Councils to canvass more support for GE bans
Government urged to reject 'dangerous' GM corn
GE Brassica Trials - High Court Papers Filed Today
Sad day for New Zealand
Report Reveals Risks to New Zealand's Insects and Soils
Scientist says GE crops don't live up to promise
GE Inquiry Threatens Public Confidence in Regulators
FSANZ under scrutiny for approving GE crop
GM decision on corn variety sent back to drawing board
NZ food supply threatened by genetic modification
ARC adopts anti-GMO policy position
Seed firm asked to pay for GM error
New success shows way for NZ research
Concerns that FSANZ is compromising food safety
NZ needs a clean seed industry
GE seed, crops eradicated in HB
NZ Govt may face $1 million bill for corn botchup
GM corn investigation to be completed by Tuesday
GM corn to be destroyed
Border bungles allows GE contaminated seeds into NZ
GM insect resistance debate continues
Tight security for GM-crop tests
Brassica trial crazy
NZ Shooting Self in the Foot If GE Trials Allowed
Rice Row Prompts Call To Ombudsman
Cover Up of GM Rice Contamination a Scandal
Experimental GE rice should be stopped at border
FSANZ food regulator criticised over new GM corn
Biotech Firm Seeks Official Approval to Contaminate Food Crops
Genetically Altered Corn May Cause Diabetes
New Zealand: Food code not grounded on best available science
Monsanto corn causing concern
Keeping tabs on GMOs
Alarm bells over GM food approval
Letter to PM on genetically engineered organisms
Is NZ a US "stalking-horse" on GE issue?
BRAVE NEW BIOSECURITY? NEW REPORT
NGOs hit out at Australia, Canada and New Zealand for opening the door to GM Terminator Technology
Community Backing for Maori Call to Ban Terminator Seeds
Maori Party Commends Initiative of the ‘Guardians of the Kumara’
New Report Sounds Warning for Local Authorities
Rural NZ supports GM-free production
Gene Transfer Found in Soil at GE Cattle Site
New Zealand GM campaigners call to prevent GM contamination
GE maize found in sample grown in NZ
Developing Nations Slam NZ for 'May Contain GM' stance
NZ doing GE exporters' dirty work
New Discovery of Illegal Bt10 in Corn Shipments.
Foreign Affair's Stance on GM Liability Provokes Laughter at Talks
Government sees NZ's future as a GE food exporter
GE cotton for use in NZ foods - NZPA, 10 February 2005
Legal bid to extend GE moratorium - Sunday Star Times, 12 October 2003
Mothers Lift Tops To Stop Government Lifting GE Moratorium
Links to campaigns in New Zealand
Councils to canvass more support for GE bans - Radio New Zealand, 30 July 2007
Councils from Auckland northwards are considering territorial bans on genetically modified crops after a rebuff from the Government on liability issues. Seven Auckland and Northland councils want the Government to relieve them of liability for GE contamination or give them a say in GE releases. The Government has said the councils would have responsibilities under the Resource Management Act for dealing with any adverse effects of a crop release. However, the councils have been told that the Government will not provide indemnity against any costs involved, and say their request for greater influence with the national regulating authority has been rebuffed.
A working party of seven councils has been lobbying for a user liability regime around the crops, and more influence with the regulating authority, ERMA. Dr Kerry Grundy, the working party chairperson, says the Government has recently made it clear it will not give way on either point. He says as things stand, councils and adjoining landowners could end up paying if there is a mishap with genetically modified crops. Dr Grundy says the councils are planning to poll electors on the idea of creating exclusion zones for the crops. Whangarei District Councillor Robin Lieffering, a member of the working party, says the financial risk local bodies face because of genetically engineered crop trials is unacceptable.
Greens support councils
The Green Party says councils are right to consider territorial bans on genetically modified crops. The party does not want any GE crops planted, but say that if they are, full liability should rest with the grower. It says other growers should not have their crops put at risk.
Science group defends GE cropping
The Life Sciences Network says any ban on genetically engineered crops by local councils would deny farmers choice and cost ratepayers millions of dollars. The group says any regime of strict liability over GE products would create a de facto moratorium against their development, denying New Zealanders access to this branch of science. It says an exclusion zone would be unworkable and expensive to police, and the money would be better spent protecting New Zealand from threats like foot and mouth disease.
Government urged to reject 'dangerous' GM corn - By Martin Johnston - New Zealand Herald, July 19 2007
Two leading scientists are calling for the Government to reject a new kind of genetically modified corn which they say could be linked to a variety of diseases. Professor Garth Cooper of Auckland University and Associate Professor Jack Heinemann of Canterbury University want tougher testing of the corn, LY038, made by international seed company Monsanto. The corn is designed to be a more nutritious feed for animals, but because of the risk of its accidentally entering the human food chain - which officials say is slight - it needs approval as a human food before it can be used.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand last year recommended approval by the nine food ministers from both countries, but New Zealand's Food Safety Minister, Annette King, in February sought a review. After the review, the agency has again recommended approval, saying food derived from LY038 "is as safe as food derived from other corn varieties". But the Sustainability Council, chaired by Professor Cooper, and Canterbury University's Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, headed by Dr Heinemann, say the high levels of lysine in LY038 make it the first GM corn designed to be substantially different from conventional corn in its nutritional profile. "While lysine is an essential amino acid, it is also highly reactive with common sugars and the heat of cooking accelerates the formation of advanced glycation end-products." The latter are implicated in conditions including heart disease and chronic kidney failure. They are also what cause the "browning" of foods.
The two groups say the food standards agency has failed to apply proper testing standards - by accepting a Monsanto study based on rats and chickens fed with raw corn when humans eat it cooked; and by not consistently comparing LY038 with a GM-free corn, contrary to international standards. "This decision is precedent-setting as once one GM bio-industrial product is accepted as a food on this basis, the stage is set for a raft of other products - including plants producing industrial and medical substances - to be approved using this lower safety standard." They say Ms King should exercise New Zealand's right to opt out of accepting the new corn. Professor Cooper said that because of the uncertainty over the effects of the high level of lysine, the corn should be subjected to the same testing as experimental medicines, including human trials. "The currently available safety data for the proposed high-lysine corn is judged to fall far short of the quality required for adequate pharmacological safety assessment," he said.
Ms King's spokesman said yesterday she would not comment until the transtasman ministerial food council's decision was released next week. The agency said in its review report that its assessment of LY038 was "entirely consistent" with international guidelines and its own. Spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann denied that lower standards had been applied and said the assessment included comparison with conventionally-grown corn. "We think Jack Heinemann has misinterpreted a lot of the things he has raised." When asked if human feeding trials were necessary, she said: "Lysine is an amino acid; it's part of a protein; it's something we eat every day." "It's nothing new. It's just genetically modified to make this a high-lysine corn, so animals thrive better and grow better."
GE Brassica Trials - High Court Papers Filed Today - GE Free NZ press release, 25 June 2007
After much consideration papers will be filed today in relation to errors in law relating to approvals for field trials of GE Brassica. GE Free NZ (in food and environment) has decided that flawed decision making cannot go unscrutinised. Unfortunately there is no other legal redress for those making public submissions to challenge what appears to be an approach by ERMA that justifies why an experiment should go ahead instead of considering all points and then finding solutions to best address them.
ERMA received 940 submissions asking that the application be declined in light of known dangers to the New Zealand economy, public and animal health making a commercial release at any stage in the future impossible to envisage. The ERMA hearing was initially disrupted as people protested the farcical nature of the process and expressed concern that ERMA would approve the application regardless of submissions. The hearing cost NGOs many thousands of dollars to participate. The submitters provided well researched scientific evidence that was not previously included in the application. However key concerns were judged "negligible".
"The lack of necessary research protocols and experimental procedures over the ten years of the trials means that little knowledge of value will come out of the field tests," says Claire Bleakley from GE free NZ ( in food and environment). "We are ask anyone concerned to support and donate to this challenge."
Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731 (06) 3089842 - Jon Carapiet: 021 050 7681
References: www.gefree.org.nz for information behind this decision.
Sad day for New Zealand - Green Party media release, 28 May 2007
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. "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 handout for scientific folly....The way forward for New Zealand is organics and integrated pest management, building on our clean, green image."
For more information: Keiller MacDuff, Media Officer, 04 470 6723
GE Brassica Approval Lacks Common Sense - But Nice Job For Some - GE Free NZ media release, 28 May 2007
The decision by ERMA to approve 10-years of field trials of GE brassica is a defeat for common sense and undermines the Authority's credibilty as a regulatory body. The decision excludes any consideration of "the future", effectively ring-fencing the process from common-sense. It also ignores proven alternatives to "solving the insect problem" the GE field trials are supposed to solve. The approach to be used in the field trials has already been shown overseas to be short-lived, with target-insects developing resistance or new species becoming pests as the original target-species declines. The main beneficiaries of this decision are a handful of scientists who will be paid to undertake research that:
- Has no commercially viable outcome (admitted by the researchers themselves)
- Ignores lessons from overseas where such techniques have failed
- Pretends existing solutions for pest-control that are already in use 'do not exist'
- Plans to grow plants that have never been tested to confirm they are safe to eat, and which may indeed be toxic as has been found to be the case in other GE-foods
- Undermines New Zealand's Brand image as a source of safe, clean, natural produce
- Runs counter to the wishes of 70% of New Zealanders who believe GE has no place in the future of agriculture in New Zealand (source: Sustainability Council research)
"The decision shows that ERMA is fatally flawed in its mechanistic application of the HSNO Act and willingly turn a blind eye to common sense as well as community values," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "The decision was deliberately "ring fenced" from common sense and any consideration of the future, when 'the future' is precisely what needs to be considered," Mr Carapiet says. "Of the 60 field trials to date there has been no research published on the environmental, human or animal effects. There are still no diagnostic tools for looking at health impacts or horizontal gene transfer, and there is no responsibility for the applicants to develop them."
However, the scientists set to benefit from years of unnecessary, but public-funded research are to be congratulated. Many people will envy them the job-security and pay-packets resulting from having won approval to spend time and money doing something that has no potential market, little scientific value, and ignores the national and international consumer trends against GE foods. What little valid information might be gleaned from this research could be, and should be done in containment. Plans to artificially introduce insect infestations to the field trials makes nonsense of the applicant's claims that external field trials are the only research option because it is more "realistic". ERMA will have lost the public's confidence in the decision-making process, and by approving research that at the end of the day has no reasonable justification.
Jon Carapiet- 0210 507 681
ERMA media release - 28 May 2007
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, including:
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.
Media contact: David Venables, Manager, Communications, ERMA New Zealand
Report Reveals Risks to New Zealand's Insects and Soils - GE Free NZ press release, 3 May 2007
Plants containing "Bt" toxins could severely damage New Zealand soil, and beneficial insect populations, suggests a published review of international scientific studies.The report by Hillbeck and Schmidt examines the published literature on Bt toxins - widely incorporated as a feature of GM plants - in scores of laboratory feeding studies. It shows a range of important insect species including bees, butterflies and moths can be fatally and chronically affected by Bt "Cry" genes. Lady birds had increased death rates after two weeks of eating one version of the toxins. The studies also observed that Bt expressed in transgenic plants was far more detrimental to reproduction, growth and lifespan in important insect populations. Non-target insects had a higher death rate from GM-plant Bt than the commercial Bt sprays. The report is a strong indication that New Zealand native insect species could be severely affected by transgenic Bt (Cry gene) crops as they carry out a much bigger pollination role than previously thought. (Cronshaw T, 2005). It also shows Bt plants put could undermine other scientific work to develop natural bio-controls for problem insects.
"Any chronic, sublethal effects of this toxin in soil or plants on non-target predator species could severely damage the management methods of bio control where predator insects are used to manage prey pests," said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in Food and Environment. "Any threat to this farming method is of concern as the prey /host relationship is a major tool in IPM (integrated pest management) farming methods, which is part of our international position as a clean-and green producer."
In New Zealand a comprehensive range of fungi, protozoa, nematodes, bacteria and predator insects moths, wasps have become available to farmers for pest control. Many of these bio control agents live in the soil and are an important part of ecosystems. This review has collated the research showing that these organisms been shown to be highly susceptible to Bt toxins.
"In light of these adverse effects authorities must require that long term indoor safety and diagnostic tools are developed for testing of these plants. The research when completed must be peer reviewed and published before any plant is allowed to grow outdoors," says Claire Bleakley. "ERMA must not approve the field testing of Bt brassica (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and forage kale)".
Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842 027 348 6731
Hillbeck A. and Schmidt J., (2006) Another View on Bt Proteins - How Specific are they and What Else Might They Do? Biopestcide.In: 2 (1): 1-5.
Tim Cronshaw, Flies show pollen power. The Press, October 2005, http://gefreesonoma.org/documents/Fliesshowpollenpower
Scientist says GE crops don't live up to promise - By PAUL GORMAN - The Press, 16 April 2007
Crop and Food Research is being accused of tunnel vision on genetic engineering (GE) by one of its former scientists. Biotechnologist Dr Elvira Dommisse, who worked on the early stages of Crop and Food's GE onion experiments before the current field trials began, says GE crops have not lived up to their initial promise and the Crown research institute should invest more in conventional plant breeding. The institute's application to carry out a 10-year Lincoln field trial of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and forage kale genetically engineered to contain a natural pesticide to kill caterpillars was heard by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) in Christchurch last week.
Dommisse worked for the old Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and then Crop and Food from 1985 to 1993. She left because she found the work unrewarding and could not see it solving the problems people said it would. She was critical of the "lack of precaution and lack of thinking" in Crop and Food's application to Erma, and said scientists working in the GE area were under pressure to develop lines that would become commercially viable. Some scientists were not keen on GE work but were afraid to talk out about it for fear of losing funding on which jobs depended.
"New Zealand has invested quite heavily in it. As a scientist, once you narrow down into GE your skills are very much in that area. You can't just say, `I don't like this area any more, I'll zip over to plant breeding instead'.....You have to try to push it - 'we have got this GE stuff, what are we going to do with it now? We have to keep getting our salaries for the next 10 years, get funding that will keep this project going'.....If you can get a 10-year bloc of funding, you are home and hosed," Dommisse said. She doubted the field trial would be a useful exercise if it were approved. Most people ate broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower for health benefits and would be unimpressed by GE brassicas.
By the time the 10-year trial ended, that would mark 30 years since the experiment began. "They could have been spending that time and money to develop new commercial lines. What they could do instead is put a bit more money into conventional brassica breeding, using hand pollination and selection to look for good traits without tweaking the genes." Scientists were "theoretical people, not growers", she said. "They have done this under very strict conditions in the glasshouse but not in the field. You can't just transfer that to the fields, it's completely different."
On the last day of the Erma hearing on Friday, Crop and Food project leader Dr Mary Christey admitted there were no cast-iron guarantees all the GE material could be contained on the site. "I don't think you can give an absolute to anything, but we would have a high level of probability of detecting things," she told the hearing. Christey said she would not engage in any research that would compromise the environment her children inherited. "I'm interested in ensuring the environment is preserved for them. I wouldn't engage in this research if I didn't think it wouldn't be damaging the environment....At the same time, I can see GE plants growing overseas and I can see the benefits that can accrue."
BioAg New Zealand founder Phyllis Tichinin said if the trial went ahead it was important for New Zealand's "social cohesion" that it was scientifically robust and advanced the country's international "scientific mana".
GE Inquiry Threatens Public Confidence in Regulators - Press release, GE FREE NZ (extracts)
The ERMA hearing being held in Christchurch to consider a ten-year field-trial of Genetically Modified vegetables, has already prompted public protest. In a legal submission for Greenpeace, Duncan Currie put forward that real risks were being underestimated and signifiant wider implications wrongly ignored. The ERMA Authority has approved all GE field test applications to date. Concerns were also raised that the independent reviewer only evaluated the final report and never saw submitter's evidence.
Expert witness Julie Newman from the Network of Concerned farmers in Australia, talked about the problems of lack of liability and the cost to farmers who have lost markets from GE contamination. There is also the serious concern that extreme weather conditions can spread GE in the environment and contaminate non-GE seed stocks. Expert witness Dr. Judy Carmen epidemiologist and biochemist expressed concern over the lack of safety data on food containing high levels of Bt toxin. She highlighted the example of a trial of GE peas that went for ten years before it was discovered to be toxic to humans. The peas had to be destroyed, wasting millions of taxpayers dollars. She stressed that toxicity trials on the Bt plants must be conducted prior to further experimentation.
"Submissions were initially declared invalid and many concerns were disregarded and considered outside of the parameters of the field trial," said Susie Lees of GE Aware Nelson (GEAN). "Spending ten years on these trials when Bt has been linked to deleterious health impacts is irresponsible and puts us all at risk."
GE Free (NZ) called on the ERMA Authority to decline the application until long term comprehensive health and environmental testing on Bt toxicity is carried out in containment, and the data peer reviewed and published.
Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731
Demonstrators disrupt hearing - By PAUL GORMAN - The Press, 12 April 2007 - http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/thepress/4022938a6530.html
Canterbury scientists behind a scheme to attack caterpillars with genetically engineered (GE) brassicas found themselves under fire yesterday. Crown research institute Crop and Food Research has been developing GE broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and forage kale that will kill caterpillars. Now it wants to bring the brassicas out of the glasshouse and into the garden. Crop and Food's application to complete a 10-year field trial at Lincoln to help eliminate the wriggly pests is the subject of a three-day Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) hearing, which began in Christchurch yesterday.
The hearing was disrupted by anti-GE protesters who blew whistles and made speeches in the meeting room. Police helped security guards, and one person was charged with trespass. Protest spokesman Garry Edmonson said they opposed the discussion of genetic modification in New Zealand. "GMOs will never be accepted in Aotearoa. This whole process should never have taken place. The moratorium should never have been lifted."
Erma received 959 submissions on the application - 941 against, 17 in support and one abstaining. Despite that, Erma's initial evaluation report says there will be minimal risk of adverse environmental effects and little chance of any adverse effects on human health and safety, on Maori and on the Treaty of Waitangi, given the controls proposed over the destruction of the plants. Erma's analysis also believes the trial is likely to benefit society. Crop and Food says it has conducted 34 similar field tests since 1988. Crop and Food project leader Dr Mary Christey has been developing brassicas during the past five years, which contain the natural pesticide already used by organic growers, Bacillus thuringiensis , known as Bt. Bt kills caterpillars that are dining out on the plants, mainly caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly, the diamondback moth and the soybean looper. The application is to trial the GE brassicas in a secured, contained field of up to 0.4ha.
