GE Tree trial breach shows institutional contradictions

The Soil & Health Association hopes that Biosecurity NZ’s investigation of last weekend’s security fence breach and cutting down of genetically engineered (GE) trees at Rotorua, will lead to far more rigorous controls and compliance checks at the Scion GE tree field trial.

“Biosecurity NZ will investigate today whether action is required under the HSNO Act due to possible removal of GE plant material, and has indicated it will investigate Soil & Health’s concerns with the field trial,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

Soil & Health has previously reported compliance breaches by Scion of the consent conditions for the field trial, and yesterday’s news had raised concerns of GE plant material being removed from the secured area.

“The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) have said that there appeared not to have been material removed by those involved in the cutting down of GE trial trees, however rabbits appear to have been risking that ever since the trial started, with having both caused damage and repeatedly infesting the trial plot and surrounds.”

“Ironically, Scion’s own activities will be the greater risk with material being removed on mower equipment following mulching of GE tree prunings. Scion have been granted an ERMA amendment to their consent, which previously required autoclaving or incineration of cuttings or plant material. The mulching of prunings allows even more GE material to remain in the environment, and with no clean down facility on site, means GE plant material being removed to other adjacent non-GE trial sites and forestry areas.”

“Amendments such as these, further show ERMA’s lack of precaution and bias towards field trials. Agresearch, Crop & Food, and Scion, the operators of the only New Zealand GE field trials, have all used the amendment process with ERMA allowing changes that the public have not had opportunity to adequately scrutinize.”

“Civil disobedience is not surprising, when precaution and transparency are disregarded,” said Mr Browning. “Considering overwhelming opposition to genetic engineering in New Zealand, field trials should be treated as a privilege and run to the highest level of precaution.”

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