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Nasty Surprises in GE Pine Trees

Nasty Surprises in GE Pine Trees

16 December 2010

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has ignored important lessons from previous bio-security failures in its latest approval, creating a long term economic risk to the country. The approval of field trials of GE pine trees in New Zealand for 25 years is likely to bring nasty surprises that have been minimised by officials.

ERMA has rejected calls to impose a bond in order to encourage the applicant to ensure containment of GE organisms, even though previous breaches have occurred.

ERMA has authorised control trees to flower at the GE trial site, despite a risk of confusion or human error leading to pollen release.They also dismiss the risk of unexpected development in GE trees or the accidental creation of allergies. ERMA refused to consider the latest scientific evidence for HGT (Horizontal Gene Transfer) which it dismisses as insignificant. The field trial will be open to access from rodents, birds and insects.

Despite the risk of Scion repeating breaches at other GE field trial sites ERMA rejected the idea that the applicant post a bond or buy commercial insurance. This was identified as a means to prevent exposure of ratepayers to commercial-risk. Instead ERMA has said that public concerns about liability should be addressed to the Ministry for The Environment which has a history of ignoring local government calls for legislation to protect ratepayers from carrying the costs of damage.

"Suggesting Scion arrange a surprise external audit once a year is a poor alternative to encouraging compliance through a bond," says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment. "Scientific rigor in the process has gone out the window. ERMA is relying on a wing and a prayer rather than evidence based science that should be conducted in the lab."

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"ERMA's report says that 'one of the containment controls would have to fail' for problems to occur, but that has happened before.Why aren't we learning the lessons of past mistakes?GE experiments in the field rebound to bring nasty surprises. A bond or commercial insurance would have been better than nothing. Instead the risk for 25 years of experimentation will be forced on the rest of New Zealand by Scion and its overseas partners."


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