Greenpeace, one of several groups opposing the trials, is questioning Erma's objectivity in proposing the application be approved. Greenpeace lawyer Duncan Currie said Erma had incorrectly applied the 1996 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act at several levels. Erma had misapplied the act in assessing uncertainty and risk, had failed to assess the "opportunity cost" in the sense of lost funding to other, non-GE, research, and had incorrectly scoped risks, costs and benefits, he said. The authority had never turned down a GE field trial application, and Currie called on the Government to decline this one. "The appearance is that any application, no matter how misconceived, how pointless and no matter what level of opposition, will be approved."
Potential environmental risks included contamination of non-GE crops, the development of insect resistance to the Bt toxin, effects on non-target insects, such as butterflies, and the escape of the genes. "Trials to test insect resistance to GE Bt brassica are a waste of both time and money. The research around the world for Bt brassica already shows that insects build up resistance, the consumer doesn't want it, farmers won't grow it and certainly can't sell it."
Christey said anybody who grew cabbages appreciated the damage caterpillars could cause. "Under laboratory conditions, caterpillars feeding on cabbage which has been genetically modified so it produces Bt all die within 48 hours, and the plant is virtually undamaged." The plants would be destroyed before flowering or secured for analysis in the lab. She declined to say where the trial plot would be and what security measures would be taken if approval was granted.
The hearing continues today.
FSANZ under scrutiny for approving GE crop - Friday, March 16, 2007
New Zealand's food regulators - FSANZ, must think again about the basis for their approvals of GE foods in the light of revelations that companies may have deliberately hidden data from officials. GE Free NZ (in food and environment) is backing calls from the Green Party for immediate action to be taken in light of the release of data in Germany relating to Monsanto's MON863 geneticaly modified corn. GE Free NZ is awaiting an urgent respone from FSANZ in regard to what actions it will take in light of revelations that they have approved MON863 on the basis of deceptive data.
FSANZ has been asked to advise on the following: Given the evidence of harm resulting from consumption from the now-released data when will they suspend the existing approval? When will they review the data, revise and re-issue their assessment? What are the Brand names of products including MON863 imported into Australia/New Zealand? - Are they also aware of the recent data from India in relation to harm arising from consumption of BT crops? What public-health monitoring of effects from approved GM products does FSANZ have in place or access from other government/independent authorities? Why, if there is no such data, does FSANZ believe it is an acceptable situation on which to base its work moving forward?
These issues go to the heart of the way officials carry out their statutory duties to protect public health and the safety of the food supply. As a matter of urgency they must be answered honestly and with transparancy.
GM decision on corn variety sent back to drawing board - Radio New Zealand, 21 Feb 2007
A decision approving a genetically modified corn variety has been sent back to the drawing board by Food Safety Minister Annette King. Food Standards Australia New Zealand gave its approval for the corn but has been waiting for the minister to confirm it. The GM corn is intended for feeding to pigs and poultry but approval was sought for it in case some gets into the human food chain. Critics say the corn - which has high levels of the amino acid lysine - can cause diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes. They also argue the FSANZ assessment is flawed because it compares the GM corn with other GM corn rather than with regular corn. Ms King says she is seeking a review of the assessment process to ensure that consumer confidence is maintained.
GE corn rethink welcome, health risks must be considered - Press Release: Green Party, 21 February 2007 - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0702/S00395.htm
Food Safety Minister Annette King should be congratulated for standing up for proper process and seeking a ministerial review of the recommendation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to approve a genetically engineered corn for animal and human use, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says. "The FSANZ draft decision creates an alarming precedent regarding the level of scrutiny required before GE organisms are approved for human consumption," Ms Fitzsimons says. "I strongly urge the Minister to ensure the review goes beyond mere procedural matters, and also revisits the substance of the decision, given the inherent health risks to all New Zealanders posed by this product."
The corn, High-Lysine Corn LY038, is produced by seed giant Monsanto, who have applied for its release in New Zealand to be used in animal feed. They are also seeking approval for use in human food of the corn, which has been genetically modified to contain levels of the amino acid lysine at substantially higher levels than found in other corn varieties. "It is alarming that this corn variety is so close to being approved for release in New Zealand. While Monsanto insists it will only be used for animal feed, they concede this corn may also indirectly enter the human food chain and are therefore applying for its approval as a human food so that they don't have to keep it separate," Ms Fitzsimons says. "Lysine itself is not a health risk, but when high levels are cooked in combination with sugars, which are also present in the corn, compounds called AGEs are produced which have been implicated in causing Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and several other serious health conditions...Despite the fact that the food risks of cooking lysine and sugars are well known, FSANZ made no effort to evaluate what the health impacts would be if LY038 were to enter the human food supply and be cooked...It is therefore essential that the ministerial review that Mrs King has now set in train regarding the FSANZ decision also gives full consideration to these inherent health risks. High levels of diabetes are already a major problem in New Zealand. We should not be releasing a substance into the food chain that could contribute to this condition, or to any other health problem."
NZ food supply threatened by genetic modification - By Diane Cordemans - Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Concern that genetically modified (GM) seed stocks will contaminate New Zealand's food crops, destroy our reputation and affect businesses, is growing among groups in the agricultural sector. The Soil & Health Association of New Zealand said imports of sweet corn and maize seed should be stopped until all possible risks of GM contamination have been eliminated. Spokesman for the association, Steffan Browning, said Syngenta, the supplier of the GM corn seed which passed through our border control last year, is already at the centre of legal proceedings in several countries. He said, rather than importing seed, growers would feel more secure with further development of the New Zealand seed industry. "With issues of droughts, global events, wars etc, it is very important that New Zealand has a high level of food security. China is now importing food because of land that has been taken up for industrial use," he said. Syngenta, along with biotech giant, Monsanto, are among the world's largest producers of GM seeds -- most notably Roundup-ready corn and soya beans. These GM foodcrops are bred to be resistant to the chemical herbicide Roundup, while neighbouring plants are killed. The subsequent damage to the soil is irreversible and requires more chemical inputs to sustain growth.
New Zealand Seeds Auckland-based company South Pacific Seeds produces vegetable seed for export. Managing director John McKay said that most seed producers believe that New Zealand seed stocks have not been contaminated -- and they would like to keep it that way. "And even if you were a breeder that had that capability [to produce GM seed], you probably wouldn't want your brand name subjected to the scrutiny of doing it." Our global location in the southern hemisphere means New Zealand is in a unique position for producing and exporting seeds, Mr McKay said. There is very little land in the southern hemisphere at the 44 degree latitude where vegetables can be grown for seed, he said.
"Only the southern island of New Zealand and the southern tip of South America...there is nowhere else in the southern hemisphere where you can produce…the kinds of seeds we produce. That is why northern hemisphere plant breeders want to use New Zealand. There is nowhere else to go," he said.
Likewise, with pasture grasses, which represent the biggest part of the seed industry in New Zealand. Marketing Manager of Cropmark Seeds Gary Begley said all New Zealand's pasture grasses are GM free. Cropmark has offices in Hamilton and Palmerston North, and breeds grazing grasses for the domestic and international markets. Mr Begley pointed out that pastoral farming and grass is an important part of the New Zealand agricultural economy. In parts of Europe, and North and South America, New Zealand grasses "lead the way", he said.
Minister of Biosecurity Jim Anderton said he was disappointed with border control failures identified recently within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Quarantine Service (MAFQS). But they will be fixed without delay, he said. "Clearance practices [to manage GM risk] followed by frontline officers have been inadequate. There are many reasons why these mistakes occurred but there are no excuses," he said in a press release. The failure to prevent entry of GM corn seed into New Zealand in late 2006 by the MAFQS was scrutinised in a recent David Oughton report, commissioned by MAF. Mr Anderton said the report has resulted in a shake-up of practices by frontline officers and a review of computer systems. The huge volume of people and material coming into New Zealand meant the risk will remain but the best systems must be in place to minimise it, he said.
According to the International Seed Trade Federation Secretariat, a non-profit international organization representing seed companies, New Zealand exported NZ$48 million worth of seed and imported NZ$18 million worth in 2005.
Call for Protection
Major producer of GM seed, Monsanto, acquired the world's largest vegetables eed company, Seminis, in 2005 resulting in the world's seed supply being concentrated within a small number of companies. GE Free New Zealand spokesman Jon Carapiet said New Zealand farmers urgently need to work together to protect their long-term access to seeds and the right to save seeds for planting each year. He said attempts to control all seed supplies by powerful international companies were becoming increasingly aggressive. The consolidation of seed supplies into a handful of companies could mean farmers are denied access to seeds they need. Eventually farmers could even be limited to new patented varieties that may be GM or contaminated by GM material, he said.
The Green Party have called for Food Safety Minister Annette King to "veto a recommendation from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to approve a genetically engineered corn for animal and human use". Green Party Leader Jeannette Fitzsimmons said that GE corn could soon be released by one of the largest agribusinesses. "While Monsanto insists it will only be used for animal feed, they concede that this corn may also indirectly enter the human food chain.The Greens are demanding to see thorough and independent testing of the impact of this GE corn on human health."
Copyright 2000 - 2007 Epoch Times International
ARC adopts anti-GMO policy position - February 19, 2007
The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) today voted to oppose the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in field and food in the Auckland region. The Council does not, however, oppose creating GMOs in laboratories for medical purposes.
ARC Regional Strategy and Planning Chair Paul Walbran says the Council adopted the policy in principle as a precautionary approach because there are significant uncertainties about GMOs, and issues that are yet to be understood and resolved.
The ARC’s policy acknowledges the overwhelming opposition to GMOs that was demonstrated in public submissions to the ARC’s annual plan. “Our policy reflects Aucklanders’ widespread opposition to genetic modification.....This is a symbolic decision that acknowledges that Central Government, not regional and local government, has responsibility for developing and enforcing decisions about genetically modified organisms,” says Mr Walbran.
Seed firm asked to pay for GM error - Patrick Crewdson - Friday, February 16, 2007
The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry of New Zealand has tried to invoice an American seed supply company for the costs of the genetically modified sweetcorn blunder, despite admitting border procedures were not up to scratch.
Four tonnes of sweetcorn slipped past border control in October and November, mistakenly cleared by ministry quarantine officers despite documentation showing the parent crop had tested positive for GM organisms. More than $7 million worth of crops had to be destroyed. Despite admitting partial responsibility for the blunder, the ministry is seeking reimbursement from American seed supplier Syngenta.
In a December 22 letter obtained by The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act, the ministry asked Syngenta for $167,000 to reimburse the ministry for costs incurred responding to the breach. The costs of crop destruction operations, field inspections and operations management were initially estimated at $93,000, but that figure was revised upward when additional work was required because of poor germination of the seeds. Ministry staff had spent an estimated 980 hours working on the matter, at a cost of more than $70,000, the letter said. The cost of senior management's time, travel and other disbursements were not included. A spokesman for Syngenta said the company was still considering the ministry's request.
Meanwhile, Syngenta had reached agreement with all the processing companies, meaning farmers would either have their crops replanted or would receive compensation for loss of income or costs incurred. Many farmers who had replanted would also receive compensation for lower crop volumes as a result of later-planted crops. Of 147 hectares affected in Gisborne, 104ha had been replanted, as had all of the 111ha affected in Hawke's Bay. The spokesman would not say how much compensation had been paid, saying it was a commercial arrangement between Syngenta and processors.
Earlier this month, the Government admitted the biosecurity breach was linked to "disappointing and unacceptable" failures within the MAF quarantine service. The ministry's official report found an error of judgment on the part of the inspecting officer as well as a lack of appropriate peer review.
© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2007 - Source: The Dominion Post
New success shows way for NZ research - 09 Feb 2007
New Zealand must re-focus its scientific programmes around non-GE plant and animal research to gain advances that will appeal to consumers, farmers and which are environmentally safe. Overseas scientists are moving away from genetically engineered research and into marker assisted selection (MAS) and gene pyramiding using conventional crossing of non GE plants with the desired traits. New Research has just been released on a bean resistant to four different kinds of rust. The beans are conventionally pollinated crossing two beans with the desired traits then using selection process to find the beans that have been “gene pyramided”.
The creation of the beans has been all done by natural and selective pollination of plants, avoiding the problems related to GE techniques. Each time a generation is crossed and its progeny carries the extra genetic desired traits it is called “gene pyramiding”. Each resulting generation of bean seeds are tested for the presence of the desired gene using PCR techniques. Dr Pastor-Corrales, of the Plant Sciences Institute in Beltsville Agricultural Research Center is the scientist who has worked on this research and writes “None of the beans used in our breeding scheme to produce the great northern (BelMiNeb-RMR-8, -9, -10, -11, -12, and -13) and pinto (BelDakMi-19, -20, -21, -22, and -23) bean germplasm lines - with four genes for rust resistance and two genes for resistance to bean common mosaic and bean common mosaic necrosis poly-viruses - are from genetically modified beans”.
This is the kind of research that New Zealand CRI’s and scientists should be involved in. These beans have been produced using processes that do not introduce the genetically modified viral or bacterial genes into the DNA of plants and is a positive use of new diagnostic tools to select for traits. The process can also be fast; the beans have only taken a few generations to produce the desired traits and are similar to the seed saving traditions of indigenous peoples over millennia. We hope that this promising research and outcome will be used to help all farmers and not become restricted by expensive patents or prohibition on seed-saving that GE seed-producers have tried to force on them. ERMA must consider such alternative methods of achieving desired resistance in their latest GE brassica (GMF 06001) assessment.
The continual push for GE is going to become an expensive white elephant that New Zealand will regret because it is unmarketable, and obscures the great non-GE achievements of our scientists in the agricultural sector.
Concerns that FSANZ is compromising food safety - 09 Feb 2007
The recommendation from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to approve a genetically engineered High-Lysine Corn LY038 for animal and human use, is a warning sign that the Authority is inappropriately influenced by trade-related issues and the interests of overseas businesses like Monsanto's. This decision comes just weeks after New Zealand officials declared they want to adopt the same loose policies for cloned animal products that have been proposed in the US by the FDA. Like their US counterparts the NZFSA intends no testing, monitoring or labelling of products from clones because differences are expected to be minimal and products "substantially equivalent."
But such a policy on cloned food ignores the fact that small differences can have significant impacts. "Substantial equivalence is closer to bureaucratic spin than sound science", says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment. "On this basis animals with mad cow disease could be deemed fine to eat because they only have a small difference in the shape of one protein: prions."
Though the FSANZ admit LY038 is different, once again there seems to be unacceptable and detrimental pressure from business to open up New Zealand's and Australia's food system to inadequately tested (and largely unwanted) products. LY038 is produced by seed giant Monsanto, and is genetically modified to contain levels of the amino acid lysine at substantially higher levels than found in other corn. The application for approval for human food is "just in case" it gets mixed in from animal feed by accident, as has already happened in the past.
FSANZ seem to have ignored warnings that when foods with high levels of lysine are cooked in combination with sugars, compounds called AGEs are produced which have been implicated in causing Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and other serious conditions. In a submision to FSANZ, The Centre for Research in Biosafety at Canterbury University identified different ways that animal feed could either inadvertently or deliberately end up being consumed by humans, and warned them of the possible effects.
GE Free NZ in food and environment support calls by the Green Party for a Ministerial veto of the decision, and want new protocols on food testing to be developed and introduced before any further approvals are made for 'novel foods'. The Centre for Research in Biosafety reports in its submission that the testing procedure for this corn deviated from the recommendations of international food safety bodies, including the World Health Organisation. "This is unacceptable. We need the best standards, not the ones that best suit business or overseas investors," says Mr Carapiet. Consumers are being exposed to unwanted and unnecessary risks because officials meant to protect them have a wider agenda than providing genuine choice and safety.The bias to meeting the interests of industry and agri-business risks compromising the integrity off the food chain.
NZ needs a clean seed industry - 05 Feb 2007
The report by David Oughton from his inquiry into the importation of genetically engineered corn seeds in late 2006, shows institutional corruption and calls into question the ethics of at least some individuals involved in border surveillance according to the Soil & Health Association spokesperson Steffan Browning.
The continued GE incursions also show the need for an urgent expansion of New Zealand’s seed growing industry, a ban on imports of seed from countries and companies that consistently supply contaminated seed. That a MAF Quarantine Service officer who participated in the earlier decision to remove the requirements for double checks in approving risky seed imports, was also the officer that then ignored positive GE tests and allowed the GE contaminated sweet corn into New Zealand fields, has a very bad smell about it, according to Mr Browning.
The fact that of 90 consignments in 2006, 30 had incomplete computer records shows that staff involved were not taking the issue seriously and maybe some positions need reviewing, as much as systems need improving. This goes right to the top however, said Mr Browning, and the culture of indifference comes from many levels of government that have an arrogant and cavalier attitude to the wishes of New Zealanders and to the risks of Genetic Engineering. New Zealand’s zero tolerance to GE contamination must be defended effectively.
The Oughton report points out a need for improved border control systems focused on the dominant risk seed species; Brassica napus var . oleifera (oil seed rape), Glycine max (soy bean), Zea mays (corn/maize), Medicago sativa (lucerne/alfalfa). Soil & Health agrees and sees a further method of precaution in a total ban on importation on those species from the US and other countries producing such GE seed. Some giant seed companies are also consistently the suppliers of contaminated seed and should be penalised for supplying shonky product. Syngenta was the supplier of all the contaminated seed in this recent event, and is the subject of legal proceedings in several countries.
One independent US seed grower with New Zealand interests, has told me that he would prefer to see a New Zealand seed industry developed as GE Free, to allow varieties to be grown on in confidence in New Zealand and be marketed to an eager world, said Mr Browning. The niche market for New Zealand is clean and green and the commercial opportunities are superior to risky seed importation.
Contrary to some seed importers claims, the advantages of new imported varieties do not match the combined benefits of a New Zealand seed industry and clean product for rapidly growing lucrative and discerning markets. Soil & Health promotes Organic 2020 which fits well with the international growth in organics and has no place for GE contamination. Soil & Health wants staff changes in border control, improved checking systems, a ban on risky imports and strong government encouragement for the New Zealand seed industry.
