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Application to field evaluate GM onions

Application to field evaluate GM onion, spring onion, garlic and leek

Crop & Food Research has made an application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to undertake a field evaluation of genetically modified onion, spring onion, garlic and leek.

The research will build on the success of an existing research programme involving herbicide-tolerant onions which has been underway near Lincoln for four years.

Crop & Food Research's general manager, production, Dr Prue Williams, says the institute has approval to continue its existing research programme for another six years. "However, we want to move the research to a more suitable site a little further away from the expanding fringe of Lincoln township."

She says the proposed new field evaluation site would be a maximum of 2.5ha in size and would allow space for planting buffer zones of non-GM plant material as well as space to investigate new lines of plants with potentially improved agronomic and quality traits.

Dr Williams says the application is for a science research programme, as distinct from an application for commercial release, "which means we are still very much in a research phase".

She says one new component of the proposed field test would be to allow a small number of onion plants in the field to flower and set seed within special cages made of a double layer of insect-proof mesh. These flowering plants would be fully contained within these cages.

"We are committed to researching options which could lead, in the long term, to the more sustainable production of crops and food for New Zealand. Understanding fundamental plant science is an important part of this research."

Dr Williams says Crop & Food Research is internationally recognised for its onion science, both GM and non-GM, and has a great deal of experience running field tests.

The process of seeking approval from ERMA involves a process of public submissions and a public hearing. "We are very keen for people to make submissions on this application so all views can be heard. ERMA will then weigh up the risks and benefits of our application and make a decision on the application."


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