MAF allow Kate Valley Landfill to become New Zealand’s next GE contaminated site

MAF has allowed Kate Valley Landfill to become New Zealand’s next GE contaminated site, while dodging testing for GE contamination of  more rogue brassica plants at Plant & Food Research’s Lincoln GE brassica field trial site, although MAF’s own rules demanded testing, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ, and GE Free NZ in food and environment.

Soil & Health and GE Free NZ have monitored Plant & Food Research’s genetically engineered (GE) brassica trial site at Lincoln for further contamination following discovering a flowering GE kale there in 2008.

Following their investigation in 2009 which found that other GE brassica had also flowered in 2008, MAF, through a Compliance Order, had then set strict requirements including the testing for GE of all brassica found growing at the site following cultivations beginning in spring and summer 2010, and for 5 years of monitoring after the last brassica seedling was found.

“In spring 2010 Plant & Food Research and MAF agreed to dig out soil likely to be contaminated with GE brassica seed and deep bury it, but ten days ago we have found that another brassica has still emerged,” said Soil & Health-Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“MAF and Plant & Food Research have said they did not need to test for GE because the brassica photographed was a different species to the oleracea used in the trial crop, but they ignored the controls previously set down and the ability of brassica to cross between species, because MAF want to let Plant & Food reduce monitoring to one year rather than the 5 years originally set.”

“They have messed up again and both are now trying to dodge their responsibilities.”

“Soil & Health-Organic NZ photographs from December show the MAF supervised soil removal has clearly spilt soil and seed back into the cleared plot, and all brassica in the plot and surrounding area must be tested for GE contamination for at least 5 years. MAF must stop chopping and changing rules to suit those responsible for one of New Zealand’s worst GE breaches.”

Plant & Food’s spokesman said that what they believe to be a wild turnip was likely to have blown in as seed, although a 2008 trial report stated that wild turnip were already growing there, and MAF’s 2009 investigation said that pollen from the site would unlikely to have been blown more than two metres.

“They can’t have it both ways. These duplicitous statements from MAF and Plant & Food, with earlier support by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), show a need for an independent look at GE risk management in New Zealand,” said Mr Browning.

GE Free NZ in food and environment Inc and Soil & Health-Organic NZ agree that contaminated sites need careful management but creating another contaminated site should only be through a public consultation process.

“The assurances that this toxic GE soil has been properly disposed of are meaningless if the previous GE incidents are an example” said Claire Bleakley President of GE Free NZ.

“This breached site has become a bungled set of untrustworthy and duplicitous platitudes.  The strict protocols, that the public was assured are in place, are being changed and broken at every turn.”

“The removal of GE contaminated soil to Kate Valley landfill, North Canterbury is of concern. The toxic mix of pesticides and GE exudate loaded Plant & Food Research soil from Lincoln, could become mixed with the other highly injurious residues of almost everything imaginable, including multiple chemicals, food processing, hospitality, hospital and veterinary waste, further threatening the environment.”

“Landfill dumps are commonly associated with vermin that burrow into the soil living on the detritus that collects there.  Landfills are a reservoir of contamination, and the movement of any GE contaminated soil not only threatens the countryside but also threatens the health of the community. It is not known where the soil was placed and if it is not totally isolated and clearly marked it could be mistakenly used as fill or leach into the surrounding country side.”

“I shared the concerns of North Canterbury residents when the Kate Valley landfill was first proposed. Never did I think it would also be a site for GE contamination,” said Mr Browning.

“Plant & Food Research must not consider that scraping a foot of soil off a GE site is somehow going to render the site uncontaminated. Horizontal gene transfer associated with genetic engineering has clearly and irresponsibly not been part of the thinking.”

Soil & Health-Organic NZ and GE Free NZ promote organic production and share a vision of an organic Aotearoa New Zealand. With no shortage of brassica species available, no genetic engineering is necessary, neither is contamination of soils. The certified organic properties both in Lincoln and near Kate Valley deserve the expertise that Plant & Food Research and MAF, away from GE, can offer for the growth in organics in New Zealand.

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