical trials and the ensuing bankcrupcy of PPL therapeutics.

In the Hazardous substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) there is a clear requirement that tests of the organisms effects on the environment are to be studied and the land to be cleared up after the trial has finished. "If there is no data gathered in the field trial then the Act conditions have been grossly abused', says Claire Bleakley of Ge Free NZ in food and environment.

As ERMA is not allowing for post site monitoring the dangers of unknown transgenic diseases that may be in the soil and taken up by any animal grazing on the land poses a danger to New Zealand agriculture in the long term. There have been two cases of CJD-like disease in the Waikato which should warrant investigation to assess if this could have come from the experiments or accidental contamination of airborne ashes containing prions that have survived the incineration process.

"As no monitoring has or will been done there will be no way of confirming the possibility of a very dangerous situation of transgene mutation or formation of a virulant new organism being created," says Claire Bleakley.

The lack of funding and the resulting inability of ERMA to consider the long term effects of a transgenic organism now or on subsequent generations could lead to a major health or economic catastrophe for consumers and farmers in the future.

"The GE Tamarillo site was not cleared up, and now the Whakamaru GE sheep site is being allowed to be left unmonitored and likely contaminated" says Claire.

" ERMA is not looking after New Zealand's agricultural security and it is exposing it to an unnecessary biosecurity risk."

GE Free NZ in food and environment call on ERMA to ensure that PPL conducts post trial monitoring for at least fifteen years from "sign off" as scientific studies indicate prions have at least a 5-15 year period of incubation.

It is vital that no animals be grazed on the land until this has been cleared for safety, but with lack of funds basic scientific precaution looks likely to be abandoned.

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