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Public Losing Faith in ERMA Process

Public Losing Faith in ERMA Process (GE Free NZ media release)

Public confidence in the regulation of GE is failing, and should be a wake-up call to ERMA and the government that they urgently need to live up to the promises made following the Royal Commision on GM.

Concern that New Zealand is facing a return of public protests like those in the early 2000's follows the receipt by ERMA of 123 submissions on an application for a GE trial of onions, leeks and garlic.

"ERMA may secretly be hoping that people are not concerned by the issue anymore," says Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment "But it is far more likely this is a sign that the public feel it is pointless even making submissions when past experience shows their submissions fall on deaf ears, and concerns are totally ignored."

A recent independent report revealing the failure by government to carry through with promises made in light of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on GM, adds to concerns that Public protests will reignite to demand the interests of New Zealanders are properly served in the face of vested interests, including overseas companies using New Zealand as a testing-ground.

The Institute for Crop and Food Research has applied to plant GM onions, spring onions, garlic and leeks over 2.5 hectares at the Crown research institute's Lincoln facility southwest of Christchurch. The GE Allium seed (Leek, garlic, onion spring and bulb) will be allowed to flower outdoor in cages. The insect pollinators will be killed after pollinating the plants.

"This is a significant risk as pollen grains are microscopic and with one small mistake thousands could escape into the surrounding area," says Claire Bleakley. "This is a classic example of the total disregard for the public view shown by multinational corporates pushing their projects here."

The earlier onoin trial was in part started in 2004, and annual results showed that the onions performed poorly and the bulbs became infested with a soft rot when stored. There is also controversy about the seed being imported for three years from the US collaborators Monsanto/Seminis. The illegality of this was raised with ERMA and the permit then quietly amended in November 2007.

As with previous applications, 90% of submissions oppose the way field trials are conducted. The public - including expert scientists - has written detailed and extensive submissions highlighting the lack of rigor in the applications and placing scientifically valid points in front of ERMA staff and the Authority, but to no avail. Every GE application submitted for public comment has been approved. The information presented by submitters has been totally ignored.

"There is a growing feeling in the wider community that Maori were perhaps right to totally opt out of the deeply flawed process. They refused to participate after their submissions were denigrated and ignored," says Claire Bleakely.

"The incredible persistence of GE Corporations backed by millions of dollars is tantamount to rape of human rights against a population that is ignored when they say 'no'. ERMA, supposedly the protector of the public against risk, has been complicit in supporting expansion of dangerous and as yet unproven technology."

There are clear scientific reasons why GE is not safe and clear evidence to support these concerns. Moreover the public of New Zealand, as elsewhere throughout the world, do not want to be forced to eat GE food, or have it contaminate the food system.

The New Zealand public must not be ignored. If the system continues to do so and is not corrected, the result is likely to be legitimate concerns get pushed underground with other forms of protest arising.


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