Public badly let down by ERMA
An amendment application that opens the door for possible release of GE animals is to be considered without public
comment on the 11th of October.
“This application is trying to secretly manipulate ERMA’s powers and shows that the public is being badly let down by
the body set up to protect the country” said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment “ERMA must allow
the application to be open to public submissions before any decision is made.”
Over the last few years concerns have been raised about the spread of GE DNA by horizontal gene transfer and the
possible downstream effects of such transfer. As a result of this, ERMA will have to be more cautious than when it first
approved the application.
The Royal Commission recommended that food animals should not be used in experiments and that stringent research into
the environmental effects of GE animals should be carried out. The Hazardous Substance and New Organism Act (HSNO Act)
was changed to require all applications for field trials/commercial release to provide comprehensive experimental
evidence documenting the effects of the GE animals on the soil ecosystems. Although AgResearch has conducted trials on
GE cows for six years, no studies on the possibility of horizontal gene transfer to soil bacteria have been carried out.
The latest findings, which show of high levels of antibiotic resistance genes in soil bacteria taken from the site, were
not even queried by ERMA.
“ERMA has consistently overlooked the environmental effects. It does not enforce any of its decisions. It does not
appear to properly consult with MAF on biosecurity issues and it leaves the country wide open to the dangers of
unexpected gene transfer of GE DNA ,which is sufficient cause for concern” said Mrs Bleakley.
It appears that ERMA is not enforcing its precautionary duty under the HSNO Act. GE Free NZ is calling on the new
government to look at setting up a Biotechnology Commission that has independent scientific experts who are able to
evaluate GE applications and are capable of developing rigorous GE 'field' safety trials.
“This amendment proposal should not be left to ERMA to decide as it has not got the independent resources to evaluate
the enormity of the decision” said Ms Bleakley