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Australia’s GE Mishap A Lesson for New Zealand

Media Release

Attention: Health, Food, Consumer, Political, Business, Environment, Science Farming, and Government Reporters.

Soil & Health Association of New Zealand

(Est. 1941)

Publishers of ORGANIC NZ

15 August 2011

Australia’s GE Mishap A Lesson for New Zealand.

Last week’s spillage of genetically engineered (GE) canola seed from a truck on the Albany Highway in Western Australia in an otherwise GE free area, shows how easy contamination might occur should Fonterra continue its intention to have GE pastures in New Zealand, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.

15 tonnes of GE canola spilt when a fire started in a seized differential and melted a hole in the truck’s aluminium trailer about 160 km southeast of Perth. Nearby farmers included some with lucrative GE free canola contracts with Japan and who are very concerned about the potential loss of business. (1)

“GE Fonterra pastures would mean the inevitable spread of GE rye grass or clover by pollination, birds and animal life, but also spillage of seed and spread through human activity. This would mean that New Zealand would lose a key point of market difference with Australia,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Government support for GE rye grass development should stop and be redirected to sustainable and consumer desirable organic and non-GE production.”

Scott Kinnear from the Safe Food Foundation in Australia said today, "This GM canola spill in Australia follows the Canadian experience where widespread contamination of non GM canola has now taken place due to human error. It is inevitable that GM grasses in New Zealand will contaminate your non GM grasses and there will be no turning back."

The Safe Food Foundation have retained lawyers to represent surrounding non GE farmers and are already involved with a contamination event where GE canola material blown from one farm caused the loss of organic certification on another.

It is uncertain how much canola was spread before the truck stopped, but GE seed was also spread by the water from fire fighting. The road was reopened the next night after seed and soil was removed from the site, but darkness at the time made some concerned that seed would have been missed and transported further afield by traffic, and some residual seed is already germinating at the site.

“This unexpected event shows why any GE crops or pastures in New Zealand can put at risk the markets and agricultural preferences of others. Fonterra, PGG Wrightson and others are continuing developing GE forages, and seem to miss the point that co-existence of GE and non-GE crops does not work, or they do not care,” said Steffan Browning.

“Unlike most of Europe which has targets for organic production, the government has withdrawn from direct support for organics in New Zealand, yet actively supports the GE biotech industry with millions of dollars.”

“Outside the National Party AGM yesterday, when I asked, if they should support Fonterra introducing GE rye grasses, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English quipped, “That sounds like a good idea.” Western Australia’s Agriculture Minister Terry Redman has also been supportive of GE crops and now his farmers are losing markets.”

“New Zealand’s dominant primary producers such as dairy and forestry, by supporting GE field trials are supporting the loss of brand New Zealand’s GE free advantage and the loss of livelihoods for many farmers and horticulturists.”

GE contamination is not acceptable to most New Zealanders, and Soil & Health –Organic NZ will continue its efforts to stop the introduction of GE into New Zealand’s gardens, parks, farms and forestry.


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