(NZ) Bio-Security at GE Trial Site Gets Soiled

Plant and Food has again failed to follow the strict conditions that regulatory authorities have set for the site of its GE crop trial.

The removal of tonnes of soil from the Brassica field test site in Lincoln is in direct breach of the ERMA controls issued in relation to the most serious breach of regulatory protocols since GE field trials began in New Zealand.

The GE trial of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale that were genetically engineered with a range of genes (Cry) isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The gene insertion produces high levels of insecticide that kills caterpillars. The Bt insecticide genes when engineered into corn and soy plants have been linked to immune system and blood defects, digestive problems and sterility.

In December 2008 a serious bio-security breach was identified at the secret site, 14 months into the trial's ten year approval, when two plants, one a flowering plant was discovered. After a 9 month investigation regulators issued a Compliance Order that imposed monitoring conditions at the site for five years and specifically required the applicant to leave the site fallow, to apply herbicide regularly, and at every season of the 5 years to plough and check seedling re-growth. All soil under the compost heap and the compost containing GE flowering material was required to be autoclaved to prevent risk of contamination spreading.

However it appears that Plant and Food have yet again breached their Compliance Order and removed all the soil from the site down to the clay pan and, instead of autoclaving, have dumped it into an unknown secondary site in Lincoln. Furthermore, the exposed clay pan has had top soil spilt in places and a small brassica plant has sprung up.

“The removal of the soil could be seen to constitute a deliberate violation of the Compliance Orders," says Claire Bleakley president of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"However the breach is made worse by dumping soil at an undisclosed location and shows criminal negligence. It is tantamount to deliberately contaminating New Zealand 's countryside,” said Mrs. Bleakley.

“How can New Zealand authorities allow a Crown Research Institute (CRI) to so blatantly contravene their controls? It betrays the trust the public have put in officials to protect the environment from GE contamination."

GE Free NZ calls for an immediate investigation into how and why the regulatory process has been compromised, and why the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has overlooked this further breach in its duty of monitoring and auditing the post-trial site.

ENDS

Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681

Claire Bleakley 3089842 /027 348 6731

References:

ERMA New Zealand Inquiry Report INQ08001 GM Brassica Field Test GMF06001

http://press.gefree.org.nz/press/20110124.htm