GENET archive


APPROVAL / PLANTS: New Zealand's authority approves GE brassicafield trial

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  ERMA New Zealand places strict controls on GM Brassica test
SOURCE: Environmental Risk Management Authority, New Zealand
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   28.05.2007

ERMA New Zealand places strict controls on GM Brassica test

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand) has
approved an application by the New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food
Research to field test genetically-modified brassicas in the Lincoln region.

However, ERMA New Zealand has included strict controls to manage the
risk of GM material escaping from the site.

Crop and Food applied for permission to assess the agronomic performance
of four genetically-modified vegetable and forage brassicas - broccoli,
cabbage, cauliflower and forage kale - on a 0.4 hectare plot over a 10-
year period. The brassicas would be modified for resistance to
caterpillar pests like cabbage white butterfly and diamondback moth,
with genes derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringensis.

A public hearing was held in Christchurch last month to consider the
application, which attracted 959 submissions.

The Authority has approved the field test with a number of controls,
- a requirement to prevent the flowering and therefore pollen release of
GM brassicas while they are planted in the field test site;
- a requirement to ensure that all GM brassicas are removed from the
field test site on completion of the research and do not enter the human
or animal food chain, in any form.
- a requirement to monitor the field test site for one year after the
last brassicas have been removed to look for any "volunteer" GM plants.

ERMA New Zealand's General Manager, New Organisms, Libby Harrison, says
the field test is subject to strict controls to ensure that the GM
brassicas remain contained within the field test site, and do not enter
the food chain.

Dr Harrison would like to thank all submitters and acknowledge their
contribution to the decision-making process.

Application GMF06001

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  GE brassica decision lacks justification
SOURCE: The Soil & Health Association of New Zealand, New Zealand
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   28.05.2007

GE brassica decision lacks justification

Today's Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) decision
approving a Crop and Food application to field trial brassicas
(broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and forage kale) genetically engineered
with a toxin derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis(Bt),
lacks justification in New Zealand's new era of sustainability, and is
full of contradictions, according to Soil & Health's spokesperson
Steffan Browning.

"ERMA has yet to decline an application for a GE field trial, and
appears to look for a way to approve, regardless of how shonky the
application is. This shows that ERMA is biased towards genetic
engineering in clean green New Zealand, regardless of the community's
opposition," said Mr Browning, adding, "that not running food safety
feeding trials ahead of field trials of GE crops is a nonsense."

"Why grow a crop that is potentially toxic to humans and animals for ten
years without first establishing if it is even potentially edible?"

The ERMA Committee states that "GM brassicas will be prevented from
entering the human food chain and a further application to the Authority
for a release approval would be necessary before effects on food safety
and food choice would arise. Therefore, the Committee did not consider
the effects on food safety and food choices further for this application."

"That the GE Bt brassica's are ultimately intended for commercial
release, yet have not undergone feeding studies to ensure food safety,
makes this trial a serious potential waste of tax payers money, said Mr
Browning, " Animals are sick and dying in India from eating cotton also
modified with Bt toxins and cotton workers have health issues. Feed
studies also show health risks from other Bt engineered crops."

"The ERMA decision appears to be predicated heavily on upskilling of
scientists and increasing experience in working with gene technology in
the field. The decision expects marginal public benefit however, and
ERMA states, "This beneficial effect will accrue to the applicant and
the staff involved in this field test and is considered to be of minimal
value. A public benefit accruing to the wider scientific community when
papers are published describing the research and its results
(particularly in the area of impacts on the soil biota of GM plants)
would be of minor value. However, this may be very unlikely to be realised."

"Despite ERMA receiving 941submissions of objection, many advocating an
organic alternative for New Zealand and the overwhelming desire for a
clean green country, the ERMA decision merely states, "Given the
contained nature of this field test, the Committee did not identify any
significant adverse effects on society and community."

"New Zealand's markets are already concerned with food miles, and will
not like the signals that clean green NZ is intending commercial
production of GE vegetables sometime", said Mr Browning.

ERMA's decision in considering alternatives, states, "The Committee
considers that the primary goals of this field test are to assess the
agronomic performance of these GM plants under natural environmental
conditions, the resistance of GM brassicas to insect pests, and to
assess the environmental impacts of these GM brassicas.",

and after suggesting the field test, "provides a valuable opportunity
for experimental work to assess the impacts of GM brassica plants on the
soil biota, non-target organisms, and the persistence of DNA sequences
and Cry proteins in the soil.",

then states, "The Committee notes that there is some uncertainty
regarding the potential for meaningful information on the environmental
impacts of growing GM brassicas to be obtained given the limitations of
scale inherent in this field test."

Soil & Health points out however funding was uncertain for the limited
work that ERMA notes as valuable, that other Crown Research Agencies
would be required to assist in, and spokesperson Steffan Browning, adds
that, "it would be wasting resources considering public opposition and
the unlikely commercialisation of the brassicas, if the current level of
security required to protect GE trial crops was to be continued."

In considering the potentially significant adverse effects on the market
economy, ERMA states, "that since this application is for a small-scale
contained field test with a fixed time period after which all plants
will be removed, the potentially significant adverse and beneficial
effects associated with this application are not economic in nature."

