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GE onions: Risky waste of taxpayers money


GE onions: Risky waste of taxpayers money

Auckland, 20 December, 2003: Greenpeace today criticised the decision of ERMA to approve Crop and Food’s GE onions. “This is an experiment that ERMA themselves concede has little environmental or economic benefit and is a waste of research funding (1) yet they have given it the go ahead,” said Greenpeace campaigner Steve Abel. “Crop and Food are now entitled to spend ten years of taxpayer’s money on developing a GE onion that nobody here or in our major markets wants (2).”

“The main argument for these onions is that they will reduce herbicide use but the most comprehensive data just released shows that these sorts of GE crops have increased herbicide use by over 22 million kilos in the US (3),” said Abel.

“This information further undermines the continuing claims by Crop and Food that Roundup Ready GE onions will reduce herbicide use and calls into question Crop and Food’s scientific honesty given their failure to acknowledge this independent evidence.”

“These GE onions, like all GE crops, are such a marginal prospect that it makes a particular mockery of the research funding decisions of Crown Research Institutes such as Crop and Food and the assessment process of ERMA. “Why should the NZ taxpayer be supporting the development of a GE food crop that our export markets don’t want (3) and 80 per cent of New Zealander’s don’t want growing here either? (4)” said Abel.

“Crop and Food should re-invest the GE onion money into improving and expanding our already successful and burgeoning organic onion industry in New Zealand. This industry has eliminated synthetic herbicide use and is getting significant premiums on onion exports to the UK.”

Abel concluded however that; “GE onions are highly unlikely to ever see commercial production in New Zealand. I suspect the experiment will die a death from lack of relevance and funding and so prove to have been a waste of time and money.”

Greenpeace opposes the release of GE organisms because of potential irreversible risks to the environment and food chain.

(1) ‘The uncertainty about the long term environmental benefits of herbicide-tolerance technology invites the conclusion that this is not soundly based use of research funding. This decision under the HSNO Act should thus not be seen as an endorsement of the decision to fund this research,’ Pg 27, 2.6.5.16. ‘The Committee concludes that this research is uncertain in terms of its potential to yield economic or environmental benefits, relative to other possible research,’ Pg 27, 2.6.5.17

* 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.

* Benbrook C, ‘Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Eight Years’,Northwest Science and Environment Policy Centre, 25 November 2003.

(4) 80 per cent of respondents say NZ should remain a GM-free food producer at least until our export markets accept GM food, Colmar Brunton, July 2003.

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