GE seed, crops eradicated in HB - Hawke's Bay Today, 21.12.2006
All but about 50ha of the sweetcorn crops grown with seed contaminated with genetically engineered seeds in the Gisborne and Hawke's Bay regions has been destroyed. Biosecurity officials last week ordered 258.4ha of Hawke's Bay and Gisborne sweetcorn crops planted with 1807kg of contaminated seed to be harrowed. All growing plants were chopped and buried.
Replanting on the cleared paddocks was suspended earlier in the week after a small patch of seed that had only just germinated was found among three-week-old plants 300mm high. Growers have said Christmas would be the latest that affected fields could be economically re-planted with sweetcorn for the processing sector. Mr Sangster said most growers did want to re-plant with sweetcorn but some would plant a different crop. Rain had caused delays with work in some areas. About 80 percent of the 57ha of affected land in Gisborne was to be replanted while about 20 percent of 201ha in Hawke's Bay would be replanted.
Syngenta, the American seed company that supplied the seed, has agreed to compensate farmers for any costs involved in the GE contaminated seed.
NZ Govt may face $1 million bill for corn botchup - New Zealand Press Association, 7 December 2006
WELLINGTON - The Government may face a hill of up to $1 million to clean up the latest border bungle - allowing genetically-engineered (GE) contaminated seeds to enter the country. Imports of a total of 4420kg of sweetcorn seed is being being investigated for possible GE contamination. About two-thirds of the sweetcorn seed -- 3067.5kg -- was planted in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, and Ashburton, on about 373ha spread over 25 properties. The bill the Crown faces for cleanup of the latest incident is understood to be in the vicinity of $1 million," Sustainability Council executive director Simon Terry said today. He said the council had proposed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) two years ago low-cost and no-cost biosecurity measures to significantly boost chances of detecting seed contamination and avoiding expensive cleanup bills. These included trebling the quantity of seeds sampled, to raise the ability to detect low concentrations, and encouraging importers to track and screen seeds for GE content from origin to delivery.
Such quality assurance procedures would aid MAF's stated objective of ensuring New Zealand's GE-free status was maintained. Mr Terry said MAF had put aside the council's proposals, to be reviewed at some later date. But they would have boosted the chance of detecting GE seeds in the latest shipments, even if the paperwork had not been read correctly at the border. Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitizsimons said tonight that efforts by Biosecurity NZ, an agency within MAF, to go back to the US suppliers ofthe seeds, Syngenta, seemed pointless. "These four consignments came through with documentation that showed GE contamination," she said. "Even if Syngenta provides 100 more documents, it will not change the fact that several tonnes of contaminated seeds have been illegally imported and planted." Ms Fitzsimons said that for MAF or biosecurity officials to consider letting the corn mature and be harvested, on the condition that it was then exported would send a dangerous signal to markets that expected NZ to be GE-free.
Mr Terry said trying to contain the GE seeds in that way would raise questions about how committed NZ was to the policy of "zero tolerance" of illicit GE seed. "No level of GE contamination is acceptable for the buyers who seek out New Zealand producers because of this country's GE-free reputation," he said.
GM corn investigation to be completed by Tuesday - Radio New Zealand, 4 December 2006 [shortened]
Biosecurity New Zealand expects to complete a full investigation by Tuesday into where 400ha of genetically modified corn was planted, and the extent of the contamination. Its spokesperson Peter Thompson says a staff error led to almost two tonnes of GM corn breaching the border in October. He says most of the corn has been planted, and it must be destroyed. The accident has prompted GE Free New Zealand and the Soil and Health Association to reiterate their call for a ban on all corn and maize seeds, until it can be assured they are GM-free. The Green Party says it is appalling the border is so leaky when such a robust system has been set up. It says there is no excuse for Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry staff just waving a shipment through when there was a positive test result with it.....................
GM corn to be destroyed - Radio New Zealand, 4 December 2006 - http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/latest/200612041653/gm_corn_to_be_destroyed
Biosecurity New Zealand was to meet corn growers on Monday to decide the best way of destroying 400 hectares of genetically modified corn. Its spokesperson Peter Thompson says a staff error led to almost two tonnes of GM corn breaching the border in October. He says most of the corn has been planted, and it must be destroyed. Mr Thompson says a full investigation into where the corn has been planted and the extent of the contamination should be completed by Tuesday. The accident has prompted GE Free New Zealand and the Soil and Health Association to reiterate their call for a ban on all corn and maize seeds, until it can be assured they are GM-free. The Green Party says it is appalling the border is so leaky when such a robust system has been set up. They say there is no excuse for MAF staff just waving a shipment through when there was a positive test result with it.
The Hawke's Bay Vegetable Growers Association says there needs to be some quick action to remedy the blunder. Scott Lawson, from the association, says it is disappointing there has been another letdown of biosecurity. He says crop growers across the country could be affected and need to be contacted so they know whether they have to remove their corn.
Horticulture NZ says standards have fallen
Horticulture New Zealand says the quality of the country's border control systems has fallen if almost two tonnes of genetically modified sweet corn can pass though it. The organisation's chief executive, Peter Silcock, says New Zealand's GE-free status is important to growers. He says it is likely growers who lose their crops will approach their supply companies for compensation, who in turn will approach the government.
Better testing needed
The Sustainability Council says better testing of seeds at the border would have prevented the accidental importation of the genetically modified sweet corn. The Sustainability Council says more demanding testing at the border would mean that even if the paperwork was incorrectly read, there would be a better chance of finding the contamination. It says it is likely taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the compensation required by farmers whose crops are destroyed.
GM supporters cautious
However, a pro-GM group says more tests are needed on the genetically modified sweet corn, before crops are dug up. Life Sciences Network chairman William Rolleston says GM has been confirmed only in the parent line of seed, and none has been detected in the plants yet. He says the corn may still be fit for human or animal consumption. Mr Rolleston says if analysis by the Ministry of Agriculture shows a negligible risk of the seeds spreading, there is no reason to spend good money digging up the plants. He says the money spent on destroying the crops and compensating farmers is needed for real threats, like foot and mouth or mad cow disease.
Border bungles allows GE contaminated seeds into NZ - National News - By Kent Atkinson of NZPA, NZPA, December 1 2006
A bungle at the border has let nearly two tonnes of sweet corn seed into the country to be planted even though it is "contaminated" with genetically engineered seeds. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said today it is investigating how its own quarantine service "inadvertently cleared" two consignments of seed from the United States in October. A total of 1800kg - enough to plant 400ha - "were incorrectly cleared by MAF" even though documentation from the original batches of seeds bulked up for the shipments showed the presence of GE content. Both consignments were accompanied by certificates claiming they had tested negative for GE content. MAF said any GE content that may have entered New Zealand "is present at extremely low levels". New Zealand law - the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act - sets a level of "zero tolerance" for imports of unapproved GE seed in shipments. The documents accompanying the seeds gave no indication of which altered genes had been put into the seeds, or what production traits were being targeted. A MAF spokesman said the department was now checking to see where the seeds were sent and how many had been planted for this summer. "MAF will be working with affected parties to locate all affected material," he said. Matters such as what would be done with plants already being cultivated "will be determined by these discussions".
New Zealand imports about 750 million conventional maize seeds to plant 31,000ha of maize annually. One inadvertent import of GE seed sparked the "Corngate" political row during the 2002 election campaign. In 2005, farmers expressed frustration when a big maize consignment was found to be contaminated by GE material -- endangering export markets -- and proposals were made for as much as 13,500 tonnes of maize to be dumped. They said it was the sixth such incident in the past three years. They have involved genetic material added to seeds to be used as a human or animal food, rather than for production of GE pharmaceuticals. In 2004, nearly 4000 tonnes of corn grown in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Waikato and Northland was found to have traces of GE material. Today, MAF said it was also investigating its own border clearance procedures "to better understand what happened in this case" and to prevent future occurrences.
The Green Party's spokeswoman on genetic engineering, co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, said she was "absolutely shocked and angered". "There is no excuse for this breach - it is just not good enough," she said. New Zealanders did not want to eat GE corn, and export markets showed no sign of accepting GE foods or foods with GE contamination. Ms Fitzsimons, who chaired the Parliamentary select committee inquiry into Corngate, said she thought that a robust system to detect and eliminate contaminated seed had been developed. "It is extremely disturbing to learn that our border is still not secure against GE contaminated seeds," she said. "It is even worse that it has taken two months to discover that." The two-month delay meant most of the seed was likely to have been planted: "There may be little seed left to test." A handful of left-over seeds would not provide a representative sample, and the party wanted leaves of the growing plants to be sampled and tested. "If positive contamination is found, it must be removed and destroyed and the farmers compensated," she said. Ms Fitzsimons said the bungle could be an indication that too many people in MAF still did not take the issue seriously and there needed to be a major shake-up among the people who constituted the nation's first line of defence.
GM problems - The Press, November 4 2006
The Press headline on GM crop tests (p.1, Nov 1) reads as if the brassicas engineered with a bacterial toxin (Bt) are about to be planted. Before this happens, the application must meet the ERMA criteria for GM field trials. In order to meet the criteria, the science involved must be seen to be accurate.
Dr Mary Christey is quoted as saying that there is no scientific evidence of insects becoming resistant to the toxin in GM plants and no evidence that the toxin would harm any other organisms apart from pest caterpillars. Actually, there are many publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals documenting insect resistance to Bt toxin when produced continuously and in relatively high concentrations by GM plants. Similarly, there are many such publications on the harm done to non-target organisms, the most famous case being that of the monarch butterfly larva.
It is time that GM scientists made themselves familiar with all the scientific research relevant to their work.
Dr Elvira Dommisse
GM insect resistance debate continues - Radio New Zealand, 3 November 2006
Debate continues over whether genetically modified crops will increase resistance within the insect population they are designed to fight.
Crop and Food Research has applied to do field trials on genetically modified brassicas - kale, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli - that produce a natural insect pesticide called bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Bt kills brassicas' main enemies - the cabbage butterfly, the diamondback moth and the soybean looper. Former Crop and Food genetic engineering scientist Elvira Dommisse says claims by the research institute that there is no risk of such trials increasing resistance among the insect populations they are targeting are appalling.
Dr Dommisse says because of problems with insect resistance, Bt crops grown overseas now have to include what are known as refuges - non-Bt plants that will aid the dilution of the resistance gene. This has not been successful everywhere. Tony Connor, a senior Crop and Food scientist who worked on a successful Bt potato trial several years ago, denies that these sorts of crops carry any risk of insect resistance. Dr Connor says the field trials done on Bt potatoes show it would be possible to commercialise the technology and the next step would be to test them on a larger scale. But he says the potato industry won't support any further work at the moment because of the public's negative perception of genetic modification.
Tight security for GM-crop tests - By JANINE BENNETTS - The Press, 1 November 2006 - http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3846168a3600,00.html
Security will be in place to protect field tests for genetically modified vegetables in Canterbury if they go ahead next year. The Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) yesterday received its first application in three years to field-test a GM crop at Lincoln. In 2002, protesters trashed three years of research on GM potatoes by the Lincoln-based company Crop and Food Research. The attack followed an incident in 1999 when the Wild Greens group destroyed a GM potato trial at Lincoln.
Crop and Food Research has applied to field-test brassicas - a class of vegetable including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and forage kale - at Lincoln for 10 years. The tests would see the brassicas modified for insect resistance with genes from bacillus thuringensis (Bt), a bacterium normally used as a toxin to repel insects. Crop and Food Research spokeswoman Katherine Trought said the risk of sabotage was always a concern, but field tests had much higher security since the 2002 attack. "The Erma regulations have changed (since 2002)," Trought said. "They're much stricter in terms of test security." Whenever field tests were done, the area was fenced off and had 24-hour surveillance.
Green Party MP and former Wild Greens spokesman Nandor Tanczos said he was no longer involved with the group, which he did not think was still active. Anti-GM campaigners say the proposal is unnecessary and unsafe. Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the proposed GM crops were unsafe because, if commercialised, cross-pollination would affect all other non-GM brassicas. "That is an infringement on the rights of other growers to grow GM-free crops," she said. "There will be the usual issues - that we don't know what other characteristics the plant will have, we don't know what it will do to the food quality, we don't know what it will do to the soil."
Three years ago, Crop and Food Research conducted controversial trials of GM onions. Fitzsimons said she expected more submissions and a greater public outcry than for the 2003 tests. Dr Elvira Dommisse, a former Crop and Research GM researcher, said the tests were unnecessary. "I think you've just got to put things in perspective and ask if there's actually a need for it, and there isn't a need for it," Dommisse said. Insects always evolved and would become resistant to Bt, defeating the purpose of the modification. Dommisse said Bt used in overseas GM crops such as cotton left the people working with the plants with respiratory and skin problems.
Dr Mary Christey, the research leader for the brassicas work, said there was no scientific evidence that Bt used overseas had caused health problems or that insects had become resistant. She said the pesticide killed only caterpillars feeding on the GM plants producing Bt and left the plant virtually undamaged. There were no plans to make a commercial product out of the tests, Christey said. If the product were made commercially, strategies would be put in place to ensure insects did not become resistant to Bt.
Greenpeace campaign manager Cindy Baxter said Greenpeace was "utterly opposed" to the application. "It poses unnecessary and unquantified risks to New Zealand's economy, environment and public health and it has no benefit."
The application will be publicly notified today and public submissions will close on December 12
Brassica trial crazy - Press Release: Soil and Health Association, 1 November 2006, (Soil & Health Association of New Zealand (Est. 1941); Publishers of ORGANIC NZ)
Crop & Food's intended GE Brassica field trial is even crazier than their existing GE onion trial, according to Soil & Health, and move in the opposite direction to the Prime Ministers sustainability vision.
Potential key drawbacks are:
*Early resistance by pests
*Fast spread of GE brassicas and interbreeding contamination
*Contamination of GMO free crops
*Loss of markets through contamination
*Loss of markets through NZ?s Clean Green image loss
*Human and animal health risks
The use of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in genetically engineered crops has shown an early build of resistance in pest insects, resulting in the loss of a safe and important tool for many farmers.
Organic producers are able to use Bt and careful use has maintained its benefit without pest resistance. Organic and GMO free producers markets demand products free of GMO contamination.
The current use of Bt poses little risk to humans or stock as the toxin only occurs in the pest caterpillar's gut.
GMO Bt poses risks as the toxin is in every cell of the GM crop including that eaten by consumers and also the pollen and roots.
Brassica pollen travels large distances, the seeds are small and brassicas cross easily, with hundreds of variants in existence. GMO brassicas will be one of the riskiest and dirtiest GMO crops possible.
The use of GMO crops flies in the face of Prime Minister Helen Clark?s vision of New Zealand being in the vanguard of sustainability, with New Zealand being the first truly sustainable nation, said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
A truly sustainable nation will have no part in GM crops or stock.
Crop & Food's is a State Owned Enterprise whose persistence with experimenting with many vegetable and flower crops that are creeping into field trial applications is contrary to New Zealand's Clean Green image.
Crop & Food are experimenting with a number of brassicas and also tomatoes, cucurbits, onions, asparagus, orchids, cyclamen, snapdragons, pelargoniums, violas and others in their laboratories. A lot more than most are aware of, according to Browning.
"It is time to stop these experiments if there is no serious expectation to grow in New Zealand. New Zealanders have clearly stated that GM crops are not wanted."
NZ Shooting Self in the Foot If GE Trials Allowed - Press Release: GE Free NZ, 1 November 2006
GE Free NZ believes the application submitted by Crop and Food to ERMA for a field trial on GM cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli should be withdrawn, or stopped by the New Zealand government. Given the international rejection by consumers of GE foods the application must be regarded as foolhardy and economically unsound, especially in light of the Prime Minister's call for New Zealand to be a leader in sustainability to protect our international markets. The EU and Japan have effectively closed their markets to GM imports in response to the public demand for non-GM food. New Zealand's brand-reputation will be threatened by government-funded institutes pushing down the GE path rather than investing in research into production of clean and natural food that consumers actually want.
"Consumers do not trust GM and the main way it is being sold at all is through deliberate deception and keeping customers in the dark. Even most US shoppers agree with people from around the world that they do not want to be eating unlabelled GE food sneaking into their food-chain," says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ. "New Zealand Crown Research Institutes are doing the country a disservice by continuing to pursue GE experiments long after they have reached their expiry date in the real world of consumer markets where the customer is 'right'."
GM crops that have been genetically modified with the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene can make them deadly to catterpillars and butterflies. But over the last ten years pests and diseases have been becoming resistant to the inserted insecticide and in some cases target insects are again damaging the GM crop. "This is short-term thinking that is coming home to roost, and it is poorly conceived science that is to blame" says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ. "The toxin produced by Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a common organic insecticide. When used as a spray, it is non- toxic and easily washed off. However, when the Bt gene is inserted into the plant, the Bt toxin is expressed in every cell and cannot be washed away. It has proven to have a very different environmental effect over time."
The particular crops under threat are also particularly concerning given the brassica (cabbage) family is highly promiscuous. Wrightsons conducted a detailed study on brassicas and discovered that "crosses occur between all species and sub species within the genus" and "seedlot contamination with all brassica species is common but visually difficult to detect". Wind, insects, animals and farm workers can all spread the seed and pollen, resulting in cross-pollination of other cultivated or weedy brassicas.
" While the rest of the world is moving to assisted classical plant breeding techniques using genetic markers to assist, Crop and Food is wasting scarce R&D money on a GM product that no one wants" says Claire Bleakley. "However, most concerning is that overseas experience has started to reveal how the GM techniques being used can negatively impact the health of animals and people. There have been deaths recorded in animals eating Bt foods and severe adverse effects observed in people handling and living near Bt crops."
A ten year study in Australia on peas (Pisum sativum) genetically modified to contain a gene from the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. Tendergreen) resulted in detrimental effects on the health of laboratory rats. The mice developed antibodies specific to the protein, hypersensitive skin response, airway inflammation and mild lung damage. "Are we to understand that the Government has gone mad with its budget surplus that it will allow its CRI to jeopardise the health of New Zealanders and agricultural economy of the farming sector by allowing GM broccoli,cabbage and cauliflowerfield trials? "
GE Free NZ requests that the government call in the Crop and Food the application.
