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GE onions: stupidity and shoddiness pointless risk

GE onions: stupidity and shoddiness layered on pointlessness and risk

Christchurch, Tuesday 4 November, 2003: “These GE onions are a stupid idea (1), shoddily proposed (2) for an experiment that won’t even answer any important questions, it is both pointless and risky and ERMA will do themselves the final dishonour if they approve it,” said Greenpeace GE Campaigner Steve Abel today.

“GE onions pose economic, environmental and health risks, are unwanted and are likely to lead to more herbicide use in contradiction of their claimed purpose,” said Abel on the second day of oral hearings on Crop and Foods application to grow genetically engineered onions resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

Onion geneticist Elvira Dommisse (PhD) will today appear as an expert witness for Greenpeace in support of their submission (expected to be heard before midday) that the GE onion trial should not be approved by ERMA.

Yesterday, during first day hearings, “key points were drawn out that confirmed the pointlessness of the experiment,” said Abel. “The primary claimed benefit of these GE onions are that they will reduce herbicide use and will therefore be more sustainable. Yet the total elimination of synthetic chemicals is already being achieved in organic onion production in New Zealand – which is right now attracting huge premiums in export markets.”

On top of that; the chemical cocktail that conventional onions are subject to includes insecticide and fungicide sprays which herbicide resistant GE onions won’t even eliminate. “Cap this off with the fact that the same GE onions are being developed in field trials in the US already and you have to wonder why Colin Eady and Crop and Food are even bothering,” said Abel.

“If these GE onions represent the cream of Helen Clark’s ‘science innovation wave’ – she’d better start investing more in the arts.”

“The New Zealand public don’t want GE onions, our three major onion export markets don’t want them (UK, Europe and Japan (3), and yet Crop and Food want to throw ten more years of good taxpayers money after bad, its stupid and pointless.”

(1) Herbicide resistant crops were designed by chemical companies as a way of selling more herbicide not less – this is GE biology 101. The idea that making a plant immune to herbicide will somehow reduce herbicide use in the medium to long term is ridiculous. The proof is in the pudding with roundup resistant crops, such as soy and canola in the Americas, compounding weed resistance problems and leading farmers to re-instate older more toxic chemicals such as paraquat and 2,4-D to kill the roundup resistant weeds.

(2) One scientist described the Crop and Food GE application as; “The worst lot of pseudo-scientific rubbish I have ever read.”

(3) UK (25.61%), Europe (48.87%) and Japan (5.45%) are New Zealand’s biggest export markets for onions with 80% of onion exports going to these regions in 2002 (NZ Department of Statistics). These are all markets renowned for their sensitivity and aversion to GE foods.

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