Government support for GE trees contradicts clean green image

Todays Environmental Risk Management Authority  (ERMA) hearing at the Novotel Hotel in Rotorua to consider the application by Crown Research Institute Scion to field trial thousands of genetically engineered (GE) trees  is a farce according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand.

“ERMA will grant the GE trees application regardless of the submissions because it is under government and United States pressure to do so,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

Government has put $10.8 million science funding into the project and with pro-GE  forestry interests actively lobby’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and international forums such as the Convention of Biological Diversity and the World Trade Organisation along with the USA, for acceptance of GE forestry.

“Soil & Health – Organic NZ, and other submitters are presenting at today’s hearing  in Rotorua to hold ERMA and Scion accountable for the complicity and reckless attack on New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure brand. GE has no place in the New Zealand environment and the government should know this.”

“Scion, ERMA and MAF have collaborated previously to reduce the fallout when Soil & Health-Organic NZ exposed serious breaches at Scion’s GE tree site.”

“New Zealand can’t have a bob each way on GE and sustainable production. Agriculture Minister David Carter, the Prime Minister, cabinet and treasury all know that clean green 100% Pure is a very valuable asset for New Zealand trade and tourism, but seem hell bent on bowing to Hillary Clinton’s US corporate interests to allow GE into New Zealand.”

“Agriculture Minister David Carter not long returned from meeting with Prince Charles and observing the consumer end of high value sustainable production, needs to tell New Zealanders unequivocally whether he supports GE in New Zealand forestry and agriculture or not.”

“Prince Charles  who was able to advise the Minister on profitability issues in wool, a natural fibre, could also have told the Minister that New Zealand going down the GE route would be madness. The Prince told me that when he visited New Zealand last,” said Mr Browning.

“Clinton’s team are on another mission and it is not sustainability or clean. The US biofuel experiment is costing massive subsidies from US taxpayers and is not sustainable.”

“Pollen spread by Scion’s multi-million dollar GE tree partner ArborGen is the basis for legal action in the United States. ArborGen is protesting that restrictions on new US field trials will mean they may have to cut down other GE trial trees that are already flowering there. They now are pushing for GE forestry in New Zealand.”

“Hillary Clinton and John Key’s Wellington Declaration, including ‘renewable energy’ collaboration, needs to be publicly fleshed out to expose any smell of GE.”

“ArborGen is very involved with GE biofuels development in the USA and aims to be the Monsanto of the tree world. ArborGen, although approximately 93% USA owned, is Australasia’s largest tree stock producer and much of New Zealand’s forestry business in now USA owned.”

“In January, Hilary Clinton’s Science and Technology Advisor Nina Federoff came to New Zealand pushing GE through a series of unbalanced presentations. At the same time, Terri Dunahay, a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) international GE policy specialist was promoting genetic engineering for New Zealand agriculture, while given a Fulbright Scholarship seat in New Zealand’s science policy agency, the Ministry of Research Science and Technology (MoRST).”

“Dunahay was also given time at ERMA, with her final report on the issues affecting the uptake of GE forages in New Zealand farming, suggesting that the public should not be able to submit on GE field trial applications and that some GE pollen release was necessary to test environmental effects.”

“Scion’s GE field trials are part of a drive for GE tree commercialisation here in New Zealand and overseas, and Scion Senior Scientist – Team Leader Future Forests gave a misleading presentation to the Forest Owners Association conference in October, leaving out the significant drawbacks of investment in GE and the environmental and social damage that GE has caused internationally.”

“New Zealand trades on a clean green 100% Pure brand and the best value customers for New Zealand’s exports are the discerning consumers that choose GE free, animal friendly, sustainably produced and organic type products. Thousands of those potential customers submitted in opposition to the NZ raised GE trees exported for ArborGen trials in the USA, and New Zealand needs to dissociate itself from any further experiments immediately.”

GE trees have risks of new allergens, increased herbicide use associated with numerous illnesses including epilepsy and cancer, non-GE crop contamination, ecosystem collapse, and also the use of terminator type technology that is internationally frowned on. Most New Zealand trees are grown to Forest Stewardship Council standards that currently prohibit the use of GE trees.

Soil & Health – Organic NZ have a vision of a clean green 100% Pure Aotearoa New Zealand that strives for organic production for the best value markets that support genuine sustainability.


Soil & Health – Organic NZ notes

  • Terminator gene technology is intended although still hotly debated internationally as to its acceptability.
  • The application is intended for thousands of experimental GE trees with a very wide variety of GE experimental options.
  • Previous study of environmental effects at Scion’s GE tree field trial site was inadequate, brief and as yet the research is not academically peer reviewed or published.
  • The risk of pollen drift is heavily downplayed in the application, yet will be the obvious main risk, and on past Scion practice is a likely outcome.
  • ERMA state that controls mean that pollen drift is unlikely. ERMA stated the same for the Plant & Food GE brassica application, but leakage happened there. Scion have already had pollen catkins appear unexpectedly on poorly managed GE tree seedlings at the Rotorua site.
  • Maori consultation has given a mixed level of support with some strong objection and questioning of the appropriateness of this technology in New Zealand.
  • Herbicide tolerant trees will only aggravate the already OTT use of herbicides in NZ forestry should the technology be commercialised here as Scion and its USA partners intend. International GE tree giant ArborGen is nearly totally USA owned, with even the 3rd share of ArborGen by NZ company Rubicon more than 80% USA owned. The other 2 ArborGen components are by huge USA companies.
  • The overt partnership with ArborGen places Scion and hence New Zealand internationally as instigators of a new environmental threat. Opposition has been strong in several parts of the globe, with the strongest direct action being the 2006 destruction of millions of GE eucalypts in Brazil by 2000 local women.
  • GE trees are seen as riskier than GE crops because of their longevity and strong position in ecosystems
  • Soil & Health – Organic NZ is opposing the application and has previously exposed several issues of non-compliance by Scion at its Rotorua GE field trial site.
  • This application has been seen as having an assured approval by ERMA as Scion had already been preparing an intended field trial site although denying it previously. The site may change.

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