Wrightsons submission to MAF on protocol for seed testing."Brassica Cross pollination", Dr Stewart Gowers, Forage Brassica breeder, Crop and Food Research.
RI Vazquez Padron et al (1999) Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice. Life Sciences, 64, 1897-1912.
A Pusztai (2001) Genetically modified foods: are they a risk to human/animal health? http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/pusztai.html (and in press).
Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers? Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh) Investigation Report, Oct - Dec 2005, www.GMWatch_org.htm
Mortality in Sheep Flocks after grazing on Bt Cotton fields, Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh,Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April, 2006 www.GMWatch_org.htm
Chowdhury EH, Kuribara H, Hino A, Sultana P, Mikami O, Shimada N, Guruge KS, Saito M, Nakajima Y. Detection of corn intrinsic and recombinant DNA fragments and Cry1Ab protein in the gastrointestinal contents of pigs fed Genetically modified corn Bt11. J. Animal Science 2003, 81, 2546-51
Vanessa E. Prescott, Peter M. Campbell, Andrew Moore, Joerg Mattes, Marc E. Rothenberg, Paul S. Foster, T. J. V. Higgins, and Simon P. Hogan, Transgenic Expression of Bean -Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005, vol 53 (23), p 9023-9030.
Rice Row Prompts Call To Ombudsman - GE Free NZ, 17 October 2006 - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0610/S00192.htm
Inconsistencies in the way food authorities have responded to contamination of US-grown long-grainrice by an illegal GE varient has prompted a call for the Ombudsman to become involved. While New Zealand authorities has rejected calls to test for illegal LL601 GM rice or withdraw at-risk products, the UKFSA has ordered a withdrawal of all LL601 rice from supermarket shelves.
LL601 was engineered by Bayer Crop Science but discontinued in 2001 without any public explanation. It has never been safety-tested for human or animal consumption by any governmental authority. The LL601 contamination has caused Japan and Europe to stop all long grain imports of rice from the USA unless proof is provided that the shipment is not contaminated.
Last week the European FSA said that the LL601 was "not an imminent safety risk". However in a surprise turn around they have now reversed their decision and are calling all supermarkets to withdraw imported US long grain rice from the shelves saying they have "new information" .
"The NZFSA must implement immediate testing of US imported rice and the costs should be carried by the company which holds the patent of the contaminating-rice. We are concerned at the lack of scientific rigour signalled by a refusal to test or remove product, and angered that the costs could end up being socialised onto the public," says Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in Food and Environment .
GM LL601 is an illegal contaminant yet it is understood FSANZ may not even have seen the full range of existing data or the application papers for approval, let alone data from independent tests. There are still no diagnostic tests to see if ingestion of this or other GM products is causing illness.
New Zealand Government Ministers have dismissed the request by GE Free NZ to test for and recall all at-risk rice as "shroud waving". Ministers have even gone so far as to have misled the public by saying this GM rice is tested and proven safe.
The US State Agriculture Secretary Richard Bell told a meeting on Capitol Hill that rice that tests positive for the genetically modified protein (LL601) would go into markets "that aren't objecting." Meanwhile Greenpeace reports finding extensive contamination of foods in the Middle East in common every day US brands.
"It is extremely disturbing that senior ministers are agreeing to the dumping of illegal GM produce on overseas markets that don't "object", and that New Zealand may be one such fall-guy if consumers are kept in the dark," says Claire Bleakley. "We are calling on our Ministers to make clear our national policy which rejects illegal produce on sale in the New Zealand market."
GE Free NZ (in food and environment) has just recieved notice that the Ombudsman is looking into the LL601 rice issue after GE Free NZ wrote to them expressing concerns over the handling of the case by the NZFSA and their inconsitant approach relative to overseas authorities in Japan and Europe.
Cover Up of GM Rice Contamination a Scandal - Press Release: GE Free NZ, 20 September 2006 - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0609/S00037.htm
The UK Independent newspaper's report of an official cover-up of contamination of rice by an illegal GE variant has serious implications for maintaining the integrity of the food supply in New Zealand and overseas. The Independent has revealed that while some countries have banned sales of US long-grain rice because of illegal GE contamination, others have decided to turn a blind eye and allow it to be sold.
It is possible that contaminated long-grain rice remains on sale in New Zealand despite the contaminating variant being untested and unapproved by any authority in any country. "The situation for New Zealand consumers remains unclear as Authorities have deemed information about their action-plan as falling under the Official Information Act," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. Until the information is released New Zealand shoppers should consider avoiding any US long-grain rice, and should return unopened packs to the shop for a refund.
Overseas supermarkets have been asked to remove potentially contaminated products from the shelves, and in some countries they have done so.Official assurances that this GE rice variant is safe are not supported by scientists who are demanding more data be released in order to assess the rice.
But a more serious issue is the breakdown of the global system to control where GE products enter the food chain and refusal by some authorities to take action to remove illegal product when it is found. The international community is facing a serious breakdown in regulation of the food system. It is vital action is taken to uphold the law and remove illegal foods from the system. Acceptance of illegal contamination is a slippery slope that will delay establishing a proper monitoring and recall-system. As time goes on this failure puts millions of people at risk from contamination of previously safe and familiar foods.
Experimental GE rice should be stopped at border - Press Release: Green Party, 31 August 2006 - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0608/S00557.htm
New Zealand Food Safety Authority's refusal to take any precautionary action in response to the importation of an illegal, untested, experimental GE rice is leaving consumers vulnerable, the Green
Party says. "The Authority should have immediately moved to suspended imports of long grain rice from the United States and launched a programme to test the level of contamination in the product already here," Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.
Liberty Link Rice 601 (LL601) is experimental, genetically engineered rice. It has not been approved for consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world. Earlier this month the United States Department of Agriculture announced that commercial rice was contaminated with Liberty Link grains. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has confirmed that 'indications are that low levels' of the contaminated rice have been imported into New Zealand.
"Japan immediately suspended all imports of long-grain rice from the USA, and the European Union has announced it will not permit any shipments into Europe unless they carry a clearance certificate assuring that it is not contaminated," Ms Kedgley says. "In New Zealand, however, the NZSFA is doing nothing except issue bland assurances that this rice 'poses no public health or food safety risk'. Given that this experimental rice has never undergone any safety tests, I want to know how the Authority can claim that it poses no public health or food safety risk?" "The Food Safety Authority is mandated to protect consumers and ensure that illegal, unapproved food does not enter the food supply. It has failed abysmally in this case." "This is a classic public relations response by the Food Safety Authority - downplay the risk and reassure consumers that there are no concerns. In this case it seems the Authority is more interested in not upsetting a trading partner than in protecting New Zealand consumers," Ms Kedgley says.
FSANZ food regulator criticised over new GM corn - By Anna Salleh - ABC Science Online - Australian Broadcasting Corporation, August 4 2006
Australia and New Zealand's food regulator is failing to apply its own safety standards, or those of international guidelines, in assessing a new-generation GM corn for human consumption, critics say. But Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) defends its so-far favourable assessment of the high-lysine corn, which it says is intended for animal feed and is unlikely to enter the human food chain.
The Centre for Integrated Research on Biosafety at the University of Canterbury has twice formally notified FSANZ of its concerns about the GM corn, LY038, which has been engineered to contain a bacterial gene that allows the accumulation of high levels of lysine. "Among the types of potential hazards that this food poses are the creation of compounds that are known to be associated with important diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer," says centre director Associate Professor Jack Heinemann. Heinemann says while the compounds, advanced glycoxidation endproducts (AGEs), are also produced when cooking conventional foods, he is concerned about potential levels in LY038 corn. He says corn is normally extremely low in the compounds that combine to create AGEs. But he says higher-than-normal levels of lysine in the LY038 and high sugar levels, combining under heat, have the potential to raise AGE levels. "[LY038] has the potential to produce 100 times more [AGEs] than normal corn," says Heinemann.
Draft approval by FSANZ
In March this year FSANZ recommended LY038 be approved as safe for human consumption in a report to its board. "Food derived from corn line LY038 is as safe and wholesome as food derived from other corn varieties," the report says. But the necessary tests to prove the corn is safe for humans have not been done, says Heinemann, a geneticist and former US National Institutes of Health scientist. He says LY038 is the first of a new-generation of GM foods being specifically designed to be nutritionally different from their conventional counterpart. And FSANZ's decision could set a precedent on how such foods are assessed.
Tests of cooked corn?
Heinemann says FSANZ only considered safety tests that looked at raw and not cooked corn. But the international standards-setting body Codex Alimentarius recommends heating, cooking and processing conditions be applied to GM material in an assessment of their safety for human food, says Heinemann. He also says FSANZ only considered 21-day animal studies and not longer ones, which might have picked up diseases like cancer. Heinemann says FSANZ should also look into human feeding studies. Lastly, Heinemann criticises FSANZ's decision to compare the composition of the corn to another GM corn rather than its non-GM parent variety, as recommended by its own advice, and by Codex.
Safety assessment defended
FSANZ says testing was adequate. "We are satisfied that we have all the scientific information necessary to make a sound decision on the safety and nutritional adequacy of high lysine corn LY308," it says. "We have considered the potential for production of AGEs, but have no concerns." FSANZ says Codex only asks regulators to consider testing heated or processed GM foods. But as the raw corn has much lower levels of lysine compared to other foods regularly consumed, FSANZ did not consider the tests necessary. It also says the GM corn used for comparison was a "better comparator than the non-GM parental line". FSANZ says it assessed the corn as if it was any other GM food. "The safety assessment conducted on LY038 is as rigorous and thorough as for any GM food product, and assumes that if approved, corn from line LY038 could be routinely entering the food supply and not present just as an occasional inadvertent ingredient," states FSANZ's report.
Will it enter the human food supply?
FSANZ also says the corn is "unlikely" to end up in human food and is only being assessed as a precaution in case of an accidental mix-up. One such mix-up occurred in 2000, when Starlink GM corn, also intended for animal feed, became mixed in the US food chain. Because it was not registered for human consumption the contamination affected exports and cost the manufacturer a $100 million in lost sales. Canada approved the use of LY038 in the human food supply last month. The FSANZ board is due to consider the corn in late September.
Biotech Firm Seeks Official Approval to Contaminate Food Crops - GE Free NZ press release
Concern is mounting that Food Standards Australia New Zealand are being pressured by international biotech companies to officially approve contamination of food with GE crops designed for industrial and pharmaceutical production. Syngenta have applied to FSANZ to allow a bio-fuel GM corn into the human food chain because of expectations that it will contaminate food anyway. "The biotech companies are admitting that they have inadequate systems to segregate GE crops not intended for consumption." says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ (in food and environment). "But it seems instead of preventing contamination by containing their production, they want government approval to contaminate food so they are not held responsible."
The application to FSANZ (ref 1) says that there are fears corn derived from the genetically engineered corn Line 3272 will mix with corn intended for the food chain and could enter the Australian and New Zealand food supply as imported and processed foods. There are also warnings from scientists and medical professionals that such applications may be just the start of many aimed at officially sanctioning food contamination by pharmaceutical-producing crops.
Professor Joe Cummins from the UK-based Institute of Science in Society (ref 2) says French authorities have already allowed the growing of transgenic maize with monoclonal antibodies known to cause severe and even fatal side-effects in people. If such allowances are made there is a fundamental threat to public health. The very idea of allowing contamination of food by industrial and pharmaceutical crops presages a spiral down into a degraded food supply where few if any foods will remain clean of contaminants.
It is vital no allowances are made for this contamination, and that food authorities ensure segregation, including banning GM production outside a contained lab.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
1) APPLICATION A580- FOOD DERIVED FROM AMYLASE-MODIFIED -CORN LINE 3272
Issue / Problem
Syngenta has developed a thermostable alpha-amylase enzyme (AMY797E) expressed in Line 3272 corn grain for use in the dry-grind fuel ethanol production in the United States.
Microbially produced alpha-amylases are commonly used commercially in the starch-processing step during corn dry-grind and wet milling processing. The purpose of the development of Line 3272 corn is to use the corn grain as the source of amylase enzyme in the dry-grind ethanol production, replacing the addition of microbially produced enzyme.
http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/IAR_A580_GM_corn.doc (corn syrup, corn starch, corn chips, canned corn and cornflour etc.).
Before food derived from corn Line 3272 can enter the food supply in Australia and New Zealand, it must first be assessed for safety and an amendment to the Code must be approved by the FSANZ Board, and the decision subsequently notified to the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council). An amendment to the Code may only be gazetted, once the Ministerial Council process has been finalised.
Syngenta has therefore applied to have Standard 1.5.2 amended to include food derived from Line 3272 corn grain.
2) This article can be found on the I-SIS website at - http://www.i-sis.org.uk/transgenicMaize.php - ISIS Press Release 27/07/06 - Transgenic Maize with Monoclonal Antibodies Grown in France
Prof. Joe Cummins, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Peter Saunders from the Institute of Science in Society say this amounts to an illegal massive clinical trial of monoclonal antibodies known to cause severe side effects including death (Warnings on FDA Approved Monoclonal Antibody Drugs, SiS30
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/WOFAMAD.php). They call for banning transgenic crops producing pharmaceuticals and the withdrawal of EU funding for such projects.
Genetically Altered Corn May Cause Diabetes - DiabeticNews.com, June 14, 2006
New Zealand's governmental food standards board may approve a genetically altered type of corn used for animal feed. The Monsanto Corporation produces the new corn called High-Lysine Corn LY038. Monsanto scientists have altered the corn to contain higher levels of the amino acid lysine than is found in other corn varieties. While lysine itself isn't a health risk, if the LY038 variety is cooked with sugars also found in the corn, compounds called AGE's are produced which are implicated in causing Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and several other health conditions.
Even though Monsanto states that LY038 is intended only for animal feed, they made application for approval as a human food so they do not have to keep the altered corn separate from edible corn. The real problem is the government's food agency made no effort to test what the health impact would be if the LY038 were to enter the human food supply. Numerous ways animal feed either can accidentally or deliberately end up eaten by humans is a serious risk. There are many countries with diabetes epidemics, including New Zealand and the United States. Risking our food supply is not worth the risk of potentially increasing the sugar content of food in a diabetic diet or everyday foods.
New Zealand: Food code not grounded on best available science - Thursday, June 08, 2006
The Centre for Research in Biosafety (INBI) is urging the food standards agency to reconsider its draft recommendation to approve a new type of GM corn. INBI has recommended that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) should not approve Monsanto’s genetically modified high-lysine LY038 corn until further safety studies have been conducted.
FSANZ is the agency responsible for protecting the safety and integrity of food sold in Australia and New Zealand. Monsanto has applied to FSANZ for LY038 to be permitted in the food supply, but has declared that its intention is to market LY038 as animal feed. INBI believes LY038 is the first genetically modified crop plant substantially different in its nutritional profile to be considered for approval as a human food. INBI recommends that safety studies be conducted using GM corn that has been cooked and processed as it is in human food. “The key difference between the use of corn as an animal feed and a human food is cooking and processing, and FSANZ has made no attempt to assess food hazards resulting from cooking or processing of LY038,” said INBI Director and University of Canterbury Associate Professor Jack Heinemann. He said LY038 corn was substantially different to conventional corn in that it has high concentrations of compounds that are known to produce food hazards when heated with the sugars found in corn. “We’ve carefully examined the risk assessment done by FSANZ and its supporting materials, and we can’t understand why FSANZ does not ask for the obvious scientific studies that would establish the safety of this product when it is cooked and processed, the way peopleand not chickenseat it,” Heinemann said.
While the FSANZ assessment assumes that LY038 would enter the food supply only in small amounts and inadvertently, the INBI submission identifies a number of realistic pathways, both deliberate and inadvertent, through which the amounts of LY038 in the food supply could be much more significant. In its submission to FSANZ, INBI makes over 90 major recommendations, most of which identify deficiencies in the supporting scientific studies and in the analysis conducted by FSANZ. INBI also notes ways in which the FSANZ standards deviate from those recommended by international food safety bodies such as Codex Alimentarius and the World Health Organisation. “FSANZ is obligated to use the best scientific evidence available and conduct a case by case assessment. From our point of view, it hasn’t consistently done either,” said Heinemann. INBI has called on FSANZ to explain how it weighs competing costs and benefits when coming to its decisions.
“FSANZ is charged with maintaining public confidence in the quality and safety of food,” said Billie Moore, an INBI researcher. “This is impossible without public confidence in FSANZ and its decision-making processes, which must therefore be transparent and open to public scrutiny and evaluation. It cannot expect the public to have confidence in unsubstantiated assertions and unexplained reasoning.”
For the INBI submission, please go to: http://www.inbi.canterbury.ac.nz/Documents/submissions/submissionDARA549pdf
Monsanto corn causing concern - TVNZ, Jun 6, 2006 - http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/411416/742292
New Zealand scientists are worried about a genetically modified corn which food giant Monsanto wants to use here to fatten animals. Monsanto wants a safety clearance in case the corn turns up in human food by mistake. But scientists say once approved for that, it could be used in our food without further approval. They claim the corn has only been tested in its raw state. "The most likely types of hazards to arise from this corn will arise after cooking and processing," says Jack Heineman from the Centre for Integrated Research on Biosafety. The scientists say the GM corn could cause cancer, diabetes and heart problems once cooked.
Keeping tabs on GMOs - By Simon Terry - New Zealand Herald, 15 May 2006
Conditions for the international trade of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are to become tougher as a result of changes to the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol. Buried in the diplomatic language added to this United Nations agreement is a shift in the rules on food labelling that has deep ramifications for GM food cultivation. The protocol will ultimately require sufficiently detailed labelling of GM content in food exports to make it the norm for GM crops to be strictly segregated from conventional export crops. While a number of richer nations already have import requirements for identifying GM content, the protocol provides for their wider application to developing countries, and is likely to pave the way for a de facto global standard for labelling. The success of these negotiations puts the protocol back on track to deliver an international liability regime governing shipments containing living GMOs. The protocol regulates the international shipment of living GMOs and its central purpose is the protection of biodiversity and human health. The new rules contribute to this by requiring identification of unintended GM content in shipments of conventional food. Importing countries can then determine if they wish to prevent or limit the unintended release of GMOs through a process of informed consent in advance.
