Government approval for Scion’s GE Christmas trees

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) released its decision today to allow crown research agency Scion and its partner, United States owned ArborGen, to plant thousands of genetically engineered (GE) pine trees over 25 years at Scions Rotorua site.

“The GE pine trees approval was expected but not as a perverted Christmas tree. We had shown the current site being prepared in July, even before the application was formally received by ERMA, or notified for public submission. This showed ERMA as the Government’s rubber stamper for genetic engineering in New Zealand,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

An ERMA hearing of the Scion application was held 9-10 November with a decision anticipated in January 2011.

“Previous non-compliance by Scion at its GE field trial site was only discovered by Soil & Health-Organic NZ’s inspection as was Plant & Food Research’s flowering GE brassica breach at Lincoln, yet ERMA have now allowed for Scion to apply without public notification for new secret sites.”

“Moving of GE field trials will only further jeopardise New Zealand’s relatively GE free status and environment. The potential GE pine pollen leakage needs to be constrained to one site where the public can exercise a level of independent surveillance.”

ERMA and GE field trial’s auditor MAF-Biosecurity New Zealand (MAF-BNZ) were complicit previously when Scion failed to prune trees according to approval controls, allowing retrospective changes to the approval. MAF-BNZ had also failed to monitor the site correctly as it had similarly with Plant & Food Research’s Lincoln sites.

ERMA’s approval controls for the GE pines are little different than those made for the GE brassicas at Lincoln. Scion’s GE tree scientist Dr Christian Walter appeared and supported Plant & Food’s Dr Mary Christey at the GE brassica ERMA hearing. Soon after, Christie was allowing GE brassicas to flower even though that approval was still before the High Court.

“Dr Walter when presenting to the recent forestry industry conference, gave a very rose tinted outlook for commercial GE trees in New Zealand and absolutely nothing about risks to them or the wider environment or community. Misrepresenting the level of environmental effects research at both commercially focused and regulatory presentations, shows the cavalier attitude of GE scientists wanting permission for field trials in New Zealand,” said Mr Browning.

“Soil & Health-Organic NZ will be monitoring Scion’s latest GE escapade as closely as possible to try and ensure that GE leakage from field trials does not occur. We cannot rely on the scientists or government agencies entrusted with that responsibility.”

Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 that supports new Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure GE free trading image.

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