However New Zealand farmers, the community and customers of the riches
of a clean green land may see it differently according to Mr Browning
and the ramifications of field tests trialling GE food crops, although
at risk of sabotage, will send messages contrary to that of Prime
Minister Helen Clark's desire for New Zealand to be the worlds first
truly sustainable country, and National's John Key a week ago, "New
Zealand's clean green environment is vital to the Kiwi way of life and
vital to the image New Zealand sells to the world," both messages that
Soil & Health agrees with.

Soil & Health will be discussing with other groups, potential further
action against the field trial, as it is committed to true
sustainability and a GE Free future.

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                                 PART III
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TITLE:  Sad day for New Zealand
SOURCE: The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   28.05.2007

Sad day for New Zealand

The Environmental Risk Management Authority's (ERMA) decision to allow
field testing of genetically engineered brassica crops risks sending
good money after bad, with no chance that the New Zealand public will
ever agree to eat this plant or have it grown commercially here, Green
Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons warns.

"This decision will allow for pest resistant forage kale, cabbages,
cauliflower, and broccoli containing a caterpillar killing pesticide to
be taken out of the laboratory into a field.

"Brassica is a particularly problematic crop. Brassica pollen travels
large distances, the seeds are small and brassicas cross easily, with
hundreds of variants in existence.

"Rather than reducing the need for pesticides, the use of Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt) in genetically engineered crops is likely to produce
long-term resistance in insects, which means more toxic sprays will be
needed to control pests," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"We must be cautious about promises of containment and monitoring, and
that the trial will not be allowed to flower.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry raised some very serious
concerns following the last round of brassica field trials. They
highlighted failures to meet several conditions surrounding monitoring,
non-cultivation of trial sites and buffer zones. Other evidence shows
that canola plants were allowed to flower to enable seed production, and
at the end of the field tests, the plant material was disposed of by
ploughing into the ground. These seeds can lay dormant in soil for up to
15 years.

"ERMA received 959 submissions on this application - of which 941 were
opposed to the trials. What part of "No" don't they understand?

"Risks include the transfer of the changed genes to wild plants. For
example, plants engineered to be resistant to pesticides may transfer
their resistance to weeds. It has already been proven that this can
happen, and that new resistant weeds can survive in the wild. And almost
all GE plants use antibiotic resistant genes - another area of grave
concern in agriculture and wider society.

"The announcement of 10 years worth of funding for a trial with no
safety testing when even the project leader has admitted there can be no
guarantees of containing the trial to the site is tantamount to a
publicly funded hand out for scientific folly.

"The way forward for New Zealand is organics and integrated pest
management, building on our clean, green image."

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                                 PART IV
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TITLE:  GM trial risky, costly and pointless
SOURCE: Greenpeace New Zealand, New Zealand
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   29.05.2007

GM trial risky, costly and pointless

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Greenpeace has condemned the Environment Risk
Management Authority's (ERMA) decision to approve a field test of GM Brassica.

"ERMA's finding that risks to the environment are negligible flies in
the face of all the.scientific uncertainties," said Greenpeace Campaign
Manager Carmen Gravatt. "The trial is a pointless waste of money and it
poses a needless risk to the environment.

"The authority has failed to apply a precautionary approach and in doing
so, has put both our environment and agriculture industry at stake. Its
decision is completely out of step with international best practice.

"ERMA says it supports the trial because it might help us gain a better
understanding of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But given the
huge risks involved in this sort of work, New Zealand should never
become an exporter of GMOs and therefore field tests are actually a
complete waste of time and money.

"The money would be far better used on research on conventional
agriculture that people actually want and that can benefit New Zealand
domestically and internationally."

ERMA is yet to decline a GM field trial application.

Notes to Editor

ERMA's decision can be found at

The decision concluded that:
2.12.4 The following overall evaluation of risks and costs
(incorporating adverse effects) and benefits (incorporating beneficial
or positive effects) was carried out having regard to clauses 22 and 34
of the Methodology, and in accordance with the tests in clause 26 of the
Methodology and section 45 of the Act. Clause 26 of the Methodology is
the appropriate reference for making the decision since all identified
potentially significant risks have been assessed as being negligible.
2.12.5 Risks and costs considered but found to be negligible were those
associated with effects on the environment, effects on human health and
safety, the relationships of M_ori to the environment and Te Tiriti o
Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi, society and community, and market economy.
In making these assessments the Committee considered both the impact of
containment and other controls and the effects of the GM brassicas if
they were to escape from containment. In aggregate, all risks were
considered to be negligible.
2.12.6 The Committee concluded that the primary benefits accruing from
the field test are the enhancement of knowledge and understanding of
agronomic practices associated with these brassicas genetically modified
for /Bt/ expression, and upskilling of staff and increased experience in
working with gene technology in the field. The Committee assessed these
benefits as non-negligible.
2.12.7 The Committee noted all external costs are negligible and that
after considering the impact of the combined controls the organisms can
be adequately contained. Consequently, the Committee determined that the
benefits outweigh the costs of the application.

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