Crop & Food’s application for a new, riskier field trial of genetically engineered (GE) onions, plus shallots, spring onions, garlic and leeks is a waste of resources and expertise and will receive widespread public opposition, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.
“Rather than continuing down the GE path, which is unwanted by consumers and export markets, Soil and Health would rather see research and trials into organic growing methods,” said spokesman Steffan Browning.
“The need of keeping the new GE trial’s site secret is understandable, considering the level of anger in the community at GE field trials and at the poor compliance of consent conditions.”
Crown research institute Crop & Food is applying for a 2.5 ha GE field trial in Canterbury using a wide range of genetic constructs in allium plants (onion, garlic leek). It intends operating in much less than international accepted standards for buffer zones of 1000 metres from possible non-GE onion growers. Crop & Food has previously trialled GE onions in a 400 sq metre plot with some difficulty.
Crop and Food Research now wants to plant onion seed directly in the ground and allow some onion plants to flower in the field in order to produce seed. The flowering onions would be caged in an attempt to prevent insects carrying pollen to non-GM onions outside the site.
“This field trial is too risky and must not go ahead. GE field trial operators have consistently failed to meet consent conditions, and the likelihood of human failure combined with climate and animal interference means that caged or otherwise, letting GE plants flower in the New Zealand environment is too risky. The community is unlikely to allow the trial to proceed,” said Mr Browning.
“The Environmental Risk Management Authority’s (ERMA) negligence to insist on testing for adverse effects at field trials means that possible full commercial release might happen in the future without those tests having occurred. The submission process is a sham making submissions by the community practically pointless.”
“GE field test auditing and compliance enforcement by MAF Biosecurity NZ (MAF-BNZ) has also been proven to be poor as shown by the Scion GE tree field test. Scion GE trees still remain unpruned correctly risking GE pollen release.”
“Unless drastically improved, these gaps in care and enforcement are likely to be filled by the community.”
“There have not been adequate studies of known and potential adverse effects at the last Crop & Food GE onion field test site. This new trial has even more risks including cross contamination to other growers by proposing that some GE plants can set flowers for seed. Sowing small GE seeds directly in the ground also adds further risk of contamination.”
“Organic and conventional non-GE growers and gardeners must be able to have confidence in government agencies ability to protect them from GE contamination. Applications such as this and AgResearch’s intended menagerie of GE animals application makes a mockery of New Zealand’s clean green GE Free 100% Pure market branding, and threatens consumer confidence for the future.
“CRIs Crop & Food, AgResearch and Scion all make significant and valuable non-GE research and developments, but their GE portfolios bring them into disrepute.”
“Soil & Health suggests that CRIs join the drive to genuine sustainability and focus on clean progressive research and development. Stop wasting taxpayers’ money and give clean producers their best opportunities.”
Soil & Health is opposed to all GE field tests and has a vision of an Organic 2020.
NOTE: Photographs of successful GE Free onion seed crops available.