GE Vegetable trial won't benefit New Zealand

Published: Tue 12 Dec 2006 12:42 AM
Proposed GE vegetable trials are "off strategy" for New Zealand and claims by Crop and Food that their research is of national benefit are ill-founded.
70% of New Zealanders would almost certainly lose out if these particular crops were released. Most people want the right to buy GE Free food, but Bt brassicas would inevitably contaminate other production sytems in the open environment, and our export markets would be threathened.
Concerns about contamination and liability were amongst those raised by a delegation to Crop and Food Research yesterday. Meeting with the representatives from concerned groups Prue Williams acting CEO of Crop and Food suggested that in the future government changes may result in decrees to farmers to grow GE crops.
This flies in the face of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification recommendation to proceed with caution. It would also be tantamount to economic sabotage given the forseeable international market preference for premium 'clean green produce'.
The proposed trials are the wrong biotechnology strategy for New Zealand's market position and have little to do with the National interest. Our reputation is vital to the economy and GE-free is part of that reputation. Contamination from plants that prevents New Zealand being able to produce GE-free crops would harm our current and future exports.
A national biotechnology needs to be developed in order to ensure that leading Crown Research Institutes don't spend time and money on projects that are unsustainable. The lifespan of the GE plants envisaged : double-dose Bt toxin genes- are limited: they must inevitably fail.
Bt Bacteria thuringiensis has been carefully utilised by the organic industry to control caterpillar pests for many years without causing resistance in insects, and the proposed GE plants threaten that too.
The strategy is unsustainable in economic and ecological terms and the trials won't help change that.

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