The labelling issue has, however, been a major point of contention since negotiation of the protocol began a decade ago and its final text, agreed in 2000, in effect postponed a real solution. When a way forward was attempted last year, New Zealand and Brazil vetoed the proposed arrangements - changes required to make the agreement operational. The recent negotiations thus became something of a do or die for the protocol, as a failure to reach consensus on labelling was likely to have resulted in individual countries going their own way to protect their borders. Brazil, the host country, had rethought its stance and the compromise position it put forward - primarily a delay in implementing some aspects - gained early backing from other parties. However, the New Zealand delegation, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, indicated that its position had not changed. While it agreed with labelling intentional GMO content in food, New Zealand said it remained steadfastly opposed to labelling GM content that was unintended - it did not want to label for "actual content". Concern over New Zealand's stance prompted the heads of two other delegations to take the unusual step of speaking to journalists while the negotiations were in progress.
Leading African representative Dr Tewolde Egzhabier, of Ethiopia, said: "New Zealand's position is freezing the whole of the negotiations." The EU couched its comments in more diplomatic terms, but the message was the same - New Zealand was not supporting the Brazil compromise and other countries were struggling to understand why. New Zealand was not the only country raising difficulties - Peru, Paraguay and Mexico also had issues. However, it was the one many countries were most concerned about. Then, on the last day, New Zealand dropped its objections, the concerns of the Latin American counties were attended to, and the hammer fell without dissent. The protocol establishes the framework for nations to require that any GMO contamination in a shipment is identified and labelled in accordance with an importing country's minimum standards. Although there are limitations for the next six years on the scope of GMOs for which labelling can be required, these are intended to expire once the phase-in period is over.
Each of the 132 countries that have ratified the protocol determines its own threshold standards for what triggers the labelling requirement. But exporters will want to produce to just one standard of purity, so the strictest major importer will tend to act as a ratchet setting standard for all. The EU, which is New Zealand's largest food export market, already has the bar set at 0.9 per cent maximum GM content, and other countries can now use the protocol to readily impose standards that are tougher. As a result, any country thinking of newly permitting GMO cultivation will most likely allow GM crops only if they are strictly segregated from conventional export production. Segregation can be very costly, where it is technically achievable. More costly, however, is not properly segregating, given the strength of consumer resistance to GM foods.
Wholesale buyers in markets such as Japan and Western Europe have zero tolerance for GM contamination and continue to reject food products with any detectable level of GMO content irrespective of whether it triggers labelling requirements. Who pays for segregation or product rejection thus becomes a key question - one the protocol is also poised to influence. The next major change will be an international liability regime intended to allow importers to gain redress for harm caused by a living GMO. For this to work fairly for conventional farmers that suffer GMO contamination, each country needs to have domestic law that ensures that claims ultimately rest with those producing the GMOs. The protocol is therefore likely to put into sharp focus New Zealand's ill-founded liability law that essentially absolves from claims anyone who uses a GMO consistent with an ERMA approval. Premium export markets will leave no place to hide from GMO contamination and those who cause losses for conventional farmers should not be able to hide from the financial consequences.
Alarm bells over GM food approval - Part 1 - The Press, 5 May 2006 - http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/thepress/0,2106,3658115a12935,00.html
Recent developments in the approvals process for genetically modified foodstuffs have caused alarm with two Canterbury University [New Zealand] researchers. They outline their concerns.
VICTORIA METCALF writes that large gaps exist in our understanding of what genetically modified foodstuffs might mean for our health. [Dr Metcalf is a geneticist and affiliate of the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, University of Canterbury.]
We, as consumers, take for granted that the food we eat is safe. But is it really? We might expect that any new food product developed, particularly genetically modified (GM) food, would go through a detailed process of testing similar to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) system for pharmaceutical drugs, but it does not. In a recent presentation at the University of Canterbury, Judy Carman, the director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research and a spokeswoman on GM foods for the Public Health Association of Australia, reminded her fellow scientists what we don't know about the safety of GM food.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand, or FSANZ, is an independent statutory authority with responsibilities to protect the health and safety of people from both countries. However, FSANZ does none of its own safety testing on food and has a policy that GM food is safe until it is proven to be harmful. GM modified foods are regularly eaten in New Zealand, often with the consumer unaware they are eating them. Companies use a technicality that they need not declare if an ingredient has been unintentionally contaminated below 1 per cent (with the GM equivalent) of each ingredient. "Unintentional" means the company should have tried its best to source non-GM ingredients. But lapses are notoriously difficult to prove. And if a food product contains several unintentionally contaminated ingredients, the total amount of GM substance present in the product may be at a more than inconsequential level.
A food labelled as non-GM is no guarantee that the food is GM-free. In Australia and New Zealand, various GM varieties of soy, canola, corn and potato have all been approved as safe to eat by FSANZ. These crops are parts of many foods, found in bread, pastries, snack foods, fried foods, oil, confectionary, baked goods and soft drinks. In addition, food sold in bakeries, restaurants, takeaways, and highly refined foods such as oil, sugars and starches do not need to have their GM content labelled. It is nigh on impossible to currently avoid the consumption of GM food.
How do we ensure public health and safety over the consumption of GM food? Scientists rely on a peer- review publication process to ensure both the accuracy of and to instil confidence in the results of their studies. Carman found in a review of 28 GM plants produced as commercial crops that their safety testing was rarely published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In fact, the information had to be extracted from FSANZ documents. In nearly all cases, the safety testing was not performed by independent scientists as we might expect but came from the very producers of GM foods, such as Monsanto and Bayer.
What was of even more concern was the low number of tests for each type or variety of the GM plant. For example, just two reports were submitted to cover four different GM soy plants, with testing not performed on all varieties. In addition, low sample sizes in many of the reports reduce their statistical validity. One report for a GM corn variety from Monsanto stated that it was substantially equivalent to non-GM corn despite a 44% difference in amino acid composition. Yet this particular variety was declared safe for human consumption by FSANZ.
The types of analyses performed are also of concern. Some of the GM plants have had animal studies performed by the companies that produce them, but animal feeding studies are generally not required by FSANZ. Animal toxicity tests often only assessed the effects of feeding a substitute source of the GM products, not the GM plant itself, for just seven to 14 days. Carman says if cigarettes were examined under the same system they would be deemed safe. Despite this, adverse effects have still occasionally been found. And yet in no cases have tests been performed on humans. These GM plants, however, all still got the green light from FSANZ.
It took generations to determine that smoking was directly linked to human diseases such as lung cancer. However, is there a reason to be similarly suspicious of GM food? Is GM corn really any less safe than non-GM corn? The answer at the moment is that we simply don't know. Very large-scale and broad-ranging studies are needed to determine if GM food poses a risk to the consumer. It is something of a needle in a haystack approach because scientists have no idea what potential adverse effects might occur. Could GM foods cause cancer, skin disorders, immune disorders etc? In our view, better studies are needed to determine if GM food poses a risk to the consumer. In our quest to move towards a knowledge society, we lack detailed knowledge of potential risks that GM food may pose towards our health. While GM food may be as safe as other foods, consumers have a right to know about the risks through appropriate and detailed testing. We know that too much fat and sugar is bad for us. It is our choice whether we consume too much. We can't make this decision with GM food because we don't even know how much we are eating. We are really no different to guinea pigs. Perhaps it is time for better food labelling and a need for enforced policing of food content.
Alarm bells over GM food approval - Part 2 - The Press, 5 May 2006 - http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/thepress/0,2106,3658117a12935,00.html
Recent developments in the approvals process for genetically modified foodstuffs have caused alarm with two Canterbury University researchers. They outline their concerns.
JACK HEINEMANN writes that plans to introduce a new genetically modified corn to New Zealand are troubling. [Jack Heinemann is an associate professor at the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety at the University of Canterbury. ]
A new kind of genetically modified food may be about to join you at the dinner table. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is considering recommending that the Food Code be changed to include a GM variety of corn called LY038, high lysine corn. This product differs in substantial ways from non-GM corn because it, at the very least, accumulates high levels of an amino acid called lysine, a normal constituent of protein. While the lysine concentration is not above that found in other foods, such as red meat, eggs and cheese, it is about 50 per cent above the normal concentration of lysine found in non-GM corn. And the level of free lysine "that not incorporated into protein" is 50 times greater than that found in ordinary corn. It is not the absolute amount of lysine that is concerning here, but the unusually high concentration of lysine in the same place as all the sugars that are found in corn. Lysine as an amino acid or as a normal component of protein can react with sugars to form what are called advanced glycoxidation end-products (AGEs). Dietary AGEs have been implicated in causing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes (and related autoimmunity), kidney disease and with ageing. In Western societies, these diseases are more frequently called epidemics.
While AGE content is a general concern of food safety, doubling the concentration of lysine in the corn we eat should be viewed with particular concern, at least until detrimental AGE effects can be ruled out. AGE content increases in foods stored for long periods, as well as in cooked or processed foods. For example, infant formula, which often contains corn, also has higher concentrations of AGEs than human or cow milk. AGEs are found at higher concentrations in cereals relative to raw grains, because cereals are produced by a high temperature and pressure process. High lysine corn in place of non-GM corn well might increase the AGE content of these and other foods. New studies demonstrate that AGEs may also cause allergic reactions, which are increasingly common health complaints. The incidence of coeliac disease, an allergic reaction to components of wheat, barley, rye and oats, is estimated at 1 in 300. Studies in Australia and New Zealand have confirmed equal or greater rates in local populations; adult prevalence is as high as 1 in 83 in the Christchurch area.
Another danger for coeliac sufferers would develop if they became sensitised to AGEs in high-lysine corn that made them allergic to all corn, effectively removing this important food source from their already limited diets. The special dietary requirements of this large section of the population reaffirm the importance of carefully screening the introduction of new ingredients into the food supply. While vegetable sources probably contribute the least amount of AGE content in the diet, high-lysine corn has the potential to boost exposure from all foods that have a corn component, including many foods that are heated or processed at high temperatures. Like us, FSANZ believes that high-lysine corn is significantly different from non-GM corn. But it disagrees that a study of AGEs produced when high-lysine corn is cooked is necessary before amending our Food Code for a product that may increase the AGE content in processed foods and infant formula.
International agencies for food safety seem to side with us. The Codex Alimentarius Commission of the UN World Health Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation says: "The potential effects of food processing, including home preparation, on foods derived from recombinant- DNA plants should also be considered (in a safety assessment." But no such study has been requested by FSANZ. Instead, they have accepted a study in which whole raw product was fed to chickens and allude to a secret study using rats. When was the last time you ate raw corn?
On May 3, your opportunity to comment to FSANZ about their recommendation to amend the Food Code ended. If you share our concerns, consider contacting the Minister for Food Safety, Annette King, who has a seat on the ministerial council. They will accept or reject the FSANZ recommendation. For more information on high-lysine corn, visit our website (www.inbi.canterbury.ac.nz).
Letter to PM on genetically engineered organisms - Thursday, 6 April 2006, 2:56 pm
Press Release: Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics - 6 April 2006
The Right Hon. Helen Clark - Cc to all MPs - Prime Minister, ERMA, Parliament Buildings, FSANZ, WELLINGTON
A letter addressed to Prime Minister Helen Clark
Dear Helen Clark
PSRG calls your attention to 8 April 2006, designated the day to inform people and to demonstrate public concern about genetically engineered organisms (GEOs).Of particular concern to us are decisions of FSANZ and other regulatory bodies; the decision not to adopt country of origin labelling; the inadequacy of current GEO labelling requirements; the use of genetic engineering technology to produce pharmaceutical and industrial materials; and potential applications to release GEOs into the New Zealand environment.
(For the purposes of this letter, genetic engineering and genetic modification are synonymous.)
1. The effects on human consumers ingesting genetically engineered organisms
We advise you of the following research that raises serious concerns about the risks of consuming GEOs.
1.1. Eating genetically engineered soybeans affected the liver and pancreas of study mice.
In 2005, Italian researchers found that genetically engineered (GE) soybeans affected the liver and pancreas in mice. Previously, the researchers had shown that absorption of GE soy by mice induced modifications in the nuclei of their liver cells. It was later shown that reverting the diet of the mice to conventional food caused the observed differences to disappear. It was also found that several of these changes could be "induced in adult organisms in a very short time."
1.2. Genetically engineered pea research abandoned because of adverse results.
Also in 2005, CSIRO scientists abandoned a research project after ten years. They found that the genetically engineered peas they had developed caused lung damage in mice.
1.3. The cauliflower mosaic virus acting as a catalyst to provoke gene expression (2006).
Dr Terje Traavik, scientific director of the University of Tromso's Institute of Genetic Ecology in Norway, has demonstrated that an element of the genetic structures used to engineer a plant - the cauliflower mosaic virus (35S CaMV) promoter - can provoke gene expression in cultured human cells. Developers of genetically engineered plants have previously claimed that the promoter normally only performs that way with plants.
1.4. Monsanto's MON 863 genetically engineered corn.
In April 2004, a toxicological study released to Le Monde reportedly showed that rats fed with MON 863 presented anomalies, including an increase in the white blood cell count, changes in blood sugar, and a reduction in the red blood cell count. The paper claimed that in considering a decision on its release, despite re-examining the file, regulators did not reportedly take another look at Monsanto's statistical analysis.
An independent study was commissioned from Gilles-Eric Sâsralini, of the University of Caen, and Dominique Cellier, of the University of Rouen. Dominique Cellier, a biocomputer specialist, is reported to have said that: "Monsanto's statistical analysis of the differences observed in the rats was very superficial. They isolate the variables instead of using so-called multi-variable analysis methods, which consist of looking at the observed anomalies in a coherent way. If one uses those methods, one observes coherence between the weight, urinary tract, and haematological anomalies in the animals fed GMOs."
Commenting on evaluating procedures for GEOs, Jean-Michel Wal of the GEO group of the European Authority on Food Security, is cited as saying: "We don't know how to study a food overall, whether it's a GMO or not; there's no norm."
2. Regulation and safety testing of GEOs
We wish to raise serious concerns about New Zealand's reliance on the approval process of US government agencies. The companies that develop and promote genetically engineered food crops generally carry out toxicological studies on the effects of consuming them. These studies are meant to then be double checked by food safety authorities, but the criticism is that the experiments are simply not reproduced, even though industry studies often show adverse biological impacts.
2.1. Inadequate and unsatisfactory regulation
The FDA declared genetically engineered foods are substantially equivalent to conventional foods. It ignored the warnings of its own scientists and put in place food rules that assume no unforeseen effects will occur and, therefore, no safety testing is required, for genetically engineered foods. This premise has been well proven to be wrong.
2.1.a. Early in 2000, German scientists discovered that antibiotic resistant marker (ARM) genes from engineered canola were transferring their resistance to the bacteria found in the guts of bees that had consumed pollen from the plants.
2.1.b. Earlier European Union studies had revealed that ARM genes found in genetically engineered foods could transfer into bacteria in the human gut as well as soil bacteria
2.2. British Medial Association
Concerns were raised as long ago as 1999 when the British Medical Association called for a global moratorium on genetically engineered crops. The BMA were concerned that ARM genes would cause antibiotic resistance to develop in bacteria by horizontal gene transfer. Such resistance would serve to erode the effectiveness of antibiotics for humankind. Crops are still produced using ARM genes.
2.3. Recommended new safety test method
In 2006, agricultural economist, Dr Charles Benbrook - a former advisor to the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations - warned of serious concerns over safety in respect of generically engineered foods. He claims that these food crops should be re-tested using Australian food safety technology developed by the Australian National University. The failed pea trials were tested using it.
2.4. Instigating safety assessments
As a direct result of the failed pea trails (1.2), Western Australia has instigated an independent, long-term animal feeding trial to collect and assess data on the safety of GE food crops. New Zealand should also take the initiative.
3. Current applications for genetically engineered crops
Recent applications to Food Safety ANZ for the approval of foods derived from genetically engineered alfalfa and corn raise concerns.
a.. Food derived from glyphosate-tolerant Lucerne (Application A575) J101 and J163 for human consumption.
b.. Food derived from Monsanto's high-lysine corn LY038 (Application A549) genetically engineered to have higher than usual levels of the amino acid, lysine, intended for animal feed.
It is stated that these will be used for animal feed, although some may find its way into human food products. PSRG maintains that the risks that it is intrinsically unwise to allow GE animal feed into the human food chain.
3.1. Transgenes in cows' milk
In June 2004, a study was released by the Research Centre for Milk and Foodstuffs in Weihenstephan, Bavaria that showed that parts of the gene construct from RoundupReady soybean and from Bt176 maize was found in milk from cows fed these genetically engineered plants. The report says the gene segments may have got into the milk via feed or dust from the feed in the air. No further studies have been made to clarify the exact means by which the DNA fragments got into the milk. (See http://news.bbc.co.uk/.)
3.2. Transgenes in the gut bacteria of human volunteers
A study commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and carried out at the University of Newcastle, demonstrated that DNA from a genetically engineered food - in this case soybean in the form of a burger and a milkshake - found its way into the gut bacteria of human volunteers. (See the FSA Report on http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/.)
3.3. The long-term effects of ingesting material from transgenic sources on a daily basis have not been assessed.
4. Adverse effects of genetically engineered crops - MON 810
Monsanto's MON 810 corn produces an artificial, truncated version of a Cry toxin derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. This family of toxins has a pathogenic effect on Lepidopteron insects.
4.1. Genetically engineered plants are not equivalent to bio pesticides
A study spanning several years has monitored the quantity of Cry1Ab toxins in D-440 BTY (MON 810) corn. Cry toxins are compounds that have gained acceptance in pest control (i.e., in bio pesticides such as DIPEL). However, genetically engineered plants are not equivalent to these bio-pesticides from the aspect of environmental analysis and ecotoxicology.
The principal difference with regard to toxin release is related to the extent and duration of exposure: while bio-pesticide applications release a small quantity of the toxin on a single or several occasions, the GE plant produces the toxin protein on a continuous basis, unnecessarily, during its entire vegetation cycle, as long as the gene section(s) added artificially to the plant and responsible for encoding the protein are active.
