Something smells at Scion GE tree site

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has the confidence of crown forest research institute Scion to such a degree that Scion is prepared to spend many thousands of tax payers dollars building new GE field trial space even before an application for an intended 4000 genetically engineered (GE) pine trees is publicly notified by ERMA, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.

“By enlarging its Rotorua GE field trial site more than tenfold, ahead of having its latest GE application processed, Scion, recently re-partnered with international GE tree giant ArborGen, seems to have had illegal pre-notification approval from ERMA,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

Simultaneously, as Scion has been consulting with Maori ahead of formally applying to ERMA for approval to grow the up to 4000 GE Pinus radiata trees in an outdoor containment facility at Rotorua, Scion has had contractors significantly enlarging its existing GE tree field trial site over the road from the Rotorua Redwoods tourist centre.  (1,2)

Some GE trees are intended to flower and set seed, although recent research shows wind drifted pine pollen able to be viable for some distance. Scion has failed previous consent requirements and also allowed GE tree cuttings to have flowered, which raises concerns with environmental groups. (3)

Scion currently has permission for field trialing just 200 GE herbicide resistant pine trees but intends trialing a wide range of genetic material on the coming 4000 GE tree application.

Consultation documents went out to Maori, just as Scion was publicising its renewal of a multi-million dollar partnership with ArborGen, which has just received permission in the United States for pre-commercialisation field trials there of 260,000 New Zealand raised GE eucalyptus trees, some of which are to flower. (4)

“The US ArborGen approval is being challenged in the US courts because of the lack of environmental risk analysis, and it seems ERMA is following suit in New Zealand with no intent of meaningful environmental or economic risk analysis for Scion’s coming application,” said Mr Browning.

“This shows the ERMA public submission process to be a sham, and follows a history of GE approvals and ERMA engagement with the Crown Research Institutes, that has allowed Scion be able to spend ahead in confidence.”

“Government needs to come clean and tell New Zealanders that it is putting US big business interests and GE ahead of public concern. Get it out in the open, so that New Zealanders can see how little government understands clean green 100% Pure.”

“ArborGen’s Australasian division is now headed by ex-Plant & Food Research General Manager-Commercial Greg Mann, whose connection with sloppy GE field and laboratory trials will now be continued as Scion and ArborGen both have histories of GE field trial non-compliance.” (5)

Soil & Health with GE Free NZ has exposed non-compliance by Plant & Food with its GE brassica field trial and Scion’s previous GE tree field trial. ERMA has assured submitters opposing GE field trials that all the risks would be contained by their stringent consent conditions. However, open flowering has occurred, fences have been insecure, GE material has been removed, pruning has not been correct, inspections poor, and risks have not been adequately evaluated.

“The incestuous GE science and regulatory fraternity of New Zealand is following a blinkered direction that urgently needs to be halted. The capture of science policy (MoRST) and funding (FRST) by pro-GE personnel who have sold government on dreams of IP (intellectual property) riches, is failing New Zealand’s opportunity of taking full advantage of our clean green 100% Pure branding.”

“In 2006, 2000 Brazillian women destroyed an estimated eight million low-lignin GE eucalyptus seedlings to prevent environmental and social impacts by monoculture there. ArborGen, one third New Zealand owned and using New Zealand GE technology is also developing forests there, and assisted by Scion wishes to do so in New Zealand, and internationally to become the Monsanto of the tree world.”

“With our best value export markets valuing sustainability, animal welfare, GE free, social justice – Fair Trade, and organic, do we want to be branded with risky GE technology, and will 2011 be focused on cleaning up more of ERMA’s mistakes?”

Soil & Health is committed to a GE free Aotearoa New Zealand and an Organic 2020.


(1) Contact spokesperson Steffan Browning at / 021 725655 for Scion’s Maori consultation documents.
(2) Scion Rotorua field trial site expansion photographs (17-6-2010) either attached and/or available in low/high resolution.

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