Conflict of Interest By GE Animals Hearing Chair

“We have to be aggressive about getting the biotechnology out onto the farm where it can do the most good. Part of the gains to be made are included in making them quickly.”
Hearing Chair, Kieran Elborough.
The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) hearing of the AgResearch application to allow genetically engineered cattle, sheep and goats, is unjust when very similar applications are already banned by the High Court, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.
Soil & Health also believes conflicts of interest between ERMA’s hearings committee and AgResearch the applicant should nullify the current process, according to spokesperson Steffan Browning, especially considering some committee members previous conflict of interest already allowed the infamous GE Brassica field trial against public interest.
Soil & Health National Councillor Dr Elvira Dommisse, an ex GE scientist, made a submission to the ERMA hearing in Hamilton yesterday, as did Soil & Health spokesperson, Steffan Browning. Soil & Health’s Organic NZ magazine editor Philippa Jamieson is to present today.
“This hearing is an affront to natural justice considering the High Court’s decision (CIV-2008-485-2370 GE Free NZ v ERMA) overturning ERMA’s previous notification of very similar applications by AgResearch,” said Steffan Browning. (1) “Although AgResearch has appealed that decision, the High Court decision still holds.”
“Here we have the terrible twins of ERMA and AgResearch at it again, trying it on with over 700 pages of genetic descriptors, almost infinite genetic engineering experimental combinations from 8000 E. coli strains, and mammalian cell lines including human, mice, sheep, cattle and goats, genetic material, with resultant GE cattle, sheep and goats intended for outdoor trials.”

“The huge range of genetic material being applied for, once again makes it impossible to assess environmental and economic risks and costs. Like the previous ones, this application is based on the unethical treatment of animals and other life and includes human DNA. Although cell lines from Maori persons are excluded, the cultural concerns of other races and cultures has been disregarded,” said Mr Browning

ERMA had previously released its Evaluation and Review Report on the AgResearch application with no distinct changes to the previous applications in terms of the broad range of genetic material intended as optional for the scientists toying with genetically engineered animals, nor of the huge range of unknown new proteins potentially resulting.

The current hearings committee includes Dr Kieran Elborough (chair) and Dr Max Suckling both Plant & Food Research staff, but as conflicted ERMA decision makers were responsible for assuring submitters and the public in 2007 that controls would prevent escape of genetic material from their Crop & Food colleagues GE brassica field trial.

“Submitters concerns were later vindicated, when flowering brassicas were discovered at the field trial site by Soil & Health and GE Free NZ,” said Mr Browning. “Another current hearings committee member, Dr Manuka Henare, while not conflicted, joined in originally dismissing risk in the Brassica decision and then headed ERMA’s committee investigating the flowerings. Ex diplomat and SIS director Richard Woods whose background may lend more to the politics than ecological risk is also part of todays ERMA committee, hearing the AgResearch application.”

“The conflicts of interest continue with the current AgResearch application, with Chair Dr Elborough having an active collaborative history with AgResearch through his earlier ViaLactia work developing GE clover and rye grass, and which AgResearch have indicated they wish to apply for field trialling this year.”

In a 2002 joint paper, “Genome Biotechnology: An option for New Zealand Dairy Farmers,” by Kieran Elborough and Zac Hanley, Forage Genomics Business, ViaLactia, (2) is the quote:

“ViaLactia is committed to rapid commercialisation of all of its biotechnology based products and services. To achieve this we have a synergy of world-class scientists with world-class business and commercial managers to provide a very powerful and competitive formula for success. We have to be aggressive about getting the biotechnology out onto the farm where it can do the most good. Part of the gains to be made are included in making them quickly.”

Soil & Health’s Mr Browning believes the ERMA process to be corrupted.

“GE farming proponents should not be making the decisions which risk undermining New Zealand’s Clean Green and 100% Pure trading advantage.”

“Poor processes including ERMA’s pre-Christmas consenting without public input, GE goats into indoor experiments by AgResearch, and GE pine trees into a Scion field trial, combined with an incestuous science policy, funding and decision making clique, may leave little choice to the public but civil disobedience and protest,” said Mr Browning,

“New Zealand’s science and environmental safety regulators need either some major staff changes, political policy push or a culture change, if environmental, animal and public safety is to be considered properly and public confidence in the regulatory process is to be restored.”

Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 where proven organic farming techniques have allowed New Zealand farmers to remain GE Free, securing markets and respect. Soil & Health believes a healthy community is based on safe healthy organic food not risky GE contrived products.

(1) Extract below.
(2) and attached

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