4.2. Cry toxin produced in the entire plant during the whole growth period Székács et al have confirmed that the Cry toxin is produced in the plant during the whole period of growth. That is, in a dry plant, under moderate temperature, the toxin remains biologically active for several years. Post-harvest the maize stubble contains a significant quantity of Cry toxin. Cry toxin, over-wintering in the stubble, can be detected in plant residues after a period of one year.
4.3. Comparisons between bio pesticides and Bt plants
Székács et al compared the quantity of Cry-toxin proteins produced by the Bt-plant with the doses registered and permitted for their use in bio pesticides, and determined the toxin quantity in DIPEL. They found that MON 810 Bt-corn produces 1500-3000 times more Cry1Ab toxin than the Cry1Ab toxin dose corresponding to a single treatment with DIPEL.
They also found that only part of the toxin from the Bt-plant is decomposed during the growth period. Further, a significant part of the remaining quantity in the stubble enters the soil, where it may affect soil life (animals and micro-organisms).
4.4. Cry pollen and contamination
A study (Darvas et al) carried out over several years looked at the possible effects of the pollen of DK-440 BTY corn grown in Nagykovácsi, Júlia-major, a valley where no maize was grown during the years concerned.
The distance of the intra-specific hybrid formation was examined on white, tassel-free maize and the results showed that pollen transfer could occur at 800 metres.
This poses risks for organically grown maize where zero tolerance is accepted for GE-hybrids. Seeds developing from a traditional female blossom pollinated with cry gene- containing pollen (i.e., from MON 810), have a high probability (1/3) of acquiring the capability of producing the Cry1Ab toxin.
4.5. The effects on essential insect species
Around fields planted with Bt-corn hybrids, the Bt-pollen settled on weeds, presenting a danger to the hatching caterpillars of protected varieties of butterflies. This means that in the case of extensive Bt-corn cultivation, butterfly species could recede.
A study by Béla Darvas and Éva Lauber found that insects developed resistance to the toxin content in Bt-corn leaves. The conclusion is that this will generate a growth in the number of insect populations on which Bacillus thuringiensis products - used almost exclusively in organic farming - will no longer have a suitable effect.
5. Food crops engineered to produce non-food products - the potential contamination of other engineered, conventional and organically grown crops.
In 2004, the US Department of Agriculture oversaw 67,000 acres of biotech field trials, some of which involved producing non-food products in a food crop. Corn is the most utilised food crop for engineered traits because it is easy to work with and produces a lot of grain. The concern is that food plants genetically engineered for non-food products could contaminate plants engineered as food crops and/or conventional crops, and enter the food supply as did StarLink's Cry9C protein in 2000.
5.1. Report on the US Department of Agriculture as a regulator
A recent report found that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has failed to properly oversee field trials of genetically engineered crops, including plants engineered to produce chemicals for medical and industrial uses. The report says that the USDA "lacks basic information" on field trial locations and what happens to the crops after harvest. For example, auditors located two harvested pharmaceutical crops in storage, about which the USDA knew nothing nor had it approved.
The two-year safety audit by the United States Office of Inspector General also found that: "Current (USDA) regulations, policies and procedures do not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology."
6. Pharmaceutical drugs produced using genetic engineering technology
Some people react differently to proteins that are genetically engineered as against equivalent proteins that are produced naturally. Genetic engineering technology is not as precise or as predictable as chemical drugs because it relies on the intricate workings of complex living cells in the process of manufacture, and even the subtlest of changes in the process can have unpredictable results. Some drugs - e.g. human insulin - are created by engineering the required human gene into bacterial or animal cells.
PSRG urges you, Prime Minister, to put safety before industry profit and instigate changes to the NZ system of regulation that will protect New Zealanders.
Signed by the Trustees of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics
Paul G Butler, BSc, MB, ChB, Dip. Obst. (Auckland), FRNZCGP, General Practitioner, Trustee PSRG, AUCKLAND
John R Clearwater, BSc, MSc, PhD, Principal Scientist, Clearwater Research and Consulting, Trustee PSRG, AUCKLAND
Bernard J Conlon, MB, BCh, BAO, DCH, DRCOG, DGM, MRCGP (UK), FRNZCGP, General Practitioner, Trustee PSRG, MURUPARA
Elvira Dommisse, BSc(Hons), PhD, Former Research Scientist, Trustee PSRG, CHRISTCHURCH
Michael E Godfrey, MBBS, FACAM, FACNEM, Director, Bay of Plenty Environmental Health Clinic, Trustee PSRG, TAURANGA
Neil Macgregor, BSc, MSc, PhD, Soil Microbiologist, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Trustee PSRG, PALMERSTON NORTH
Peter R Wills, BSc, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Auckland, Trustee PSRG, AUCKLAND
Robert G Anderson, BSc, PhD, Lecturer retired, Trustee PSRG, TAURANGA
Jean Anderson, Businesswoman retired, Trustee PSRG, TAURANGA.
Signed on behalf of PSRG
Jean Anderson, Secretary, www.psrg.org.nz, for the Trustees of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics
Is NZ a US "stalking-horse" on GE issue? - Press Release: Green Party, 14 March 2006 - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0603/S00223.htm
New Zealand appears to be a "stalking-horse" for the United States in blocking consensus on the labelling of living GE organisms traded between countries, Greens Environment Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.
Last May in Montreal, New Zealand and Brazil prevented an international meeting - the Second Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol - from reaching any decision on labelling of traded living GE organisms. This week, the third meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol is being held in Brazil.
"All the other 117 countries attending the Montreal meeting supported a call for shipments of living genetically engineered organisms, being traded for use in food, feed or processing, to be labelled with the words 'does contain GMOs'," Mr Tanczos says. "Has New Zealand simply become a stalking-horse for the United States - which is not a party to the convention? Does this explain why our foreign affairs officials at the meeting in Montreal refused to give reasons for our objections to labelling?"
New Zealand insisted on the wording "may contain GMOs" and refused to give any explanation for rejecting the "does contain GMOs" wording. The "may contain GMOs" wording is largely uninformative just as "may contain traces of nuts" is uninformative when it occurs on every item of processed food in supermarkets. "The wording 'may contain GMOs' puts the onus on importing countries to test the shipments for GE organisms rather than on the exporting country where the responsibility should lie," Mr Tanczos says.
Many developing countries do not have the human or financial resources to test shipments and appropriate labelling would help them protect their biodiversity just as NZ is able to protect its biodiversity through our rules concerning biosecurity and import of GE organisms.
"At the opening address, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, emphasised the importance of reaching agreement on documentation of bulk shipments of living GE organisms," Mr Tanczos says. "Reports indicate that Brazil will no longer oppose full labelling. Will New Zealand be the only country to block consensus?"
Tell NZ Govt. to shape up on biosafety protocol - http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/campaigns/ge/biosafety-action.asp
10-Mar-2006 : The Biosafety Protocol is an important safeguard against harm to biodiversity and human health and has been ratified by over 130 countries including New Zealand. But NZ Government representatives have recently blocked consensus on strong wording in the Protocol and seem to be siding with the big GE producers such as the US. On top of this NZ is supporting Canada's call to lift the current global de-facto ban on field trials of sterile seed technology or "Terminator" seeds. Around the world 1.4 billion people (mostly poor) depend on farm saved seed for food and that's what Terminator threatens.
Tell NZ Govt. to shape up on biosafety protocol
The Biosafety Protocol is an important UN agreement which requires countries to take precautionary measures to stop Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) from causing harm to biodiversity and human health. The Protocol has been ratified by over 130 countries including New Zealand, but NZ representatives have recently blocked consensus on strong wording in the Protocol and seeming to side with the big GE producers such as the US. On top of this NZ is supporting Canada 's call to lift the global de-facto ban on field trials of sterile seed technology or "Terminator". Around the world 1.4 billion people (mostly poor) depend on farm saved seed for food and that's what Terminator threatens.
Please use this form to send a message to the NZ Government asking them to shape up on bio safety and stop Terminator!
BRAVE NEW BIOSECURITY? NEW REPORT - http://www.sustainabilitynz.org/docs/BraveNewBiosecurity.pdf
Biosafety Protocol - Tue, 14 Mar 2006
From: Adrian Bebb email@example.com
We urgently need to take action against the New Zealand government who are attempting to block the Biosafety Protocol from being implemented. The negotiations are currently taking place in Curitiba in Brazil. We would like to ask you to send either a fax or, if not possible, an email to the New Zealand Prime Minister.
The key issue is whether developing countries will have the right to know whether shipments coming into their country contain genetically modified organisms. If they do not know if a shipment has GMOs in then they cannot implement any biosafety legislation. Their food and environment will become contaminated.
We have attached below a draft letter. Please feel free to edit it into your own words. Please send a fax as soon as possible. If you cannot then please send an email.
For further information on the Protocol: http://www.haerlin.org/bsp/news//index.html
FAX Number: +64 4 473 3579
Helen Clark firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon Parekura Horomia email@example.com
Hon Jim Anderton firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon Phil Goff email@example.com
Hon David Benson-Pope firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon Chris Carter email@example.com
Hon Lianne Dalziel firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t block the world from strong biosafety laws
Dear Prime Minister Helen Clark
I am writing to express my grave concern that New Zealand intends to play a blocking role on the issue of identification and documentation of genetically modified organisms in food and feed at the Biosafety Protocol meeting currently being held in Curitiba, Brazil.
The Biosafety Protocol was born out of the visionary objectives of the Rio Earth Summit and is focused on protecting the world’s magnificent biodiversity and human health from the risks associated with trade in genetically modified organisms.
There are indications that New Zealand delegates instead intend to undermine consensus, as they did already at MOP2 in Montreal in 2005, and shut down agreement on precise and efficient wording within article 18.2(a) of this all-important environmental Protocol.
I am very concerned that New Zealand may remain the only nation prepared to block an international standard, designed to provide equal rights of information and protection from the risks of GMOs to all citizens of the world.
The Protocol is most important for the world’s poorest nations who often lack dedicated biosafety legislation and the complex biosecurity infrastructure that New Zealand enjoys. These nation’s food security and biodiversity are most at risk from unidentified and potentially illegal imports of GMOs for food feed and processing.
In the spirit of New Zealand’s good reputation as an international citizen, defender of the environment and advocate of sustainable development and the right of nations to know what is entering their borders, I urge you to ensure that the New Zealand delegation in Brazil actively seek a constructive solution to securing consensus on this core environmental treaty.
NGOs hit out at Australia, Canada and New Zealand for opening the door to GM Terminator Technology
From: The UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology
An alliance of leading environment and development organisations has condemned Australia, Canada and New Zealand for attempting to open the door to Terminator technology, a form of genetic-modification that would make seeds sterile and threaten the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. The alliance, which is known as the UK Campaigning Group on Terminator technology, has sent letters of protest to the High Commissioners of all three countries to raise concerns over proposals to weaken the global moratorium on Terminator technology, which would effectively give Terminator the green light. The alliance's response follows a meeting of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Spain from 23 to 27 January, which was attended by representatives from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, among others. The meeting reaffirmed the CBD moratorium on Terminator technology, but recommendations were made for case-by-case risk assessment. This would ignore the serious concerns raised globally by Indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers on the negative potential impacts of Terminator. Instead, these recommendations would mark a move towards assessing applications of Terminator on a country-by-country basis.
The alliance is also concerned about the influence of the US on decisions around Terminator. The US refused to sign the Convention on Biodiversity but works through other countries to influence decision-making at crucial meetings. The alliance fears that the governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand are working in collusion with the US administration and the biotechnology industry. Elisabet Lopez from the UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology, said today: 'We are deeply concerned that the US can still influence the result of CBD meetings despite not being Party to the Treaty. The recommendations coming from last week's meeting open the door for Terminator to be introduced. As signatories to the first Millennium Development Goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, Australia, Canada and New Zealand cannot justify their support for Terminator technology in the face of massive opposition from Southern countries and farmers around the world.'
Terminator technology is a technology designed to make seeds sterile. As a result, it would prevent farmers from saving seeds from their own crops each year. This would threaten global food security and the livelihoods of 1.4 billion small-scale farmers who depend on seeds they save or exchange with neighbours and other communities. This traditional practice of seed saving has the twin benefits that seeds are adapted to local conditions and are free of charge. Terminator is being developed to stop farmers from saving seeds and to ensure that biotech companies can gather royalty payments and technology fees from farmers each year. The US Department of Agriculture is a joint patent holder for one type of Terminator patented in the US, Europe and Canada. The major biotechnology corporations have also obtained patents for their versions of Terminator technology. The issue now moves to the major CBD meeting in Brazil from 20 to 31 March.
Notes to editors
1. The UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology includes UK Food Group, Progressio (formerly CIIR), Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, The Gaia Foundation, Econexus and Munlochy GM Vigil. Link to www.eco-matters.org for free copies of a leaflet on Terminator Technology.
2. The global moratorium is CBD Decision V/5 section III agreed in 2000. This decision states that products incorporating Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) should not be approved for field-testing or commercial use.
3. The fourth meeting of the Working Group on the implementation of Article 8j of the CBD (concerning the preservation and use of Traditional Knowledge for the conservation of biodiversity in indigenous and local communities) was held in Granada on 23-27 January.
4. The official name for Terminator is Varietal Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (V-GURTs). Terminator prevents seeds forming embryos and therefore they fail to germinate. Seeds are soaked in particular chemicals to switch on the Terminator gene before they are sold to farmers.
5. Terminator is a biological way to protect patents on GM crops "The goal of (the Terminator technology) is to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in Second and Third World countries," Willard Phelps, USDA spokesperson, March 1998.
6. The US Department of Agriculture jointly holds the patent for one version of Terminator technology with the US corporation Delta & Pine Land in the USA (1998) and Europe and Canada (October 2005).
7. On Tuesday 14 February (3:30-4:45pm) Joan Ruddock will chair a parliamentary briefing on Terminator technology in the House of Commons (Committee Room 6). For invitations see contact details below.
8. Cross party Early Day Motion 1300 Terminator technology has to date been signed by 57 MPs from all major parties.
Press enquiries to: Finola Robinson, Progressio's Press Officer, on 0207 354 0883 or via email at: email@example.com
(See also the leaflet on Terminator at - http://www.progressio.org.uk/Templates/AssociatesHome2.asp?NodeID=91487)
Community Backing for Maori Call to Ban Terminator Seeds - 20 January 2006
All political parties, especially the Labour government, should be taking a lead from the Maori Party's stand opposing so called "Terminator Seeds" which reflects the views of the wider community in New Zealand and around the world. There is wide opposition to Terminator seeds and other "Genetic Use Restriction Technologies" across all sectors of the New Zealand community, including new New Zealanders from Asia and the Pacific, as well as people of European descent and amongst Maori. "The Labour Party should stop supporting such developments and start reflecting the shared-values of New Zealanders. Both here and abroad, the idea of deliberately creating seeds to become infertile and forcing farmers to buy new seeds each year is seen as a crime against humanity," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "Terminator seeds are a threat to food security, sustainabilty and the rights of billions of people around the world, and our govrnment should ban them, as countries like India have already done," Mr.Carapiet says. "To keep faith and maintain its international standing for fairness, New Zealand must overturn the policy promoted by former- environment Minister Marian Hobbs which supported developing a 'case by case' approach to Terminator technology.The international social, ethical and environmental issues must be investigated first."
Referring to the Convention on Biological Diversity, where delegates have been shocked by New Zealand's backing for lifting an informal moratorium on development of Terminator technology and other forms of patent- protection sterility - Tariana Turia says the government's stand will be under close scrutiny at the next international meeting. "These issues are uppermost in our minds with the United Nations meeting next week in Spain expected to discuss, again, the contentious issues around the so-called ?Terminator Technology," she says. "The Maori Party will be writing to the Government to encourage them to maintain the moratorium against Terminator Technology" stated Mrs Turia. "The New Zealand Government and the Labour Party risk being on the wrong side of history if they do not respond to the particular case of Monsanto's Terminator Seed developments with an outright ban," says Mr Carapiet.
Contact Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681, Maori Party Commends Initiative of the 'Guardians of the Kumara'. Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party.
Maori Party Commends Initiative of the ‘Guardians of the Kumara’ - Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party; 20 January 2006
The Maori Party today congratulated Te Pu Hao Rangi Trust, guardians of the early kumara, for their joint venture with Tahuri Whenua Inc, the National Maori Vegetable Growers Collective, to explore the economic potential of the early kumara. Technology New Zealand is funding a two year project, based on nine lines of early Maori kumara. The unique white-skinned, white-fleshed kumara are being studied to identify a early kumara line suitable for the market. “I pay special tribute to the dedication of the kuia, Dell Wihongi [Te Rawawa, Hokianga] who I know will ensure that the intellectual property involved in this research will stay with tangata whenua” stated Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party. Dell Wihongi was Principal claimant for the WAI 262 claim, the Native Flora and Fauna claim; and is Chairperson of Te Pu Hao Rangi Trust.
The precedent for securing intellectual property rights has been established internationally, through an agreement with the International Potato Centre (which is part of the United Nations) and the Potato Park owned by the six Aymara/Quechua communities. The Centre signed a binding agreement that they would not assert intellectual property rights over any research results or products. “This kind of research is exciting if it has the potential to reduce poverty amongst Maori whanau by encouraging more whanau to grow produce for their own consumption as well as for markets” said Mrs Turia. “The Mäori Party welcomes any opportunity to share the benefits of our traditional foods” stated Mrs Turia. “Our hope will be that the outcomes of this research will not just produce food for the high-end boutique market, but will also create affordable food for all”.
“The Maori Party also commends the initiative of Tahuri Whenua in their endeavours to produce taewa (potato), kaanga (corn), hue and kamokamo. “Re-introducing traditional staple foods such as these early kumara into whanau diets, can also have great promise in improving Maori health” said Mrs Turia. Mrs Turia spoke about the cultivation of the early kumara in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity. “These issues are uppermost in our minds with the United Nations meeting next week in Spain expected to discuss, again, the contentious issues around the so-called ‘Terminator Technology’. Terminator (or GURTS - Genetic Use Restriction Technology) is a technology of genetic engineering that has been designed by the multi-national seed industry to render seeds sterile at harvest - thus forcing farmers to return to corporations to buy fresh seeds rather than saving and reusing their own. “The Maori Party is aware that the multi-national seed companies have often campaigned long and hard to convince indigenous people that they have the answer to crop failure with the creation of their hybrid plants, when in fact crop failure is often the result of deforestation, chemical pollution and the ozone layer effect”. “The Maori Party will be writing to the Government to encourage them to maintain the moratorium against Terminator Technology” stated Mrs Turia. “Maori organic food producers, small-holder farmers, and tangata whenua will be amongst other communities campaigning against genetic use restriction technologies” said Mrs Turia. “We will be keeping a close eye on the Government delegates attending the Convention of Biological Diversity [CBD] and Agricultural Biological Diversity [ABD] meetings to protect traditional knowledge and food security, through opposing terminator technology”.
