Life Sciences Confused About GE Risk

The biotech lobby group, Life Sciences appears confused about the birds and the bees, according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand.

Quoted in today’s Christchurch Press newspaper, Life Sciences chairman William Rolleston had said, “The recent breaches by Plant and Food Research at Lincoln in a GM-brassica trial were not as bad as some might think. You have to ask yourself, `what risk was actually posed by those plants?’”

“However genetically engineered cauliflowers, broccoli and kale, all appear to have flowered at Plant & Food Research’s Lincoln facility last year, and yet no tests have been carried out to check on pollen spread,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Does Life Science’s not understand bees and pollen and fertilisation?”

“MAF-Biosecurity New Zealand have covered their backsides for their poor monitoring of the GE field trial by not testing for GE contamination, and now New Zealand’s biggest GE promoter, Life Sciences, is doubting any risk. The fact that the scientist involved allowed rows of GE cauliflowers to start flowering as early as April 2008, and I discovered a pollinated flowering GE kale in December 2008, suggests high risk and insect pollination.”

In 2006 the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) approved a trial – GMF 06001- to genetically modify four species of Brassica –cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) insecticidal genes. Planting commenced in late 2007 ahead of the 2008 High Court hearing of the appeal by GE Free NZ and the organic sector against the approval …

MAF-Biosecurity New Zealand (MAF-BNZ) is required by law to monitor GE field trials approved by ERMA, but failed to stop the Plant & Food GE brassicas from flowering. The scientist’s midyear report stated that broccoli had commenced bolting in January 2008 and were removed ahead of flowering. However her own photographs suggested flowers, and her April 2008 photographs had fully bolted cauliflowers.

Honey and brassica seed from a nearby organic property have been stored for testing and Soil & Health has been in discussions with Plant & Food regarding testing for the GE material used by the Crown Research Institute during the breach.

“Soil & Health intend testing the material because our own government regulators have failed even the most basic consideration of neighbouring farmers and growers,” said Mr Browning.

“Organic certification can be lost through GE contamination and if there is GE contamination in the Lincoln area, the sooner it is cleaned up the better.”

“Brassica’s are some of the most promiscuous plants around, and with little care by regulators ERMA, MAF-Biosecurity, or the experimenter, Plant & Food Research, it appears that the community must step in to test for contamination.”

Rolleston was also quoted, “There had been a lot of talk about “how onerous and unnecessary” regulations around GM research were.”

However Browning says that the breaches prove the need that both strong regulation around controls and monitoring are necessary, including strict liability controls over the experimenters. Consent breaches have occurred at all ERMA approved field trials.

Soil & Health supports strict liability controls to remove all costs of GE contamination from rates and taxpayers.

“With the track record of regulators and experimenters, a ban would be better.”

Soil & Health has a vision of a GE Free and Organic 2020.

Crop and Food confidential Annual Report No 2210, for GMF06001 July 2008

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