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Scion's GE Trees Damage NZ's Reputation

Arbor Day 5 June 2008

Scion's GE Trees Damage NZ's Reputation On Arbor Day and World Environment Day

The State Owned Enterprise (SOE) Scion (formerly Forest Research Institute), whose "science" is involved in massive GE tree plantation projects in Brazil and the USA, has a failed GE tree field trial at its Rotorua site that is is still growing. This is despite public assurances that the trees would be removed, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.

A month ago Scion said its experimental GE field trial was coming to an end and the 50 trees remaining, after protestors earlier cut down 19, would be removed in the next few weeks. Last week Scion received permission from ERMA (Environmental Risk Management Authority) to compost the fifty 5 metre tall trees within the field trial site, but the trees are still in the ground. Scion has said it intends to remove the trees before June 13.

“Does Scion need a hand to remove their remaining illegal trees?" asks Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning. “I am visiting the site this morning saw included and like many New Zealanders would be only too pleased to help."

“With World Environment Day this year hosted in New Zealand and falling today on Arbor Day, it would have been desirable if New Zealand had no environmentally risky trees in its environment."

“Everyday the trees remain growing is another day of risk, with Scion still not meeting consent requirements set down by ERMA."

In late 2007 Soil & Health had identified Scion's breaches of several consent conditions including that of the risk of GE pollen release by incorrect pruning. Following the protestors’ breach of the trial's security fence, MAF Biosecurity NZ investigated and Scion subsequently decided its experiment was finished just 4 years into its potential 22-year term.

The success of Soil & Health and fellow NGO GE Free NZ in bringing the field trial to an end is soured by Scion's "science" involvement with GE eucalypt research for giant GE forest company ArborGen, one third formed by Fletcher Forest's spinoff company Rubicon. ArborGen is planning further large-scale GE eucalypt plantations in the USA and Brazil.

“Scion and Rubicon's involvement with large-scale GE brings shame to New Zealand's clean, green GE free reputation at a time when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (Bonn from 12th -31 May) has been grappling with designing controls for GE trees," says Mr Browning.

The New Zealand delegation sided with Australia and Canada and opposed African nations' calls to suspend the release of GE trees until there is more conclusive proof of their environmental safety. This includes the effects of such trees on animals, insects and microbes that live on and around the trees.

Instead of New Zealand representing its citizens and taking a stand against the risk of global ecological disaster, MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and MAF are looking after old money and giant multinationals. These commercial imperatives are blocking good science and precaution."

“Scion has significant other high quality research and activity that it should focus on. GE research whether for biofuels or timber sullies Scion's reputation."

“Poor science with a New Zealand label also has the potential to ruin the clean green reputation that New Zealand's biggest earners, primary production and tourism, currently enjoy."

Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 and is opposed to GE in food and environment.

ENDS

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