Helen Leahy, Senior Advisor, Leaders' Unit, Maori Party, Parliament Buildings, WELLINGTON
Kawe Reo| Phone: +64 4 471 9170. Kawe Whakaahua | Facsimile: +64 4 499 7269. Kawe Reo Nekeneke | Mobile : +64 021 881 031
Karere Hiko | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paepae Tukutuku | Website: www.maoriparty.com
New Report Sounds Warning for Local Authorities: GE Free NZ Press release
Regional and local authorities will have to protect their local economies from negative impacts of GE organisms or risk major costs falling to ratepayers under the government's current system for regulating GE organisms.
Today's release of the "Risk Evaluation and Options Report", as commissioned by Waitakere City Council, Rodney, Kaipara, Whangarei and Far North District Councils, is a timely warning for local government and conservation bodies throughout New Zealand.
The report examines in greater depth the risks to local authorities and their communities posed by centralised decision-making out of Wellington where ERMA will decide on GMO releases to the environment.
Under existing legislation in New Zealand, an approval by ERMA effectively acts as a a publicly-funded subsidy for GE companies when things go wrong and contamination of land or loss of markets results. Without strict liabilty on the users and promoters of GE organisms, the downstream costs are set to fall to taxpayers and ratepayers through central and local government.
GE FREE NZ (in food and environment) encourages all local authorities to work together to prevent the unreasonable imposition of these costs on the public and to ensure their regional economy and environment is protected through changes to the District Plan and Long Term Council Community Plan.
Local Government NZ should also be prepared to act on behalf of its members to ensure central government do not follow US authorities in attempting to deny local communities a say in keeping their region GE-free by excluding them from the statutory decision-making process.
There is no denying that New Zealand benefits enormously from being able to market produce as 100% GE-free and many regions are ideally placed geographically to achieve the distinction of a Regional Exclusion Zone for GMOs. Co-existence of GE-free and GE production is now being shown overseas to be either impossible or unacceptably costly to all farmers as they struggle to change long-established farming methods to battle contamination.
Ultimately a nation-wide Exclusion Zone is the best way for the Labour led government to protect primary exports for New Zealand, and meet the concerns of scientists, local authorities and our key markets, as well as the majority of New Zealanders.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
For further information, contact: Zelka Grammer, Chairperson GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment) 09 432 2155
Dr. Kerry Grundy, Team Leader, Monitoring, Whangarei District Council, 09 430 4200 - email: email@example.com
This is a very exciting day for Councils and members of the public who have been awaiting this report of an investigation of the way the release of genetically modified organisms should be managed in New Zealand. A number of options are proposed.
Please find attached a link to the following documents: Community Management of GMOs II: risks and Response Options, the community management document, legal opinion and briefing paper. The related news release is embedded below in this email for those who may have trouble receiving attachments.
Ann Midson, Communications Manager, Whangarei District Council, PO Box 9023, Whangarei , Northland, NEW ZEALAND - 09 430 4248 or 0275 615454
News Release. Date:16 November 2005
Innovative and ground-breaking report on GMO management
Four options for managing GMO activities under the RMA have been put forward in a report released today. It recommends that councils consult with the public to gauge the level of community support for local management of GMO land uses.
The Far North, Kaipara, Rodney, and Whangarei District Councils along with the Waitakere City Council have jointly commissioned and funded the report to identify options for managing the risks arising from GMOs.
Each of the options put forward involves changing councils? district plans to allow extra safeguards to be set at the local level ? ones that would act in addition to those set by the national regulator, ERMA.
The options the report evaluates are: making all GMO land uses discretionary activities, prohibiting all GMO land uses, and two others that would make some classes of activity discretionary while other classes of activity would be prohibited.
The report identifies a series of economic, environmental and cultural risks associated with the outdoor use of GMOs. It highlights the risk that cultivation of GM crops could cause, namely economic damage through GM contamination appearing in non-GM crops. This is considered a major source of risk because even trace levels of contamination are sufficient to trigger food product rejection as a matter of course for Japanese and northern European wholesale buyers.
At the same time, the report documents serious gaps in liability law applying to the use of GMOs. There is no liability under the statute governing GMOs for losses resulting from a GMO release carried out in accordance with an approval from ERMA. Costs will instead tend to fall on those suffering the loss or damage (such as non-GM farmers and local authorities).
A further important deficiency noted by the report is that the exercise of precaution is a matter for ERMA?s discretion. Precaution is an option, not a requirement under the law governing ERMA. However, a number of Northland councils have developed policies requiring precaution with respect to the management of GMO risks.
Community Management of GMOs II: Risks and Response Options was written by Simon Terry Associates and Mitchell Partnerships, and is accompanied by a related legal opinion from Dr Royden Somerville QC.
Dr Somerville's legal review of the report stated that it provided a sufficient foundation for the preparation of a change to the district plan to allow a council to manage GMO risks, should councils choose that course of action.
WDC Monitoring Team Leader and chairman of the Inter-Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options, Dr Kerry Grundy, said the collaborative approach undertaken by local authorities in the Northland peninsula has been a cautious yet responsible way to proceed with this contentious issue.
"It is an excellent example of local government working together to address common concerns raised by their respective communities. It has also been a fiscally responsible approach to adopt. By sharing the costs of research and possible regulation among all local authorities in the North Auckland/ Northland region, the cost to individual councils and to ratepayers has been kept to a minimum."
The report, and its recommendations, will be discussed by each of the Northern councils at their up-coming meetings. Also being provided to councils is an independent review of the report by Karen Cronin of Victoria University along with a covering Briefing Paper by Dr Grundy.
Contact Person: Dr Kerry Grundy, Team Leader (Monitoring), Whangarei District Council - Phone: (09)430 4200 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Terry (report co-author), Simon Terry Associates - (04)499 8597, 021 945 678
Rural NZ supports GM-free production - By: Simon Terry - http://www.ruralnews.co.nz/article.asp?channelid=141&articleid=10001
The most recent poll on public attitudes to GMOs shows rural and urban dwellers equally support the concept that New Zealand should remain a GM Free food producer. The overall result was that 74.5% of New Zealanders would support the nation's food production remaining GM Free. Rural responses showed fractionally higher support at 75.5% while urban respondents were marginally lower at 74.1%. However, both are within 1% of the overall result. The DigiPoll random survey conducted for the Sustainability Council first informed those questioned that there is no commercial production of genetically modified food in this country. These August figures compare with 70.1% support when the same question was put two years ago during the heat of the moratorium debate. Since then, the GM discourse has had a far lower profile ? with not a single application to actually release a GMO into the environment having been made. There has not even been a field trial application in the last eighteen months when before the moratorium debate, there were a number each year. In other words, even in absence of any recent trigger to galvanise public opinion, support for New Zealand's food production remaining GM Free is a as high as ever.
GM issues are not high up in the news simply because GM developers have chosen not to put projects before ERMA, the Government agency responsible for assessing whether a particular GMO release should be permitted. As ERMA's former CEO Bas Walker said at his recent retirement function, "that could all change in 24 hours" if something like a release application came forward. The large sums being invested by New Zealand GMO developers mean such an application needs to be made eventually if the products are to go beyond lab experiments in New Zealand. At that point, the current decision-making processes leave the ERMA board to make the call, unless the Minister for the Environment "calls in" the application from ERMA.
There are a series of problems with leaving decisions on GM release to ERMA alone. The first is that while ERMA has been regulating GMOs within the lab with no obvious sign of disquiet, there is a lack of public confidence in its ability to decide the crucial question of GMO release. Polling conducted for ERMA in March shows more New Zealanders lack confidence (45%) in its ability to regulate GMOs than have confidence (40%). Another is that there is no effective liability regime for harm caused by an activity carried out in accordance with an ERMA approval. Any costs arising from unexpected effects or inadequate controls tend to fall on innocent parties ? such as farmers growing the crops and their neighbors. Thirdly, any approval to release a GMO is a major national policy decision. For a nation that earns half its export income from food production, this is a fundamental branding and marketing call ? quite apart from the broader high level issues it raises.
In Australia, states have the statutory right to regulate GMOs for economic reasons. To date, six states have passed legislation allowing them to so designate on GM crops. No state has yet permitted a GM crop to be grown for commercial food production and a number have designated the entire state. The net result is that Australia remains a GM Free Food Producer because the state Governments have taken responsibility and made the strategic call.
"Case by case" assessment of scientific and other issues particular to the release proposal only makes sense once the higher strategic decisions, such as the branding and marketing, have been explicitly attended to. Consumer resistance to GM contamination remains very strong in Japan and northern Europe. Any detectable level of GM content triggers product rejection in these premium markets. In 2003, one kiwi company lost close to half a million dollars when routine testing by a Japanese fast foods producer showed just 0.05% GM content that arose from contaminated corn seed. As has been demonstrated by the most recent local contamination incident in August, contamination can also arise through GMOs of one crop (soy) mingling with a completely different conventional crop (maize) during transport and storage. This incident resulted in product rejection by the domestic processor in order to protect export market reputation.
Public opinion in New Zealand is similarly aligned with this market sentiment. The August DigiPoll survey also reported that 79% New Zealanders would support the current policy of zero tolerance to GM contamination of seed imports. It further found 77% support for zero tolerance to GM contamination of crops in the field, once informed that this too is the current policy. Rural and urban support was again quite close - within 2% of the overall result. GM crop cultivation is thus a branding and producer liability culvert unless and until consumer responses change substantially.
The Sustainability Council sees potential in the use of genetic modification in medicine but believes New Zealand should remain a GM Free Food Producer at least until there is clear acceptance of GM products in key export markets, and sufficient research has been undertaken on the environmental effects of GMOs to properly assess their impact in New Zealand.
Simon Terry is Executive Director of the Sustainability Council, a Wellington based charitable trust. He also manages an economic consultancy that has reported on a wide range of resource issues.
FACTS & FIGURES - from NZ polls on public attitudes to GMOs
* 74.5% of New Zealanders support the nation's food production remaining GM Free (polled August 2005)
* 2 years ago when GM was much more of a headline issue it was 70.1%
* another poll shows more New Zealanders lack confidence (45%) in the regulator ERMA's ability to regulate GMOs than have confidence (40%)
* 79% of New Zealanders support the current policy of zero tolerance to GM contamination of seed imports
* 77% support zero tolerance of GM contamination of crops in the field
* In 2003, one kiwi company lost close to half a million dollars because of contaminated corn seed.
Gene Transfer Found in Soil at GE Cattle Site - GE free New Zealand - Press Release
AgResearch soil tests have found that 'horizontal gene transfer' has occurred with soil micro-organisms in land where transgeneic cattle have been grazing. The discovery - of 'HGT'- once claimed by some scientists to be virtually impossible, raises serious issues for ERMA and MAF given the significance of the genetic transfer is hard to quantify but could put at risk the integrity of soil on which primary production in New Zealand is reliant. AgResearch has grazed a herd of Transgenic cattle on 100 acres of land in Hamilton for the last 6 years. These animals are part of the "Human Cow" court case, where it was successfully argued that ERMA did not properly assess the risks associated with the experiment. After the case ERMA placed a requirement for monitoring of the offal pits and land for possible HGT. The latest findings have shown that bacterial populations analysed from local soil samples tested positive for the anti-biotic resistant genes puromycin and kanamycin.
The offal pit was also tested and found to have different bacterial communities from the surrounding soil, with the offal pit soil having a higher proportion of resistant bacteria. However the discovery of a high population in the natural soils away from the pits indicates that the transgenes are being spread around the property. The findings raise serious concerns about the ability for these bacteria to mutate with the potential to create virulent disease which is antibiotic resistant. ERMA and MAF have consistently rejected warnings from independent scientists and have argued that their scientific experts say transgenes could not survive in the soil under natural conditions. However these new finding mean that they should revisit their assumptions and immediately increase quarantine at all Transgenic sites.
GE Free NZ in food and environment believe MAF and ERMA should not allow any new transgenic animals, or the relocation of conventional animals onto the site, until the full impact of the HGT and anti-biotic resistance is properly researched and understood. Further, the findings prove that ERMA have been negligent in refusing to require testing of the soil at the PPL Whakamaru site where the failed PPL transgenic sheep grazed over 500 acres for 9 years. ERMA have been repeatedly warned to monitor for the spread of transgenes and possible mutations at the site. "The PPL case involved ERMA relying on the assurances of a commercial company which then went into receivership rather than requiring a bond to finance scientific research as requested by community and environmental groups", says Claire Bleakley from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "We now have the potential for an organism to recombine or mutate into a potentially virulent disease but with no monitoring or testing done on the site to mitigate against the risk," she says. ERMA is failing in its public duty as it has sat on this information for 8 months and done nothing to address this potentially disastrous situation. "It is nothing short of gross negligence that ERMA have not looked at the AgResearch information and recognised the implications for the PPL site where grazing GE animals have run without any scientific investigation into the impact on the soil," says Claire Bleakley.
GE Free NZ in food and environment are calling for the establishment of an independent Biotechnology Commission - something also proposed by the Royal Commission on GM, but rejected by the government. The Commission must work independently of industry-stooges now revealed to have been inept at reading reports and who have failed to act on findings that have massive implications for our economy and the environment.
Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
references: Annual Report to ERMA 2004 p25.
Only stopping bulk GE imports will prevent contamination - Green Party press release: 17 August 2005
The Greens welcome MAF's announcement that the recent GE contamination of maize was not caused by a failure in border security, but warn only stopping imports of bulk GE flour and meal will prevent it from happening again.
Last month the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry rang alarm bells after a company's own testing revealed that thousands of tonnes of maize destined for human consumption showed signs of GE contamination. Today the Ministry have announced that further testing has revealed that the maize itself was not genetically engineered or cross -pollinated with GE varieties, but had come into contact with GE soy meal when in storage prior to the end user company receiving it.
"Although it is of course good news that we don't have thousands of hectares of uncontained GE maize growing in our environment, this latest GE contamination does raise real concerns," Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says. "Why are companies allowed to store human food in the same place as animal feed; or an allergen like soy with a benign grain like maize; or a GE product with anything else? Clearly the rules around the storage of bulk foodstuffs need to be tightened....MAF themselves acknowledge that due to the complexity of the processing and distribution of bulk food stuffs, it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict how and where contamination will occur next. Clearly, as long as GE product is being imported for whatever reason, contamination can occur....That's yet another reason why Inghams should stop feeding their chickens with GE soy...The Greens call on conscientious companies whose business relies on New Zealand's GE-Free status to lobby the Government to prohibit the importing of bulk GE flour and meal. Only such a move will prevent this type of contamination happening over and over again...This saga also raises again the question of liability for GE contamination. The losses for the end user who was trying to provide GE-Free product and the costs for MAF who had to investigate should be borne by the owner of the storage facility. Their slack procedures are directly responsible for this fiasco and they should be the ones to pay for it," Ms Fitzsimons says.
GE Contamination Shows New Regulations Are Needed to Protect New Zealand's Economy - Press release: GE FREE NZ, 17 August 2005
GE Free NZ in food and environment is angered that locally-produced maize was contaminated by an imported GE soy product destined for animal feed and is calling on MAF, ERMA and Food Authorities to coordinate the development of new standards to stop such incidents threatening the integrity of the food supply and New Zealand's economy.
Firstly such GE ingredients should not be allowed in any food shipment to New Zealand given the fact that all manufacturers say they are importing GE-free animal feed. The user of the contaminated feed should own up as to why they had imported it at all.
Secondly, the animal feed should not have been anywhere near human food let alone being allowed to transfer a non-approved GE contaminant that prompted panic amongst manufacturers and exporters.
Contamination coming from another GE product raises grave issues about food safety, adequacy of segregation, and the potential impact on people with allergies who seek to avoid certain foods and do not expect 'accidental contamination' to have taken place. The problem is made all the more serious because of the lack of public health monitoring to gauge the impact of more than a score of GE foods already quietly approved for importation. If inadvertant ingestion of a GE product causes severe anaphylaxis there are no diagnostic tests or standardised systems for medical professionals to deal with such an event. "It is irresponsible of any Food Safety Authority to allow foods onto the market without a diagnostic, treatment, incident-reporting and trace-back system in place to cope with such situations" says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment. "Further, the NZFSA relies on data from ESR whose commercial partner is Syngenta, which then raises serious questions of independence and possible conflicts of interest."
The NZFSA has spent months ignoring its responsibilties to actively monitor our food and it still has not tested the New Zealand food supply for the illegal entry of BT10 corn contamination though it is still being detected in recent shipments to Japan. How long does the public have to wait before the NZFSA takes concern about GE foods seriously? The Transtasman body FSANZ has even admitted through internal emails that they do not have the requisite experience to independently assess concerns about GE raised by submitters. Nor has it even asked for or seen the raw data from animal feeding studies supposed to back up many GE applications.
"The NZFSA is treating the consumer with derision by refusing to label or respond to the concerns that are raised from contamination events. Does someone have to die before the need for strict segregation and public health monitoring is taken seriously?" says Claire Bleakley. "Under the present situation somone could be seriouly ill as a result of an incident such as that of GE soy in conventional maize and no-one would be the wiser about the cause."
A recent poll found that 74% of all New Zealanders do not want to eat GE foods: it is time that an independent reassessment was made of all GE foods authorised to date, as well of the flawed system used to approve them. Government should also commission MAF, ERMA and the Food Safety Authority to immediately develop protocols that will reduce the chance of such potentially-disasterous incidents happening again.
Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842 - Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
Call for Cross-Party Consensus to protect GE-free Production in New Zealand - GE FREE NZ: Press Release, 16 August 2005
It is time for Political parties from across the spectrum to come together as they once did for superannuation and to agree to protect GM-free production in New Zealand. A recent survey by DigiPoll shows there is massive public support for GE-Free agriculture in New Zealand and comes soon after Federated Farmers have also spoken out in support of GE-free agricultural production to protect our export markets. Simon Terry from the Sustainability Council of New Zealand has called for all politial parties to come clean on their policy on GM release but GE Free NZ (in food and environment) believe it is time to remove the GE issue from the poltical playground and confirm protection of GM-free produce as a cross-party policy in the National interest. "New Zealand may have reached a defining moment in the GE debate when 75% of the public, Farmer organisations, major exporters, and the scientific community all agree that we should not release GE organisms here," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "It is not enough for parties to hide behind ambiguous policies on 'co-existence of GE' with conventional agriculture based on forcing farmers and consumers to accept low-level contamination," says Jon Carapiet. "It is time for all politicians to commit to protecting our abilty to produce and market high-quality GE-free produce which is defined as having no GE content."
As well as public and farmer support for this policy in the National interest, research funded by MORST entilted "Hands Across The Water" found that the scientific community spoken to also opposed environmental GE release at this time. As highlighted by the Sustainability Council's statement of support for responsible science, New Zealand has much to be gained from a Science Policy based on contained and ethical research and applications of knowledge such as marker-assisted breeding and medicine that do not require environmental GE release and forced-acceptance of GE contamination. In addition to environmental, health, ethical and marketing concerns the lack of commercial insurance to cover GE damage and the refusal by patent-holders to pay up for the contamination they cause exposes the public to huge costs and risks devastating our economy.
GE Free NZ in food and environment are calling for all political parties to fulfil the promise embodied in the findings of the Royal Commission on GM and make a clear committment to 'preserve our options' and protect our GE free status in food and field.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
75% Support NZ Remaining a GM Free Food Producer - Press Release: Sustainability Council of New Zealand, 16 August 2005
75% Support NZ Remaining a GM Free Food Producer - Media Statement - 16 August 2005
Three quarters of New Zealanders would support the nation's food production remaining GM Free. A poll conducted this month for the Sustainability Council by DigiPoll resulted in 74.5% supporting New Zealand's food production remaining GM Free, once informed there is no commercial production of GM food in this country. This compares to 70.1% support when the same question was put during the heat of the moratorium debate two years ago. Polling has also shown a lack of public confidence in the regulation of GMOs. In particular, the work of ERMA - the Government agency responsible for assessing whether any GMO should be released into the environment. Those who did not have confidence in ERMA to regulate GMOs (45%) outnumbered those who did (40%). These results, from a poll conducted for ERMA in March, were obtained by the Sustainability Council under the Official Information Act.
The high level of support for New Zealand remaining a GM Free Food Producer is striking because the profile of the GM debate has not been as high in the last eighteen months as in 2003. Most notably, there have not been any applications to release a GMO since the moratorium was lifted. Research into the outdoor use of GMOs has however been continuing apace with projects in New Zealand to develop GM varieties of: vegetables, grasses, milk products, and plants producing pharmaceuticals. Substantial investments are being made in these projects in the expectation that at some stage GM products will be allowed out of containment. With these future decision points in mind, it is important that each political party makes clear its position on the outdoor use of GMOs. In particular, would it support New Zealand remaining a GM Free Food Producer during the term of the next Parliament?
Even if the public had full confidence in the regulatory framework, ERMA is only allowed to consider applications "case by case". Yet GM food production is a major national policy decision. For a country that earns half its export income from food, this is a fundamental branding and marketing call in addition to raising a host of other strategic issues. National policy decisions should not be delegated to ERMA, so political parties need to have policies that address the strategic question of whether New Zealand is to remain a GM Free Food Producer.
The Sustainability Council is pro-science and sees potential in the use of genetic modification in medicine. However the Council believes New Zealand should remain a GM Free Food Producer at least until there is clear acceptance of GM products in key export markets, and sufficient research has been undertaken on the environmental effects of GMOs to properly assess their impact in New Zealand.
Question: "While genetic modification is being used in medicine and research, there is no commercial production of genetically modified food in this country. Should New Zealand's food production remain GM free?"
Aug 2003 (Colmar Brunton): Yes: 70.1%; No: 18.2%; Don't know: 11.7%.
Aug 2005 (DigiPoll): Yes: 74.5%; No: 18.3%; Don't know: 7.2%.
Both polls have a sample size of 500 and a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. (A breakdown of the 2005 result shows a very close match of urban and rural figures which can otherwise be a source of sampling uncertainty.)
ERMA Confidence Poll
Question: "How confident are you in the ability of the Authority to regulate GMOs in New Zealand?"
Feb/Mar 2005 (BRC): Very confident 9%, Confident 31% Total =40%
Not Particularly Confident 25%, Not at all Confident 20% Total =45%
Don't know/refused 15%
The research was conducted for ERMA by BRC and the sample of 288 was drawn from the full sample of 1000 used for the omnibus survey that the question was a part of. Selection was made on the basis of respondents who "indicated they had knowledge of ERMA as an organisation". A margin of error is not listed.
GE maize found in sample grown in NZ - By KENT ATKINSON - 27 July 2005 - http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3359168a10,00.html
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) officials are tracing a complex mix of seed lines and growers in a bid to work out how a big maize consignment has tested positive for genetically engineered (GE) seed. The maize - all grown for food in one region of New Zealand and stored in a variety of locations in the upper North Island - was tested by a food manufacturer as part of quality assurance checks. No GE maize has been approved for commercial crops in New Zealand, and tests before or at the border are supposed to pick up GE seed in maize sent from overseas for planting. But this is about the sixth such incident in the past three years, according to a senior MAF official. Last year 4000 tonnes of corn with low levels of GE content was grown in 34 fields spread over nearly 400ha of land in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Waikato and Northland, but the fields were checked for regrowth before 25 of them were replanted in maize and one in corn.
MAF eradication programmes manager Ian Gear said the current investigation related to a consignment of 13,500 tonnes of maize "held at locations in the upper North Island". "The problem we have is that the sample comes from mixed seed lines and multiple growers," he said. "We have to take all positive samples seriously, and tracing those seed lines and growers is a priority." Mr Gear said he had a researcher looking at the initial quality assurance test to see whether the specific altered genetic sequence gave any clues to a particularly commercial cultivar. But the bulk of the work at the moment was in identifying the properties on which the maize was grown, and what other cultivars were grown on the same properties.
Maize and corn are regarded as very "promiscuous" crops, with wind spreading their pollen between fields. Mr Gear said the maize had been destined for manufacture into food products, and so would not have remained viable for planting as seed. He said the next maize crop was due to be planted in October or November, and the nature of the New Zealand farming industry meant it was unlikely that farmers had held any of this year's crop to plant in the coming season.
Coincidentally, author Nicky Hager's book Seeds of Distrust was published in July 2002 - 17 days before the last general election. It alleged that thousands of GE sweetcorn plants had been grown in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and Marlborough from a contaminated consignment from the United States. The book caused a political storm because Hager alleged that at the time the Government was told of the contamination, in November 2000, officials considered setting a tolerance level for contamination rather than adhering to its "zero tolerance" policy. Hager's allegations that the GE-contaminated corn was allowed to remain in the ground and that the Government subsequently tried to cover up the issue led to Corngate becoming a key election issue and drove a wedge between the anti-GE Green Party and Labour.
Developing Nations Slam NZ for 'May Contain GM' stance
New Zealand is being condemned by developing nations for blocking an agreement that would require proper labelling of shipments of GM organisms, and effectively forcing each country to develop a patchwork of local laws. A report by The South-North Development Monitor says by blocking consensus at the Meeting of Parties to the Cartegna Protocol Brazil and New Zealand were successful in derailing the talks so no decision was adopted on Article 18.2(a) governing movements of GMO's internationally. The move may force countries to develop their own laws creating more complex rules for industry to deal with. New Zealand farmers would be harmed unless new laws are also developed here, and the government's agenda is causing alarm throughout the many groups in New Zealand wanting a precautionary approach to GE.
New Zealand's position is highly contradictory and confusing. Our government is now promoting "may contain GM" as an adequate label when this term was previously rejected as 'unhelpful' and inadequate for labelling consumer goods. The Chair of the Africa Group at the meeting warned that this would allow "global genetic pollution to escape unnoticed and unscathed". This stand will also undermine international trade as countries are forced to act unilaterally to block GM contamination. "The New Zealand government has been quietly changing its policy while the public are not looking, and are now effectively promoting GM contamination thresholds internationally," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment"
In closing statements at the conference delegates advised developing countries to design through their national legislation strict requirements for the documentation accompanying shipments of living GMO-FFPs. GE Free NZ in food and environment believe New Zealand also needs new legislation to protect our farmers and the integrity of the agricultural system. Without these rules the New Zealand government will be betraying not only the people of the developing world, but our own farming communities, and the public interest.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
REFERENCE - Additional Resources - Documents of MOP-2: - www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=MOP-02 (including the draft Decision on LMO-FFPs, UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/2/2)
Daily coverage by IISD Linkages: www.iisd.ca/biodiv/bs-copmop2/
Brazil, New Zealand block decision on documentation of GMOs - The South-North Development Monitor (SUNS), 7 June 2005, issue #5815 http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5344
NZ doing GE exporters' dirty work - Friday, 3 June 2005 - Press Release: Green Party - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0506/S00087.htm
New Zealand is doing the dirty work for pro-GE countries outside the Cartagena Protocol on bio-safety by trying to unravel the deal from the inside, says Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons. Greenpeace International, the Third World Network and the Friends of the Earth International last night condemned what they called "the lone attempts" of the New Zealand Government to "derail" Cartagena, an international agreement setting rules on trade in Genetically Modified Organisms, at talks in Montreal. This follows criticism of New Zealand earlier in the week from the Malaysian delegate, Gurdial Singh Nijar. "On Tuesday, Marian Hobbs claimed in Parliament that Mr Nijar's statements were untrue and denied that New Zealand was trying to undermine the Cartagena Protocol. This information received last night from NGO observers at the Montreal conference confirms Mr Nijar's concerns," said Ms Fitzsimons. "Ms Hobbs said New Zealand is 'inside the tent' on Cartagena, but this report suggests that we're trying to tear 'the tent' down."
Doreen Stabinsky, a GE campaigner with Greenpeace International, has said, "There is no way to describe New Zealand's behaviour at these talks as other than obstructionist. They don't want this agreement to happen and they are doing everything they can to stop it - even if that means isolating New Zealand from the entire rest of the world."
Ms Fitzsimons: "New Zealand is being a poor international citizen, acting on behalf of other pro-GE countries which have not ratified the Protocol and so don't get a vote. We should not be doing the dirty work of the US and others who are standing aside from this treaty.
The three NGOs report: "The New Zealand delegation is continuing to block consensus on key provisions regarding the information that must accompany GMOs in international trade. Instead of defending New Zealand national law that requires the labelling of genetically modified food, and presumably requires that importers and food manufacturers know whether the ingredients they import are or are not genetically modified, the NZ negotiators continue to argue that shipments of commodities such as corn or soy should merely state that they 'may contain' GMOs. By continuing with this stance, New Zealand is blocking consensus on the main item under negotiation in Montreal."
Ms Fitzsimons: "This move on labelling is a deliberate attempt to prevent consumers knowing what is in their food and countries from knowing what is crossing their borders. ...Other observers have reported to us that New Zealand is also blocking consensus on the formation of a group to consider risk assessment and the rules for the compliance committee. Apparently it is being asked in the corridors 'why did New Zealand become a party if their only intention was to lower the standards of the Protocol?.....This all surely confirms my earlier concerns that New Zealand's actions are those of a country that is trying to secure minimal liability for its GE exports, rather than protection for our environment and economy from GE imports," said Ms Fitzsimons.
New Discovery of Illegal Bt10 in Corn Shipments. - Thursday, 2 June 2005 - Press Release: GE Free NZ - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0506/S00010.htm
Despite claims by Health Minister Annette King that illegal Bt10 corn is no longer being exported out of the US, in May a shipment of corn to Ireland has been intercepted and found to contain Bt 10 . This is some six months after Bt10 was supposedly removed from the food chain and contradicts the basis for Ms King's reassurance in Parliament than no Bt10 is entering New Zealand and no testing of shipments needs to be done.
In Feburary Syngenta advised the world - including FSANZ - that the food chain had been contaminated by an illegal strain of GE corn Bt 10, hushed up over the years 2001-2004. The world was assured that all corn had been removed from the chain. However this has proven to be false.
Bt10 Corn is not approved for human or animal use and is known to contain the ampicillin resistance gene. "Antibiotic resistance is becoming a major threat to treatment of disease in New Zealand" says Claire Bleakley from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "It is frightening to think that authorties are doing nothing to ensure the food we buy will not be further contributing to this problem." "It is imperative that FSANZ and NZFSA test for Bt 10 corn products in foods they know are likely to be genetically modified. This corn is still entering the food chain," says Claire. "It is unbelievable for the Minister of Health to ignore the situation and deny there is any importation when no tests are done. Overseas testing is confirming BT10 is still out there".
Foreign Affair's Stance on GM Liability Provokes Laughter at Talks - Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Media Statement, PDF version - http://www.sustainabilitynz.org/docs/StanceonLiabilityProvokesLaughter310505pdf
New Zealand negotiators at a conference on liability for GMOs have effectively proposed that the four year programme to develop an international liability regime should aim at agreeing no liability rules at all. New Zealand's stance is so out of step that it provoked open laughter from other countries when stated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials currently in Montreal for meetings on the Cartagena Protocol. When New Zealand suggested that an additional option was not to have a liability "instrument", delegates at the conference were in no doubt as to what Foreign Affairs officials were advocating. "New Zealand is arguing we should spend our time developing rules and procedures for liability which would end up with no rules," Malaysian delegate Gurdial Singh Nijar told the conference. One of the five options already on the table was a non-binding agreement (or instrument) but New Zealand proposed something weaker still and successfully added a sixth option of no instrument.
Foreign Affairs officials are effectively arguing that if a GMO is imported and causes harm, there should be no liability for the party that sent it here. Yet New Zealand earns half its export income from selling food and the major buyers in Japan and northern Europe routinely reject food products with any detectable level of GM contamination. Kiwi food producers will want a way to obtain compensation for economic damage should GMOs arrive in New Zealand and then contaminate their exports. Already there have been three incidents involving imports of GM contaminated seed and each has cost a year's profit for a Gisborne company and another took the affected company out of a key market for a year.
New Zealand does not grow any GMOs, so one would expect its negotiators to promote rules protecting its food producers and environment from GM contamination costs that could be much larger than those to date. Yet this is just the latest in a series of Foreign Affairs stances on GM that are out of step. First was New Zealand's implicit support for the US in its WTO action against the EU over access for its GMO exports. Then New Zealand was among those supporting the lifting of a de facto moratorium on trialing GM plants whose seeds are sterile.
The purpose of the Cartagena Protocol is to promote biosafety in the transfer of living GMOs between countries (and not other biotech products). Government ministers made the principled decision to ratify the agreement in September, against advice from most officials, in order to enhance New Zealand's biosecurity. A key part of an effective biosecurity regime is provisions to enforce liability on parties that cause harm. New Zealand's food producers and its environment deserve that protection.
1) Summaries of the full discussions at the Montreal conference on liability provisions for the Cartagena Protocol can be viewed at: http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/wglr/ The exchange referred to occurred on Thursday 26 May - see bottom of the notes for that day.
2) The reference in the statement to "instrument" is to one of the following 5 options that were already on the table for the form of agreement that would ultimately specify liability provisions under Cartagena. They are:
1. Legally binding agreement
2. Legally binding agreement plus interim measures
3. Non-binding agreement
4. Two stage - non-binding, then binding agreement
5. Combination of non-binding and binding agreement
Foreign Affairs had a sixth one added to the list "no instrument".
3) The negotiations are driven by Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol which implicitly covers all forms of damage, including economic harm, and states:
"Liability and Redress: The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first meeting, adopt a process with respect to the appropriate elaboration of international rules and procedures in the field of liability and redress for damage resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms, analysing and taking due account of the ongoing processes in international law on these matters, and shall endeavour to complete this process within four years."
The full text of the agreement is available at http://www.biodiv.org
Government sees NZ's future as a GE food exporter - 31 May 2005 - http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR8729.html
The Government doesn't see New Zealand as a '100% Pure' environment to be protected from GE, but as a GE exporter that should have as little liability as possible for contaminating other countries, says Jeanette Fitzsimons. The Green Co-Leader made the charge after challenging Environment Minister Marian Hobbs in Parliament this afternoon over the Government's position at the Montreal working group on legal and technical issues of the Cartagena Protocol on bio-safety. The Malaysian delegation has criticised New Zealand for questioning the need for any rules on liability under the Protocol, despite having agreed when it ratified the Treaty to develop such rules. "Marian Hobbs told the House that she was trying to protect New Zealand's 'economic interests as an agricultural exporter. The only exporters who would be protected by an absence of liability are those exporting GE foods. All other agricultural exporters, who would suffer loss from contamination from overseas, would be disadvantaged," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Greens' GE Spokesperson.
This shows that while there are currently no applications for release of GE crops or animals and the issue has gone quiet, the Government's longer-term vision is for New Zealand to become an exporter of GE foods. "Ms Hobbs told the House today that her Government sees New Zealand's own liability regime as the model for the proposed international mechanism being negotiated under Cartagena.....But in New Zealand there is no general liability for causing human health or economic harm through the release or indiscriminate application of Genetically Modified Organisms, unless there is a specific law that has been broken. If that model was applied internationally, New Zealand would have no redress against contamination from countries that have no laws in this area...... Clearly, the Government is trying to protect future exporters of GE products from liability for any contamination they cause overseas, rather than protecting our environment and those exporters who depend upon its GE-Free status for their market advantage...."It is an international embarrassment that clean, green New Zealand should be advocating such a lax approach to liability at a meeting to set bio-safety rules," said Ms Fitzsimons.
Jeanette Fitzsimons MP, 04 470 6661, 0274 586 068
Mark Servian, Media Officer, 04 470 6723, 021 505 434